Wednesday, September 16, 2015




( Photo Avtar Mota )


  To this photo , I add my short story " THE FINAL SAMASKAARA " . 

                                          ( THE FINAL SAMASKAARA )


 When Shanta ji died of a massive heart attack , there was no one in the house . Pran Nath , her husband had gone for an evening walk. That day , Jammu was extremely hot and humid . Walking back to his home , Pran Nath kept thinking , ‘ this is August and next month is September . That is the end of this hell like season over here . I can withstand that hot and dry climate of June but not this irritating humidity of August . How many times shall you go under the shower ? How many times shall you change your sweat soaked clothes ?This is a real hell for us .’

 On his way back, he had bought two ice creams for himself and Shanta Ji and these were meant to be relished after the dinner . Even when the ice creams showed signs of softening , he was tempted to enter into some discussion with Ram Krishen (president of their  Colony Welfare Association ) whom he met just near his house. They probably discussed some procedure for conducting next election of the Colony Welfare Association . After that, he went to Bodh Raj’s chemist shop nearby and bought two strips of Arbital H for elevated blood pressure . Shanta Ji and Pran Nath were diagnosed with mild hypertension and had been put on medicine. In fact , It was Shanta Ji , who had reminded him about buying  these tablets as they had no stock for their morning consumption. Over with it , he straightway headed towards his house .

 Ignorant about the calamity that was waiting for him at home, he pressed the door bell but there was no response . He pressed it again for a longer duration but again there was  no response . He then dialed his landline number but no one picked up the receiver from the other side . It was something unusual as Shanta Ji would normally be in the lobby watching her favourite Aastha channel. Now he turned suspicious and called Aashu , his Neighbour’s son , whom he requested  to climb the boundary wall and open his main gate from inside .

 Once inside the house, Pran Nath came to know as to what had befallen him. For him, life had taken another turn suddenly and unexpectedly .He visualized that this unfortunate development shall permanently affect his immediate and future life. Suddenly the ice cream , the BP tablets , dinner , evening walks ,the colony elections and even his sleep meant nothing to him . He thought as if he lay buried under some debris that had suddenly come from a huge concrete wall .He also thought that he could come out of this debris by action and courage only.

 Sweating profusely , he sat under the ceiling fan and telephoned the domestic maid Kanta , Ram Krishen (colony president ) , his sister and brother in law and also Shanta Ji’s brother settled in Delhi informing them about Shanta ji’s sudden death. Thereafter he dialed Sanjay’s (his son) mobile number but the back message from the system informed that he was out of reach . Sanjay lived in Canada. He sent messages through  Facebook  to Sanjay asking him to speak back immediately in view of some grave exigency .

 Kanta and her son arrived first followed by Ram Krishen . His sister and brother in law also joined later.

 It was 9.30 p.m. and a hectic activity started in the house . While Pran Nath kept waiting for Sanjay’s call , Ram Krishen , Kanta’s son and Pran Nath’s brother in law shifted all the furniture from the drawing room and the lobby into the lawn. Ram Krishen was directing and helping in this work . They also furnished both the rooms with simple carpets so that maximum number of mourners that were expected to visit the house in the morning could sit . One room they prepared for the ladies and the other for the  gents. Shanta Ji’s body was made to lie upon open floor with a white cloth sheet over it . An earthenware oil lamp was kept burning near the body . Ram krishen brought a Bhagwat Geeta audio CD from his house that he inserted into the CD player and switched it on to play mode . For Pran Nath , it was an unusual night . Instead of TV news , the lobby resonated with Shlokas from the Bhagwat Geeta   .

 Without informing any person , Ram Krishen went to Gian Singh’s provision store nearby and bought 15 kg of potatoes , 5 kg of P brand mustard oil ,5 kg of pulses , 50 kg gunny bag of Sharbati rice ,5 bottles of Rooh Afza , 5 kg of sugar , 10 kg of Atta and some spices . Neither Gian Singh asked for the money nor Ram krishen paid it as Gian singh had come to know what had happened . He then telephoned his son Sonu and told him  this :-

 “ Open our store room . There are 5 filled gas cylinders . Bring one HP cylinder over here and take the empty one from this place . I have kept the empty gas cylinder near the main gate . “

 After that Ramkrishen said to Pran Nath:-

 “ What about the cremation now ? It is hot and extremely humid. You understand . Whatever had to happen has happened , now we have to send her off in a proper manner enumerated by the Shastras . Shall I fix up with a Guru Ji ? We better go for a contract for all the days . I mean the cremation , immersion of ashes ,10th  day , 11th  day and 12th   day Samaskaaras . Did Sanjay Ji call back. ? “

 And at that moment , Sanjay called from Canada . Pran Nath informed him about what had happened so suddenly. He also advised him to fly immediately for the cremation and other rituals. Sanjay informed his father that he shall call back after checking up everything.

Sanjay was the lone child of Pran Nath and Shanta Ji. He had been living in Canada for the last 15 years . Initially he had moved out of India for a job in Singapore but finally he migrated to Canada and settled over there along with his family. His wife was a teacher in a Canadian government school and they had two children .

After  many years , Sanjay was planning to visit Jammu in November to celebrate Deepawali  with his parents . He had already booked tickets for himself and his family  . He had conveyed this to his mother in July and since then Shanta Ji had been busy buying something or the other for the her son or his family .

A   month before her death Shanta Ji had told Pran Nath :-

“ Find a day and come with me to Khajuria Jewellers at Jain Bazar . Nirmala Ji told me that he is a reasonable goldsmith. I want to exchange some old jewellery . Don’t worry , no fresh buying . I want to give all my gold to Sanjay’s family in a graceful manner .This Gunus ( heavy snake shaped gold Karra ), two chains , three rings and two Katchhakars ( golden bangles ) that I have kept in the  locker are of no use . What for do I need all this ?  When I die , you may not be able to deal with it . I shall keep a small Dejjhur , one chain that Lakshmi’s parents have gifted to me , one ring and one Katchhakar ( bangle ) for my use . After my death , handover the golden chain to Lakshmi and donate the rest to the ‘Shamshaan Ghat Committee’ . This president has been collecting donation every month for ‘Shamshaan Ghaat ‘ . It needs funds . “

Pran Nath had felt bad with this conversation but had accompanied Shanta Ji to  Khajuria Jewellers . Shanta Ji had exchanged her old jewellery and bought sleek earrings for Kittu ( her grand daughter ) , a gold chain for Ranil her grandson and small almond shaped Dejhur for Lakshmi ( her daughter in law ). She had also given her own Pashmina Saree to Ghulam Nabi Dar, a shawl trader known to them for the last 30 years . Ghulam Nabi Dar also kept visiting them in Jammu after the widespread militancy forced them to move out from the Kashmir valley . Shanta Ji trusted Ghulam Nabi like her own brother who  had made two beautiful Shawls of her old Pashmina Saree. These maroon coloured shawls were embroidered with Tila thread ( golden thread ) . Shanta Ji wanted to give both the Shawls to Lakshmi. For Sanjay , she had bought a gent’s Dussa ( shawl type blanket ) from Ghulam Nabi . She had about twenty thousand rupees with her that she saved from the money that Pran Nath gave her for  the monthly kitchen expenses . This money she had spent on all on these purchases .

Apart from that ,she would tell Pran Nath everyday to bring one thing or the other which she carefully stored in their refrigerator . This one thing or the other included , almond kernels , Varimuth ( black beans consumed by Kashmiris ) and even rice powder .Just some days before her death , Pran Nath had asked her:-

“What for have you bought these Pashmina Shawls and jewellery for children ? What is the use to them at this moment ? . “

To this she had replied , “ Who knows I may not live to see Ranil’s Mekhla ( sacred thread ceremony ) or Kittu’s marriage ? And then what is the purpose of keeping all this in the locker when it is of no use to me . You are also paying rent for the locker. This is August now only September and October are left . November they shall be here. I shall keep them in a box inside this house only . Where do I go ? . I shall hand over this Amaanat to Lakshmi. And then you are a pensioner now . How much can you pay during these days of inflation ? Our medicines , telephone bills , electricity bills , grocery , maid’s salary , milk seller’s monthly bill, vegetables , fruits , gardener’s salary, petrol expenses and so many sudden expenditures. At least let me support you indirectly. God willing,  I shall be seeing my grand children after 5 years now. Kittu must have grown taller now. And this naughty Ranil , I am told , uses a bicycle now ? I am worried for his slim physique that I saw in the photo ? Let him stay with me for 10 days only, I shall feed him daily with Rogan Josh , Yakhni , fish and tasty dishes. His father too had problems with eggs and milk .  I have also told Ghulam Nabi to bring one box of special Ambri apples from Kashmir before Deepawali. I shall give them fresh juice every day . Let them be here and I shall see what best I can cook for them. God ! If they speak to me in English , how shall I understand what they want . I am sure they must be conversing in Kashmiri . After all they are the children of a father who himself is so rich in Sanaskaars  and  family values . “

It was 11.30 p.m.  and Pran Nath’s mobile started ringing. Sanjay was on the line . He spoke to his father and he said this:-

“ Daddy , I have booked my tickets and I shall be leaving by early morning flight from Ottawa . I should be in India day after tomorrow. I have a ticket for a 2.30 p.m. flight from New Delhi to Jammu and I am told that this is the last flight . And thereafter , from New Delhi , there are no flights to Jammu . Let me see what best can be done to reach Jammu as early as possible . Sushil Mahajan , my friend who resides at Trikuta Nagar,  Jammu  is coming to you . The rest , he shall talk to you in detail . I have sought his assistance till I join you . Courage dad , you are a great man  and I know it.”

The moment Sanjay’s call was over , Pran Nath received a call from Shanta ji’s brother in Delhi . He informed that he had already engaged a taxi and was about to leave along with his wife. This was followed by a call from Sushil Mahajan , Sanjay’s school friend . Sushil and his brother were on their way to Pran Nath’s house. Sushil also said this:-

“ Daddy Ji , you may be knowing how distant this Canada is from Jammu . Last time I had a worst experience when I  went to Canada and stayed with Sanjay. So tiring a journey and then you are not sure about the arrival time of these flights . We have fifty fifty chances of Sanjay making it to Jammu day after tomorrow before 4 p.m. .  Let us not take a risk and put all to inconvenience .As discussed in detail with Sanjay , we need to keep aunty in a mortuary for the final rites . Jammu is extremely hot and humid and then we are not sure about exact time of cremation . I am coming with the mortuary van and once Sanjay arrives , we shall bring the body in half an hour . Though this is very late time to open mortuary but I have already sounded the mortuary caretaker .I believe I am clear. “

That was something Pran Nath never expected . But then he had no time to analyse merits and demerits of this decision. During the periods of such grave crisis , one tends to go by the natural flow of events . He also decided to go by Sushil Mahajan’s suggestion that looked practical and supportive at that moment.

When Ram Krishen heard it , he turned serious and said :-

“Is she a stranger suddenly that she cannot be kept in this house ? That means the poor lady is to be kept in cold storage like a vegetable or perishable commodity . This is not our Sanatan Dharma . This is not the proper way to conduct final Samaskaara. This is not enumerated in our sacred texts and  the Shastras .We Kashmiri Pandits do not go by these short cuts . Who will keep her on the grass mat in the mortuary ? Her body needs to be kept facing particular directions ? Who shall recite the  Bhagwat Geeta in the mortuary for her ? Who will keep the earthen lamp burning in the mortuary ? We can keep her on ice slabs if we have necessarily to wait for Sanjay . You should have told Sanjay that you are performing the final Samaskaara tomorrow and he could have joined us for the 10th  day ritual ( Kriya ) . It is not proper to shift a dead body from the house and then again bring it back . After all you are dealing with a soul that has yet to attain salvation through the Kriya Karma . “ 

Pran Nath heard every word that Ram krishen spoke. These words appeared reasonable to him. But he had no desire to convey his agreement or disagreement on the issue . May be he had stopped applying merits and demerits to suggestions at that moment . Whatever came first , he would have agreed . Now that he had already given his consent to Sushil Mahajan , he could not retract . To Ram Krishen he simply said :-

“ Ram Krishen Ji , I fully agree with you. But Shanta Ji was not my wife alone . She was Sanjay’s mother also. Let  Sanjay decide what is  the best . I am here to facilitate his decision .”

“ I understand . I get it. You are right and this is not the time for all this discussion. Fine , It is your family decision. I believe there is a vehicle at the gate . Let me see . It must be the mortuary van.”, saying this  , Ram krishen came to the main gate of the house .

Sushil Mahajan and his brother had come with the van. Sushil Mahajan’s brother , Ram Krishen , Kanta ‘s son and Pran Nath’s brother in law carefully lifted Shanta Ji’s body and placed it inside the metallic trolley of the morturay van. In the stillness of that night , the van sped towards the  temporary parking place for  Shanta Ji .

It was 12.30 now. Ramkrishen sought permission to leave and assured to come in the morning . Pran Nath also asked Kanta and her son to take rest and requested them to come in the morning . They lived near by.He then told his sister and brother in law to take rest inside his bed room. His sister insisted that he should have something . She opened the refrigerator and saw apples and a papaya inside .Pran Nath said :-

“ Bengaashi ( his sister’s name ) , I don’t feel like eating. Do I need to seek permission? As and when I feel like eating , I shall have it myself. Please take rest . It shall be a hectic day tomorrow . I shall sleep here in the lobby bed “


After Bengaashi slept, for the first time in his life , Pran Nath felt something missing in the house . For the first time in his life , he felt that the house he had built with so much attention and care may prove a burden now.


“ Should I sell the house and move to Canada to stay with Sanjay’s family ? Why not ? Sanjay will be more than happy with this decision. Children too shall feel happy. May be Lakshmi may not like this decision. But then she will never express it openly . I think I should not look negatively on this issue . She has always been nice to me . No! no! I should not sell the house . That would be the most foolish decision , if, at any point of time , I decide to come back , where shall I  go then ? The house needs to be protected as a memorial of Shanta Ji and not to be sold even if I stay anywhere . And then what shall I do over there . Who knows me in Canada ? Even if Lakshmi has no problem with my presence in her family , I may feel cut off at this stage of life . Can I ask freely for my repeated tea cups , choice dishes and other things from Lakshmi the way I used to ask from Shanta Ji ? A women may adjust in a joint family after the death of her husband but a man can’t  do so after the death of his spouse  . I believe everyone has these issues and I  can’t be an exception. And then these new concrete houses that we build , have a brief life span. Not like our old houses where families lived and flourished for centuries. At the most, these structures provide time bound utility to the generation that builds them. This too for a part period of their lives . Thereafter these structures turn sick even if regularly put to repairs and renovation. And once children grow and leave for their professional courses and subsequent jobs , a whiff of loneliness starts spreading on these walls and floors . The noise , laughs and prattle that children create suddenly changes into silence that rules like a dictator . But then the woman in the house keeps the kitchen fire burning which actively engages the remaining inhabitants. May be that burning fire wards off loneliness and desperation in one way or the other. Who shall ask me to bring vegetables now ? Who shall wait for me at the dining table ? The feasts and fasts within this house are over now . Will Kanta , our maid resume her work in this house ?

This woman Shanta Ji , from an unknown family , a total stranger , came to my life 40 years back and became a major factor for unity and strength in this household. For me she knitted a compact circle of relatives and well wishers and nurtured this field with her attention , affection and care .

Does a wife become mother finally ? I believe so . She had been looking after me like my mother Rajrani . Cooking for me, washing my clothes , looking after me in my sickness and then standing like a rock to protect me from any emotional onslaught.


If Sanjay has decided to come all the way from Canada , it is because of the Sanskaars which his mother passed on to him. What lay there in me for him to get inspired ? I have possibly been careless to my family . Wasn’t I more bothered about my office and bosses ? O God ! how mean of me . O God! why do I think of these issues at this moment ? ”

His mind was in a great whirlpool of thoughts. These thoughts kept flooding his mind . He felt restless but didn’t  feel like smoking .


“ Let this flood wash me fresh . Let this tide sweep my being .I should not suppress it by smoking .”  He thought this as he opened the door of the refrigerator to drink water .

 He then tiptoed to his bed room to close the door that had been kept open . Bengaashi was snoring while his brother in law was in deep sleep .

 “ Doesn’t he get disturbed ? Does familiar noise work like soft jingle bells that could lull you to sleep ? He must have slept first and thereafter Bengaashi must have started snoring . This man is careless about this sister of mine . I am told that this snoring is medically treatable . There must be some cause for this condition .  Why do I think on these issues at this moment ? For me , there are thousands of issues that shall surface as more critical now . “

 Thinking so ,he felt confused .

 Outside his house , nothing but dead silence prevailed . A stray dog bark or a distant vehicle horn tore the stillness of this unusual night for Pran Nath . It was 1 o’clock now. This was the time when Shanta ji would generally get up from her sleep to have a glass of water. She would invariably pull up the white sheet over Pran Nath’s body so as to cover it completely. Pran Nath had a bad habit of changing poses in sleep and inadvertently throwing the white sheet away from his body. She would also adjust the fan regulator keeping it one step below the top speed at that time of the night. Some times she would say to her husband ..

   Would you like to drink  some water ?”

 Feeling restless ,Pran Nath went inside the kitchen and saw that Shanta Ji had kept two vegetable bowls near the microwave . She had cooked Bamatsoonth Waangun (brinjals and quince fruit ) and Daal Nadur ( moong daal with lotus roots ) . The knob of the rice cooker had come to warm position automatically after the rice got well cooked inside . He switched off the power supply and kept the vegetable bowls inside the refrigerator. He was undecided as to how he should deal with the cooked rice at that moment .

 Thereafter he went to the roof top and found that the water in the overhead supply tank was almost at its  bottom level.

 “ We need the water in the house . Many people are likely to visit wash rooms tomorrow. I must lift it this very moment from the underground storage tank. This electric supply is also not reliable in Jammu . And then this electric motor is so noiseless and powerful . Just 45 minutes more and i shall take some rest. ” ,he said to himself.

 As he stood on the roof watching the water filling the rooftop  supply tank, he looked at the small Chinar tree that Shanta Ji had planted in their lawn. The tree had poor growth but looked pretty green and magnificent . Such trees may survive in alien lands but they grow and flourish in their native areas only .Shanta Ji knew this simple fact but she was fond of these Chinar trees. She had paid three hundred rupees to the gardener for this Chinar sapling. The guava tree was full of ripe guavas . The marigolds in the flower beds below looked sullen in moonlight .Shanta Ji would be after the the gardener for proper care  of  the flower beds .Though the gardener’s salary was just 200 rupees per month , he took about 600 rupees extra every month from Shanta Ji for the flower saplings , manures and insecticide  sprays that he got for the lawn . Every day Shanta Ji would pluck three or four marigold flowers for her morning Pooja.


“ Shall this Chinar , guava tree and these marigold flowers go waste now ? Unlike the wild vegetation, these garden plants grow under the care and attention of a human being only ? ” Pran Nath  kept thinking .


After coming down from the rooftop , Pran Nath opened the drawer of the lobby almirah to look for the family album for a suitable photograph of Shanta Ji. He also decided to prepare the draft of the obituary intimation to be got published in the newspaper .As he leafed through the album pages , every photograph turned alive with its connected event . Shanta Ji as bride, birth of Sanjay , Sanjay’s sacred thread ceremony  , Sanjay's marriage , Shanta Ji dancing in Sanjay’s Mehndiraat , Shanta Ji with Sanjay’s family and many marriages of close relations that Shanta Ji had attended . This album leafing had some relieving effect on him.

 When he got up , it was 4.30 a.m. . Life had started waking up  in Jammu . The vegetable sellers had started carrying their loads to the wholesale Mandis of the city . The  horse driven carts, pickup vans , auto rickshaws were speeding through the well  lit vacant roads . For him , it was a different morning. Noiseless and silent . But very shortly , the noise of the mourners was about to crack the stillness of his house . He was restless but had to wait .

 At 8 a.m. , Shanta Ji’s brother and his wife arrived from Delhi . They declared their presence by mournful shrieks the moment they stepped inside Pran Nath’s house . Bengaashi moved forward to console Sheela ( wife of Shanta Ji’s brother ). Shanta Ji’s brother also cried :-

 “ Ye kossa  traeth peyi assi ? Why has this lightning struck us ?”

 While Pran Nath was narrating to them how suddenly it all happened , Kanta and her son arrived and hurried towards the kitchen. Bengaashi guided them as to how and what they should do . Bengaashi also advised Pran Nath to take his bath and sit in the room prepared for the male mourners who were expected to arrive shortly . She also gave similar advice to Shanta Ji’s brother and his wife Sheela .

 Groups of mourners kept visiting Pran Nath right from the morning to express their condolences . Relatives , neighbours , friends and acquaintances poured into the rooms prepared for mourners . Male shoes and ladies sandals kept outside at the rooms  guided the mourners to  their respective rooms . The mourners would sit in silence for some time and then pick up some communication threads .Ram Krishen also sat close by for the whole day . Many times , he would give his final punch lines in these discussions. 

“ This is Maha-kaal sir .The rest are causes . Now one has to be courageous. Don’t you know yesterday’s matador accident that killed a young boy of 18 years. The poor boy had gone for his tuition classes . See what a tragedy befell his parents. “

 Some times one could misunderstand these mourners . They behaved more like gossip mongers than real sympathisers .Once a mourner settled with initial expression of sorrow and sympathy , he would not hesitate to start a discussion on current political situation or the  newspaper headlines .One by one these mourners would seek permission to leave while others kept entering . Some went closer to Pran Nath seeking to know if he needed any specific help. Some sought to know the date and place decided for  the 10th  day Kriya ( ritual ).

 Kanta’s son kept serving cold water and Rooh Afza drinks to all .Two pedestal fans were also placed inside the rooms to keep them airy and cool.

 It was 2 p.m. now and the mourners had left leaving Pran Nath’s family alone. Bengaashi immediately asked Kanta to start serving lunch . She told her :-

 “ It pains me to see Baisahab ( Pran Nath ). He has not eaten anything since yesterday. To live something has to be eaten . Finish up with this lunch business now . People must be coming. “

Reluctantly , everybody ate simple rice and Daal that Kanta had prepared after washing all the utensils and collecting fresh water from the PHE  supply tap.

 Ram Krishen also went to his house nearby to have lunch with his family .After he returned , he found Pran Nath fast asleep in the room. Pran Nath had probably felt a little comfortable with the food that he had after almost 24 hours .Ram Krishen did not disturb him but went to the lobby where other family members were taking their meals while Kanta and her son were serving them . Ram Krishen then turned towards Bengaashi and said :-

 “ What are the children doing ?”

 “ Seema ( daughter) is married and settled in London while Abhishek ( son ) is serving in IBM Bangaluru . Now my worry is only his marriage and then we plan to go to Haridwar . We have bought a one room flat over there. It is exactly on the banks of the Ganga  river . May be just 2 km away from Har Ki Pauri “

 “ What are your children doing ?”

 “ I have already married my daughter and she is settled in Ghaziabad with her husband who is manager in a private company . They have a parental house and he is the only child . Sonu , my son has completed BE from Pune and was serving with TCS at Mumbai. He resigned from the job and has appeared in some competitive examination . These children know better what they have to do. He says that he has to do some Masters . I do not know what is that .His mother is so happy to see him around . Left to me , I would like him to take up some employment in the State government or go for the  KAS so that he could remain nearby .His mother is a diabetic  and I have also retired now . I would like him to get married as early as possible and settle with his own family. This house and this new car that I bought can at least be put to some use if he is around. He does not discuss his future career nor do I insist . I am happy that he is with us . ”

 “ Very social and affectionate like his father . He has come three four times since morning for help and support to us .“, said Bengaashi .

 Some male mourners then entered the room. Ram Krishen rushed to awaken Pran Nath.It was hot and humid . Bengaashi asked Kanta to serve the mourners cold water and Rooh Afza drinks .Thereafter she advised Kanta and her son to eat while she went to the room where lady mourners were expected to arrive .

 The lady mourners had a different method of expressing their grief. Some wept , others cried loudly some just took out their handkerchiefs and started wiping their dry eyes and sighing and making sad facial expressions . They discussed Lakshmi and her parents who resided in Singapore . Some ladies said:-

 “ Lakshmi should have come with her husband . After all Shanta Ji was her mother in law .”

 Some women also discussed the mode , method and suitable day for Chhallun ( suitable day for washing clothes after a death in the family ) , Hontch (ashotch or uncleanness created by death ) , Punn-daav ( symbolic thread to be tied to ears by ladies after a  death in the family ) , Ritch -vaar ( auspicious day during mourning period ), Teel-dyunn ( Deep -daan ritual after a  death in the family ), Maasvaar ( monthly ritual after the death ) , Shadd-moss ( six monthly ritual after the death ),  Tarpan ritual and so many other rituals of Kashmiri  Pandits .

 As and when any close relative  would enter the ladies room , the women in  the mourning would start symbolic expression of grief till the incoming mourner settled down . The rooms were busy with mourners for the full day . Pran Nath had no time to go to washroom . The unending stream of mourners kept him tied to a place in the room for almost full day .

 Next day there was a crowd of mourners . People expected Sanjay to arrive and Samskaara to be performed . That made everyone to visit the family. Men had to sit outside in chairs as the room for male mourners was packed to capacity .

 It was at 1 p.m. next day when Pran Nath received a call from Sanjay . Sanjay had reached Delhi and was waiting to board his Jammu flight . After sanjay ‘s call. Pran Nath received a call from Sushil Mahajan . Sushil probably had a detailed discussion with Sanjay the moment he landed in Delhi .

 “ Daddy ji , Sanjay shall be in the house at 4.45 the most  . So you be prepared for that . I am coming at 4.00 p.m. along with the body and Shastri Ji . We shall be performing Anteshti ( cremation ) Samaskaara by Vedic method as Sanjay shall be here only for five days .I have also talked to Shastri Ji from Arya Samaj. My brother shall be bringing him to your house at about 3 p.m.along with all the requisite Samagri ( items needed for the cremation). He shall also bring fresh flowers and some garlands . You just get the wooden bier collected from the cremation ground near your house . Leave the rest to me. I also need to speak to your neighbor Ram Krishen Ji, if possible.”

 Ram krishen also spoke to Sushil Mahajan and carefully listened to all that he said. The moment he dropped Sushil Mahajan’s call , he turned to Pran Nath :-

 “ So we are not performing the final Samskaara by Sanatan Dharma way or by our age old customs . He has already decided to conduct the cremation by Arya Samaj way. Just four days and all is over . He will do cremation today followed by immersion of ashes tomorrow and then a Hawan and Shanti Paath ( prayer for peace ) on the  fourth day. That is all. No Pind Daan rituals . No Shraada . No 10th  day , 11th  day and the  12th day Kriyas ( rituals)  . What about the Maasvaars ( monthly rituals ) and other rituals? Will her soul get Sadgati  and Moksha  by these short cuts ? How time has changed for us . Now we are going for the Uthaala and Rasam Pagri . So let me go to the temple and get the bier. “


It was sharp 3 p.m. when Sushil Mahajan’s brother brought Shastri Ji from Arya Samaj along with the requisite Samagri ( items needed for cremation ) and flowers . Ram Krishen had already brought the bier and out of sheer curiosity, he opened the Samagri bag. He was surprised to find a Desi Ghee ( clarified butter ) tin of 5 kg along with about 1 kg of sandal wood sticks and dry fruits .Before he could say anything , Shastri Ji from Arya Samaj requested  every body present to come closer and listen to him just for five minutes. And then Shastri Ji said:-


“ Have you decided to perform Anteshti by Arya Samaj method ? There should be no controversy or doubt over it as most of the Kashmiri Pandits think that the Samaskaara ( ritual ) performed by the  Arya Samaj methd is not as per Sanatan Dharma and as such have some misgivings about it .I need to clarify this to all of you so that you understand things in proper perspective.

As per our ancient texts or Vedas we need to perform 16 Samaskaaras . These are Garbdhaan ( performed for the continuation of human race on the planet ), Punsavan ( performed after pregnancy for the physical growth of the child),  Simantonnayan  ( performed after 6th  months of pregnancy for the mental growth of the child ), Jatakaram ( performed to welcome the child to the family), Namakaran ( performed to give the child a suitable name ), Nishakaraman ( performed when the child is of four months . The child is taken out  of the house and given exposure to nature ) , Anna Prashaan  ( offering first solid food to the child ), Mundan  ( shaving the head of the child ), Karnavedh (piercing lower ear lobes of the child ), Upanayan ( Yageopavit or Janew or sacred thread ceremony ), Vidhya-aarambh ( starting the education of the child ) Samavaratan ( preparing the child to shoulder responsibility independently ), Vivaah  ( marriage ), Vaanprasth ( passing on family responsibility to children ( this is done after the age of fifty ), Sanyaasa  ( withdrawing from family life and shifting to self realization and meditation) and finally Anteshti ( the last and final Samaskaara performed at the  death ).

Anteshti is the last and the  most important Samaskaara performed so that the five elements that this human body is composed of return to their origin while the soul remains immortal.

Our Vedic Samaj believes in performing the cremation in a proper way like a Homa  to purify any impurity created by the death . That is why we use pure Items like Ghee  and Sandal-wood  . Many Kashmiri Pandits are surprised when I perform Anteshti by Vedic way. We Arya Samajis collect the ashes next day for immersion in a river . This is followed by a Homa on fourth day inside the house wherein  Vedic  Mantras are recited . Nothing after the Shanti-Paath ( prayer for peace ) is over. You may feed poor and destitute on that day and start your normal activity . We do not perform Pinda-daan etc. But Arya Samaj believes that if some one meant so much to us , we should not forget him altogether . Accordingly , once in a year , a day is reserved for the ancestors and a Homa is again performed on that day with recitation of Vedic Mantras . Arya Samaj believes in cherishing the memory of the deceased rather than suffering in his memory both physically and financially . This is how our saints and sages performed the final Samaskaara . Why are Kashmiri Pandits not accepting it when their society direly needs it. They are scattered all over within the country and outside  as well. Even one family is scattered . Children do not live with their parents . Your children rush from various corners of the globe for this final Samaskaara . Can they leave their work for 15 days ? I am not against the way you do your rituals . After all these are being done as per Sanatan Dharma  .But this method of performing rituals will vanish with this generation. So do you agree to my performing the Anteshti   by Arya Samaj way over here ?”

 Every one was impressed with this lecture of Shastri Ji. Pran Nath nodded his head in agreement. Ram Krishen was silent .Ladies started side talks and then Shastri ji , Sushil Mahajan’s brother and Ram Krishen started decorating the funeral bier with flowers and garlands .

 Sushil Mahajan brought Shanta Ji’s body from the mortuary exactly at 4 p.m. and left for airport to receive Sanjay.

 Shanta Ji’s body lay stiff , cold and pale .The ladies gave it a bath with lukewarm water and kept reciting the Sanskrit  Shloka :-

 “ Khshantavyo  Meparaadha . Shiv Shiv Shiv Bho , Shri  Mahadev Shambho “

 Thereafter the women put the coffin over Shanta Ji’s body after closing all the exit points like ears , nose , mouth , eyes and urinary  and excreta tracts .Bengaashi kept one golden finger ring with the body and removed rest of the gold ornaments delivering them to Pran Nath .

Sanjay and Sushil arrived at 5 p.m. . The August sun was still hot and humid . Sanjay was under jetlag but kept erect and calm. He touched his mother’s feet and bowed in silence and moved away allowing Shastri ji to finish .That was all he did. Ram Krishen expected him to weep or burst with emotions. At that moment ,Pran Nath felt tired and was possibly thinking,

 “Does death disconnect ? Is human relation linked with mind and not the body ? Obviously a mind that no longer exists has no relations or links whatsoever .To reconnect with body alone is to invite terror and fright .”

 Pran Nath ,Sheela and Bengaashi put a shawl over the bier carrying Shanta ji . Pran Nath also put a shawl over the bier that Ram Krishen had purchased and handed over confidentially to Bengaashi.

 As they decided to lift the bier ,Ram Krishen intervened and said ,

“ Shastri ji , wait for 10 minutes . Let us perform the final Vishnu-Stuti before we depart for  the cremation “ And then Ram Krishen made every one to recite Vishnu-Stuti in sanskrit. Together they recited :-

“ Jai naryan jai  purshotam

  Jai vaaman kanssaare

  Udhar maamsuresh vinaashan

  Patitoham sansaare…

  Goram harmam narakiripo

  Keshav kalmash bhaaram

  Maan anukampaya deenam anaatham,

………….. Kuru bhav saagar paaram ..

…………..Kuru bhav saagar paaram“


Next day , a notice in the newspaper informed every relation and family friends in Jammu about the Shanti Paath on the 4th  day .After the Shanti Paath was over , Sanjay had some time to talk to his father .

 “ What do you plan daddy now ? Are you satisfied with this Arya Samaj ritual ? In case not , I have no issue if you go for the 10th  day and all other rituals but I have to leave day after tomorrow. I have some official commitments that need my presence . I shall be immediately transferring about 3000 Canadian dollars which is about 1.50 lakh Indian rupees in your account that you may need .Apart from that ,I would be happy to see you with us in Canada as soon as you can manage. I shall be worried about your welfare now. I have also told Sushil Mahajan for a ‘Cashless Hospitalisation  Medical Insurance’ policy for you. He will himself do it and you need not pay him. I shall settle myself. That is very important. Please stop driving this scooter now . Drive car only . Your reflexes are not as sharp as they used to be when we were kids and then this two wheeler is always risky. You must keep your activity schedule . I believe this woman Kanta is ideal support . Let her continue . I shall fix up with her for cooking your lunch and breakfast . Even if she charges 4000 rupees  per month , we have to go in for that . I may send you monthly about 400 Canadian dollars which is about 20000 Indian rupees . I believe that is fine . Bengaashi is also here and I think things shall get managed for some time . But I want you to come over to Canada finally.”


Pran Nath felt relieved with these words of affection and care . For the first time in his life , his son had talked so intimately with genuine concern . Ram Krishen’s eyes were moist .He felt like weeping. He felt like smoking at that moment . To himself he said ,

 “These human tears are a strange phenomenon. They trickle down more with sudden happiness than pain or grief . And how strange , this sudden happiness makes you to weep and smile at the same moment . “

 About three months after Sanjay had left for Canada , I visited Pran Nath’s house with a prospective tenant who was a bank officer. Pran Nath had requested me for getting a suitable tenant  for his house  who would execute a lease agreement and who had a transferable government Job. I found Ram Krishen in the house and he appeared in low spirits. He was perhaps discussing something serious with Pran Nath . Looking at me , he decided to leave and sought permission from Pran Nath . When he left , Pran Nath turned to me and said :-

“ Don’t you know Avtar Ji what has happened ?

“ What has happened  ?”, said I .

“ This poor Ram Krishen also faces my fate now. His son Sonu left for Sweden in September . Sonu had cleared GRE with a very good rank and accordingly got admission in Masters course for two years on hundred percent scholarship. This sudden development has totally unnerved poor Ram Krishen . He was asking for telephone number of Arya Samaj Shastri Ji. He wants to write a will and mention Shastri ji as executor of the will . He is very serious to ensure that his final Samaskaara  is performed by  the Arya Samaaj method only . ”

(Avtar Mota.. Jammu.. 2015 )


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