A few weeks ago my father expired. It was appalling to note that the same people whom he eulogized all through his life did not even bother to enquire over the phone. Even as I was reaching Mumbai from the airport, a relative from Chennai hurriedly called me to offer her condolences without realizing that I was flying and was under tremendous stress - considering all the Covid protocols that had to be complied with even during such times of crisis. May be she was in a hurry to offer condolences and take bath!
It is unfortunate to observe how values in our TamBrahm community have reached the lowest common denominator. The erosion in norms, religious rituals and practices has reached such a level that redemption seems impossible. Please don't mistake me by thinking that I am a control freak or simply nitpicking on events/ actions/ people etc. What I am writing here is from the bottom of my heart. I sincerely hope that Mr Praveen is able to empathise with me.
My mother's elder brother died way back in 1986 in Chennai. But my mother never severed the relationship with his children (as is wont to happen in most families). She attended the weddings of each of his three children (a son - he lives in Pune and two daughters - who live in Sarjapur Road). Yet, both the daughters of my uncle did not even bother to speak to my mother over the phone to offer condolences! This was how they had valued the relationship that they had with my parents in the last so many years.
My father's few relatives who came for the funeral vanished when it was time to take the body to the crematorium. Covid became a very convenient excuse for them. One of my father's sambandhis (who lives in Mumbai) also took refuge under the same reason. While he can be condoned for not attending the funeral due to his advancing age, the fact that his son too did not turn up for the funeral is indeed hard to digest. His son called the family later in the night to inform them that "he will visit them on Sunday along with his wife" to offer his condolences.
Even my father's elder brother who lives in Coimbatore and was often in touch with my father with regards to the shrartham to be performed for their parents did not speak to my mother. Neither did his wife! His wife is 84 years and he is 88 years old but speaking on the phone to the younger brother's wife to offer condolences for a few minutes was a difficult proposition for them. How ironical! My father had so much regard for his elder brother... I do not know how his soul would feel to know that the brother whom he regarded with so much love, respect and affection did not have 5 minutes to speak to his widow.
One question to all the Tamil Brahmins in this world: Our forefathers and ancestors have clearly specified that in case you are not able to offer condolences on the day of the death, you can speak to the family or visit the family in the first ten days. Or you can talk over the phone or visit them on a Sunday. How do you expect a woman who has just lost her husband (after 54 years of marriage) to check WhatsApp messages and attend calls on the day her husband has passed away? Don't you think this is cruel? What stops someone from enquiring over the phone and offering a few words of solace to the widow on a Sunday? (my father passed away all of a sudden on a Thursday).
Even more egregious is the attitude of some of my mother's relatives who sent a condolence message on WhatsApp. Such behavior is not only perplexing but also causes immense hurt. My mother's youngest brother who lives in Mumbai did not bother to visit his sister even though she had angioplasties done in 2020. For more than a year and a half, he used Covid as an excuse not to visit his sister though his home was less than 15 kms from our residence. However, he had to visit his sister when her husband passed away. He did not even bother to buy her a saree that is required to be given to the sister on the 10th day.
Even more tragic is the fact that none of my uncles ever sent any money to my mother for "Karthikai" but this uncle of mine gave my mother Rs.100 after she was widowed even though Karthikai is several weeks away! Though my mother's blind affection for her family will never make her accept such behaviors as obnoxious, the truth is that these actions definitely do not augur well for the future. I am sure that there are similar such stories in several Tamil Brahmin families in India.
In fact on the 9th day after my father's death, my mother had to do the cooking for us even though her health condition was fragile. Her younger sister who lives a stone's throw from our apartment complex did not volunteer to come forward to support us. Even when she did visit us, it was more to talk about her plight incessantly.
So, the message is loud and clear.
1. People don't want to give the respect that has to be accorded to a departed soul.
2. Condolences are offered on social media.
3. People wish to offer condolences quickly on the same day when death has occurred and take bath without bothering to understand the predicament from the other side facing bereavement.
4. Many relatives don't bother to offer condolences at all.
5. Even sambandhis don't find it necessary to attend the funeral in person.
6. Courtesy is conspicuous by its absence even during death.
My father was intensely attached to his siblings and their children but barring a handful, none of them even bothered to offer condolences let alone volunteer to provide financial support. Even all those people in his ancestral village whom he supported financially did not bother to ask what had happened! Gratitude is a rare virtue nowadays!
Well, what can I say.. Death is a great leveler and everyone who has taken birth has to go one day. But such insensitivity to a bereaved family is what is shocking! The wounds will take time to heal....