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When The Last Right is Not For Daughters

When The Last Right is Not For Daughters

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha was laid to rest at Marina Beach in Chennai. Her close aide Sasikala performed the last rites before her body was lowered into the earth. I watched it in entirety on national television. But why am I talking about this when this post isn’t about Tamil Nadu politics or its vendetta? It’s because…. I saw a woman out there performing the last rites!!!!

Hinduism prescribes a whole set of rules and regulations that have been passed on from generations, with a sole idea of having some sort of orderliness in our complex human life. Some of these rules make sense while many others could simply be termed superstitious.

When my father passed away a few years back, the entire responsibility of giving him that final farewell fell on my sister and my shoulders. From arranging a Hindu priest, to booking the timing and slot for cremation at the graveyard, the two of us managed to pull the whole thing. Yet, at the time when the last rites were to be performed, the priest politely told us to stay away and instead, another male member of the family was asked to step in. I wasn’t too happy with this, yet at that moment, so overwhelmed was I with emotions on my father dying, I refrained from arguing with the family around.

Till date, I regret doing this.

The importance of the male relative performing the last rites comes from the Garuda Purana, one of the eighteen Puranas which are part of the Hindu body of texts. To me, this rule or tradition, whatever you may choose to call it, denies the right of the woman over her parents. For a very long time, I tried making sense of why was it alright for another male member to perform the last rites, but not the daughter. And after considerable reading and speaking to many who were well-versed with the scriptures, I learnt that:

The scriptures mention women as soft hearted emotional beings. Thus extreme grief could be overwhelming and handling rituals related to it may take a toll on them. It is for this very reason, women are often forbidden from entering the cremation ground. The scriptures emphasize on purity in every ritual performed. And mensuration has always been considered impure. As such cycles could hinder the course of the ritual being performed; women were kept away from it in entirety. Some scholars are also of the view that this rule was added to the scriptures to prevent women from demanding paternal property. In our patriarchal society, a woman, once married, belonged to the husband’s family. Exempting women from performing last rites of parents would ensure that they have no rights or legal claim on their parents’ property. A few other scholars, state that though the Puranas do not mention a daughter’s role, it does not expressly forbid them from doing so.

The Changing Trends

But do these traditions & practices seem relevant in today’s times? For years now, this has been under constant debate. In fact there have been cases in the last few years where daughters have come ahead and performed the last rites of their parents.  Renuka Choudhury, the fiery congress leader, performed the last rites of her father, being the only child. When Gopinath Munde was cremated, his last rites were performed by his daughter and political heir, Pankaja Munde. The traditional notions of the role of a son in his parents’ last rites must erode away, and we must welcome a new set of practices that are suitable to the world we are living in today.

As a society we collectively need to understand that many traditions and practices were perfect for the time they were made for. Like the process of evolution, our thoughts and ideas must evolve to newer forms, to mold itself into the changing patterns of society.

Promises I Keep

Promises I Keep

“Every sunset brings the promise of a new dawn.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our lives are filled with promises. Promises of every kind. Conditional, unconditional, unsaid, or understood. Whatever you call it they are a sort of assurance that we give to either ourselves or to another person. 

My life isn’t any different. I make a zillion promises of different kinds almost every day. Take for example, a pinkie promise to my little girl. For those who aren’t aware, a pinkie promise is the entwining of the little fingers when you assure the other person of something. Ah well! for my little girl it is always to do with getting something in return for having done a task. So in a day, I make many such promises. Some I keep, some I forget- or I rather choose to forget.

Then there are promises that I make to myself. A promise to live well, a promise to work hard at a passion, a promise to lead a more disciplined life. And do I keep these promises? Most of them I suppose.


Surprisingly the promises that I seldom break are the ones that are actually unsaid. I often wonder why. Maybe because these are the ones that give me the most joy. Then I wonder why they are unsaid. These are the promises I make to my spouse- to be a good companion. A promise to my daughter that I would be there for her always, when she is in need of me. A promise to my mother that I would always be her support. A promise to the country I belong to that I would be a good citizen. 

Life is full of promises the list could go on and on. I sometimes wonder what would this world of ours be if not for these promises.

So of all the promises in your life, which is the one that you seldom break and why? Think about it.




A Doll for a Boy- Are we Stereotyping Gender Roles?

A Doll for a Boy- Are we Stereotyping Gender Roles?

On a recent visit to the market, my little girl, insisted on buying a “pink” Kinder joy- an egg shaped chocolate that sport a toy inside. The store didn’t have a pink one, so I picked up a blue one instead. My 6 year old was aghast, “I am a girl Amma, and I can’t have a blue Kinderjoy. I was momentarily taken aback. “Blue ones have a car inside and the pink ones have a doll. Girls don’t play with cars,” she said. I was quite surprised at what my girl had just told me. Hubby and I had never really made differences on “boy-girl” things or limited her in any way. So a statement like this was unexpected. I answered to her,” Well if girls can drive a car when they grow older, they surely can play with one.” Not sure whether it was the answer that convinced her or the want of a toy, she readily picked up the blue one.

But this incident kept lurking somewhere at the back of my mind. So yesterday, I asked Richard about this. Richard is my colleague and has a son of 7 years. “So tell me Richard, do you buy Danny a Barbie doll?” Richard gave me his usual perplexed look and said,” Of course not, he is a boy.” I didn’t leave it at that and asked,” But have you ever bought him one? Richard said, “Now Come on Ramya, he is a boy. He doesn’t play with dolls. Danny is 7 years old. He has played with stuffed toys at 2 or3. But that was it. He does not like dolls.” I butted in again, “But Richard, “If you have never bought him dolls, “how could you be so sure he doesn’t like them?”. Richard answered,” Because every time we visit the toy store, he runs towards the cars displayed. Now isn’t that enough to tell you that boys really don’t like playing with dolls?” I left the conversation here as I didn’t quite have a counter point.

I came home and did a great amount of Google reading and I figured out these things.

  • There are dolls available for boys. However there probably aren’t enough buyers. At least not in India.
  • There are instances of little boys playing with dolls and kitchen sets. But many parents often discourage them by saying, “Dolls are for girls”.
  • Some parents are concerned about gender identity crises if their little boys play with dolls. However there has been research that has disapproved this. I read an excellent answer given by Dr. Alan Greene on Gender Identity Issues. You could read it here

After reading up on this, I still have these questions looming in my mind.

  • When it is ok for little girls to play with trains, cars and guns, why are we not open to little boys playing  with Barbie dolls, kitchen sets, or dress up doll kind of games?
  • Toy manufactures bring out in dozens fantasy toys such as the princess collection, fairy collection etc… for little girls. Why are there only  toys such as soldiers and tanks for boys? Why are there no “prince” collection for boys? Or for that matter, why aren’t soldiers and warrior toys targeted for girls?
  • So are we stereotyping gender roles from a very young age?

I dont seem to have an answer yet.

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