“The daughters are to stay at home. The wife, more so. The dead are never accompanied to the cremation grounds by women. We aren’t allowed. Not in our custom.
And so, we went to the cremation grounds — Ma and her daughters, to cremate our father, her husband. I took Ma’s hand and guided her from our house. The priest shook his head in disapproval. The cousins, the men, looked on, grief-stricken, but now in shock that their aunt and their cousins, women all, were headed to the shamshan ghat, to give mukhagni, lighting the fire to the mouth of the deceased.”-Madhushree Ghosh, “At the Maacher Bazaar, Fish For Life.” Longreads.com. April 2019
There was a lot I recognized in this story. The elder daughter who would not eat fish because her parents ate so much of it in her childhood. Daughters breaking tradition and performing funeral rites. The love of Bengalis for bargaining.
But, otherwise, a piece that was বাংলা জীবন সত্য, true to Bengali life.
“It’s in a way right because Hinduism is a tailor-made religion. As one anthropologist said, it’s mysticism, but basically it’s a system to prop up caste system. It tells you the rules for untouchables and for women. That is all Hinduism is about. Shorn of mysticism, it’s a prop for caste system.
Caste system is a social issue, but the religion coincides with the social. That’s why it looks like it’s a religious issue. It’s not actually a religious issue. Therefore, when people convert to other religions, hoping that they will not be untouchables anymore, they will be disappointed because there is casteism in Christians and Dalits and Sikhs and any other religion in India. It’s a social issue.”
—Sujatha Gilda. “Ep. 30: Sujatha Gidla on being an Ant amongst the Elephants.” Conversations with Tyler. November 15, 2017.