Observation of mourning rights:
“She was only two days old when I was brought home for the first time. Her mother kept me close- probably even closer than her husband, as she told me her thoughts every single day. I don’t think I have known someone as much as I have known the mother-daughter duo. Soon, the little girl grew up, and she discovered my existence. She then took her mother’s place as she began pouring her heart out to me. I was overwhelmed with the purity of her thoughts and the hopes in them.
But, after all, she was a female. Anatomically classified, functionally restricted, identified in accordance with menstruation and the household she was meant to serve. Under such circumstances, how long was she going to remain pure?
I remember the last time she spoke to me. Tear marks on her cheeks, her eyes emotionless, her hair greying in places the dye had worn off- she looked like her life had been snatched from her. And it had. She had lost her husband. She was now a widow. Someone, whose purpose in life, as deemed by society, was over. She no longer had the right to stay happy.
She was not even allowed to mourn the loss of her loved one the way she wanted to.
Because, how could she? She was a widow.
After prohibiting her from entering the temples when she was menstruating, one would think the crematorium would be the last place for her to be restricted. However, even that innocent and desperate thought of attending her husband’s funeral felt betrayed when the society closed the cremation ground gates on her already lifeless and dejected face.
Her whole life was an interview resulting in multiple rejections, garnished with taunts and societal restrictions.
She was sent back home from the crematorium for diverse reasons, each more astounding and bizarre than the other. In a place and situation, where logic and equality took a backseat, she had no option but to comply.
After all, she was the caretaker of the house. Who else would clean the house and keep it ready with delicious food to serve the guests (read: men) who had attended the funeral? She had to carry out her responsibility as a dutiful widow. And this duty drove away all thoughts of her husband’s death. It was all she could think of- cleaning the house and making food, while the people who didn’t even greet her husband properly when she was alive, were busy sending him off to the other world. She had breasts and a vagina and therefore, wasn’t as privileged as the rest of them who bade farewell to her late husband.
That was not the only reason she was sent back home, unceremoniously, from the crematorium. It was her fault to even try, really. She should have known how disturbing a sight it would be to watch bodies in the cremation ground. After all, she had a weak heart and wasn’t strong enough to watch bodies. She, the woman who supported and encouraged not only her husband, but her entire family in times of distress, like a strong pillar of support; she, the woman who gave birth to children through all the blood, mucous and intense labour; she, the woman who faced every taunt and accusation thrown her way with a brave heart- was unfortunately also the same woman whose heart gave up at the sight of dead bodies. Even her husband’s.
And how could one forget the fact that she had long hair? The very long and beautiful hair which was appreciated by men and women alike, the hair which was the object of desire and envy, the hair which people pleaded her not to trim- the same hair was now a huge disadvantage for her. Not just a disadvantage, it was a bad omen. In Hindu mythology, long hair is considered to be a beacon which attracts evil elements and spirits. It was ironic, to say the least. She knew her husband loved her long hair- but the crematorium did not. The cremation ground was afraid that if she entered the ground with her long hair, she would attract negative energy and make it easier for evil spirits to possess her. Her well-being was at stake here. And of course, shaving her head was out of the question. How could a woman shave her head and sacrifice her hair to be able to visit her husband? Hadn’t she sacrificed enough in her lifetime already? The society was considerate of her feelings. There were no second thoughts in sending her back home. She had to be protected from being possessed by the spirits of loved ones who had been buried in the same ground by their families- or worse, her husband, or her own parents, or in-laws. Tradition always prioritized the safety of women over the realization of its own sheer ridiculousness.
Then came the tears. According to Hindu mythology, tears are considered to be pollutants during the last rites of the deceased. Women are known to be soft hearted and to shed tears, which wouldn’t bring peace to the deceased. It was almost as if tradition had a twisted sense of humour. You cry immediately after you’re born, and birth, as everyone knows, isn’t peaceful to the baby at all. It is peaceful just to the mother who undergoes hours of labour and sheds innumerable tears of pain. Considered to be pearls, too precious to be shed, tears change their composition as soon as someone passes away and become pollutants, that one should get rid of if one wants to attend a funeral. However, this is only limited to women. Men are made without lachrymal glands. This scientific fact is the root of the sentence “Boys don’t cry”. People weren’t stupid. She had cried, she had to be sent back home.
And at last, came the most hypocritical reason of the millennium. It is common knowledge that unmarried women are considered to be pure, well, because of the sole reason that they are considered, or automatically assumed to be virgins. As opposed to that, married women are considered to be impure, because they are owners of a torn hymen. Unmarried women are also considered to be impure when they are menstruating. So, excluding that seven-day period, unmarried women are pure. In case a death occurs in the family during this period when they are emitting purity from every orifice, they are shunned from attending the funeral, as it is feared that they would be easy targets for evil spirits, and hence would be possessed. Irrespective of who has passed away. However, married women are doomed. They are impure from having sex, and menstruating, and then getting pregnant and delivering a baby. They are the champions of impurity, which ironically, gives them a free pass to enter the crematorium to attend a funeral, since they wouldn’t be targets to evil spirits, according to some people. But despite having access under the reserved category of being “impure”, she was not allowed to attend her husband’s funeral and was sent back home.
Here, I note, that men neither take care of the household, have a heart of stone, are emotionless and expressionless, are mostly bald, haven’t cried even when they were born, and are basically impure beings. Therefore, they were assigned this one task of making sure the funeral proceedings take place the right way.
As I mentioned earlier, I got all this information from the last time she talked to me. That was the last entry she ever made in my pages. I suppose it makes sense to me now. She entered my life, wrapped in a white cloth; she is leaving my life wrapped in a white cloth.”
-A now blank diary.
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