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When Bapi Supported My Decision To Do The Last Rites For Ma 

Posted: June 19, 2021

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My father stood by me through everything despite his own pain when Ma passed away, and supported my decision to do her last rites. 

My earliest memory of my dad was a caring, fun-loving, God-fearing, socially conscious, and emotional person. A typical Bong budget traveler, a loving father and husband, and a caring son – this pretty much sums up Mr. Nihar Ranjan Ghosh (my Bapi) for you!

Though he hardly understands Hindi, yet he accompanied mom and me to our monthly movie-watching dates – together we watched Hum Aap Ke Hain Kaun 5 times! In those days, we didn’t have OTTs, gadgets, or shopping malls, but we had each other – Friday dinner consisted of chowmein and chili chicken, Saturdays was Bengali recitation time as Bapi is a talented orator, Sundays were the time to visit my paternal and maternal grandparents, and a visit to Puri or Darjeeling during summer vacation – ‘bangalir r ki chai?!’ (what more can a Bengali want?!) – Bapi asked. Our life was sorted.

Having him near after Ma’s passing away

Fast forward to the current situation, Bapi is staying with me in Bangalore after my mom succumbed to cancer. I vividly remember ma’s last days and I dread them still. But having him around is like a balm as we share the pain together.

My mom was suffering from cancer for 8 years and my dad was her primary caregiver all through. Suddenly, everything changed in January 2019 when her cancer relapsed. My mother’s health started deteriorating rapidly until May 7, 2019, she breathed her last.

I shall never forget Bapi’s resilience during such a hard time. My daughter was very small at that time and I was breastfeeding her while going through postpartum depression myself and running errands to my home in Kolkata. At that time, several unsolicited advise from relatives poured in just like uninvited guests. While my dad was completely shattered from within, he did his best to uphold my spirits. He told me to remember Hamlet, “Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice: Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.” I silently did just that. That was the time I understood the power of silence amidst chaos and what a strong person my dad was – that same dad who used to cry whenever I used to get vaccinated or my mom used to undergo chemotherapy – has emerged strong over the years.

I lit my mom’s pyre

Even after my mom passed away, our relatives from both my side and my in-laws’ side staring giving their so-called expert opinions on what I should do, moments after our family doctor wrote the death certificate!!

“You are a mother to a newborn. You are still breastfeeding her. You should not light your mom’s pyre.”

My Bapi said, “Do what you want to do. You are a daughter and a mother too.”

A married daughter need not observe 13 days ritual, she can ‘finish it off in 4 days.

I chose to observe the 13 days rituals diligently. My Bapi said, “Mom is yours always, whether you are married or not. Observe each day as you want with love and respect. This is not a checklist that you finish off.

“Abstain from non-veg food as they are not good now.”

My Bapi said, “Both veg and non-veg are unique; what matters is your way of looking at food. Having one type of food does not guarantee a particular type of feelings towards anyone.”

Losing a loved one creates an irrevocable vacuum in one’s life; I wish my relatives would have understood that before passing their judgments. I wish that society understands that grief is personal and everyone has their own way of dealing with it- not doing something as per social norms does not mean that feelings do not exist.

“I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!” – P.B. Shelley

But then, I know my dad has my back, and mom is with me as my guardian angel now. I am proud of the upbringing that they have given me – Bengali middle class, typical in some ways, non-typical in many.

Oh, did I mention that I was on my third day periods (menstruation) when I was performing my 13thday pooja for my mom?! Much to my dad’s knowledge…

A feminist father is a huge factor in a woman’s empowerment. It may be because daughters usually look up to their fathers, or in the Indian context because a father’s willingness to support and encourage a daughter to be an independent person makes a lot of difference in practical terms. For #FathersDay we bring to you a few such stories of #FeministFathers who stand by their daughters.

Images source: the author

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