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In Rajasthan’s Bundi, four young women cremated their father, and the family was allegedly ostracised for this act. This incident illustrates the extent of son preference in our society.
A 58-year-old resident of Barli Bundi Rager colony in Rajasthan’s Bundi district, Durgashankar Tailor died on Saturday after a prolonged illness, had no son. His four daughters fulfilled his last wish that they should shoulder his bier and perform his last rites, even though it is alleged that community leaders threatened to ostracise them.
The eldest of the daughters 25-year-old Meena said, “The community leaders first told us not to participate in the last rites, which we refused to agree to. After we finished our father’s last rites, they directed us and our wailing mother to prostrate before them and seek forgiveness for our act. We refused to do that as we had done nothing wrong.”
She added that when they returned from the crematorium, they were not allowed to take bath in the community complex. All the family members had to take bath at home and cook food at home, even though that goes against custom.
However, when the community head Chandulal Chandeliya was asked, he denied the allegation that the family had been ostracised.
Funeral rites in most communities are the preserve of men, and even the presence of women on funeral grounds are often disapproved of. Increasingly though, many daughters are shouldering this final responsibility. But society continues to believe that if a daughter performs the ceremony, the soul of the deceased will not find that much-sought-after sweet nectar of moksh/mukti/liberation. So many superstitions are taken as given, no questions asked.
Why is that a problem? Firstly, it is a socially acceptable form of gender discrimination, which undermines women’s roles in the cremation of their dearest ones. According to the UN Gender Equality Index 2014, India is one of the worst offenders when it comes to child mortality in any country, ranking 138 out of 148 nations. One of the biggest identified drivers of that problem is the preference for the male child that is ingrained in our society – not only is the female child less likely to be born, she also receives less care once she is born. The importance of sons performing the last rites of parents only fuels this idea.
Image source: By https://www.flickr.com/photos/fyunkie/ (https://www.flickr.com/photos/fyunkie/947823175/) [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons
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Rajshri Deshpande, who played the fiery protagonist in Trial by Fire along with Abhay Deol speaks of her journey and her social work.
Rajshri Deshpande as the protagonist in ‘Trial by Fire’, the recent Netflix show has received raving reviews along with the show itself for its sensitive portrayal of the Uphaar Cinema Hall fire tragedy, 1997 and its aftermath.
The limited series is based on the book by the same name written by Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy, who lost both their children in the tragedy. We got an opportunity to interview Rajshri Deshpande who played Neelam Krishnamoorthy, the woman who has been relentlessly crusading in the court for holding the owners responsible for the sheer negligence.
Rajshri Deshpande is more than an actor. She is also a social warrior, the rare celebrity from the film industry who has also gone back to her roots to give to poverty struck farming villages in her native Marathwada, with her NGO Nabhangan Foundation. Of course a chance to speak with her one on one was a must!
“What is a woman’s job, Ramesh? Taking care of parents-in-law, husband, children, home and things at work—all at the same time? She isn’t God or a superhuman."
The arrays of workstations were occupied by people peering into their computer screens. The clicks of keyboard keys were punctuated by the occasional footsteps moving around to brainstorm or collaborate with colleagues in their cubicles. Most employees went about their tasks without looking at the person seated on either side of their workstation. Meenakshi was one of them.
The thirty-one-year-old marketing manager in a leading eCommerce company in India sat straight in her seat, her eyes on the screen, her fingers punching furiously into the keys. She was in a flow and wanted to finish the report while the thoughts and words were coming effortlessly into her mind.
Natu-Natu. The mellifluous ringtone interrupted her thoughts. She frowned at her mobile phone with half a mind to keep it ringing until she noticed the caller’s name on the screen, making her pick up the phone immediately.
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