Although I am slowly growing into an agnostic-of-sorts, I try not to impose my views on others. My father continues to be a sincere gnostic and conducts rituals scheduled through the year. While he could be lax about festivals, he is never lax about death-ceremonies. With approaching 75, himself, there are way too many death ceremonies he performs – his parents, his parents-in-law, and his wife – five ceremonies every year. I used to attend all the ceremonies diligently in the past, but now I opt out because they make no sense to me – I would rather help living people than perform ceremonies for dead ones.
However, I continue to go for one – my mother’s. This is more to comfort my father (the living person) than as a mark of respect for my mother (the dead person). A few years ago, dad would hire cooks for the event, but when I returned to India, I offered to cook the ritual food for my mom’s ceremony – it seemed to give both my father and my grandmother who recently died, a lot of satisfaction and comfort. Until a few years back, he would invite all and sundry to the ceremonies, but later, the attendees (other than the priests who solemnise the ceremony) became restricted to him, my grandmother and me (and sometimes my family, depending on the day it fell).
Today was my mother’s 32nd death anniversary. As with every year, I offered to take charge of the kitchen. Much as I hate cooking, cooking for this particular event gives me a strange kind of satisfaction – a satisfaction that the man, who has none other to call his own anymore, feels like he has at least me, on the day he lost his partner. So, taking a deep breath, I delved into the kitchen and single handedly cooked a ceremony meal* with a little help from the maid with tidying afterwards.
In earlier years, even until last year, I would feel miserable on the day of the ceremony – not as much as by missing my mother, but for not missing her. It has been way too long – last year, I had lived 13 years with her, and 31 years without – there is not much I remember of her other that the fact that she was drop dead gorgeous and a go-getter. But as I keep interacting with my own daughter, who will be turning 13 in a month, I wonder what kind of woman she was – what were her dreams, her aspirations, and her feelings towards me other than the maternal love, which is universal. What had she dreamed that I would become? Have I fulfilled her dream? What would my life have been like, had she been around?
This year, the grief of my grandmother’s death (more on that in a later post, I am sure) overrode the discomfort that accompanied my mom’s ceremony in the past. My grandmother had been a proxy mother to me since my mom had died – she saw me through thick and thin, bathed my new-born, and was my go-to person until she died. It has been ten months since she died, but I continue to feel powerful grief every so often, which may take more time to fade. As I cooked the shrardham meal today, I grieved more for the grandmother, who would, until last year, sit in the kitchen in her plastic chair and drive me crazy by talking all the time when all I needed was some silence in order to concentrate on the cooking. I missed her jabber today. It was too silent to concentrate.
The busy weekend is over. The week promises to be busy, and the anticipation of work is slowly driving out the melancholia of the weekend. This too, is passing.
*plantain curry, bitter guard curry, colocasia curry, curry leaf thuvayal, cucumber pachadi, poritha kuzhambu, milagu rasam, sugiyan, payasam, thenkuzal and rice.