This post has been in the making for quite some time now but, is being speeded up with the passing of Fathers’ Day, celebrated on June 21, 2009. The original title has also been changed to reflect the contents in its present context.
I received some greetings from people who know that I am a father and some enquired whether we celebrate Fathers’ Day in India. I also sent some messages to some people who were celebrating Fathers’ Day.
My household is unique. It has two fathers, and one son who is also a grandson. The household consists of three single males, my father, twice widowed, I once widowed and my son, who is divorced from his only ex wife. All three are also motherless children!
From left, Ranjan, my son, my father and me!
In all my extended family and circle of friends, there is simply no equivalent household. One without the presence of a resident woman. The joke within this family and circle of friends is that three generations of single male Rajgopauls under one roof, is a disaster waiting to happen.
The nearest to this situation, that I have come across is the TV serial, Nu3bers. There is however variation there in that, there is one retired father and two working sons. Just two generations. In my household, there are three generations.
On Saturday last, that is the day before Fathers’ Day, my son Ranjan suggested to me that he takes me and my father out for lunch somewhere to celebrate Fathers’ Day. I shot down the idea for two very valid reasons. One, we have never celebrated it so far, ever. Two, and more important, if the reason was to be told to my father, he would get very upset as his two other sons and a daughter had nothing to do with it and would go into a tirade.
Oscar Wilde, the irrepressible Irishman wrote: “Rich bachelors should be heavily taxed. It is not fair that some men should be happier than others.” I suppose that he was neither rich nor single. In any case, he reflects the popular opinion that single men have a grand time, enjoying life to its full, without the responsibility and care that matrimony entails.
In our case, none of us are rich, nor are we exactly destitute. We represent everything that middle class India does, bar wives or mothers in our lives. Ranjan has a girl friend but she does not live with us. He does. Quite whether this means that we are care free and enjoying life to its fullest, is a matter of conjuncture. My answer would be the other saw – being single till one’s old age is a fine breakfast, when young, a flat lunch in the middle years and a miserable dinner in one’s old age.
In our three cases however, we seem to be having all three meals with great relish and gusto. That is because, we have assumed the responsibility for each other, and I am very serious about this, including my father. Despite his advanced age, which is now 92 and frailness, he insists on washing dishes, clearing the table and doing other things by himself, so that he is not a burden on either of us. He is also willing to foot his share of expenses!
Money matters which usually cause problems in such situations, has not yet done so in our case, as all three of us are quite casual about it and it is no big deal any way.
I wonder if any of my readers have any knowledge of similar households. If so, please do share with me as to how the situation is there.
So, with two fathers at home, why don’t we celebrate Fathers’ Day?
That takes us to the difference in our culture. Indians, do not make a fuss about living people. The living ones are dime a dozen, so why bother?
We are however supposed to do a great deal, about our dead and gone ancestors. We have what is known as Shraadh, and I reproduce below an extract from a blog post about Shraadh, the full text of which may be read by those who are interested. I suppose that this is because, history is mystery and Indians feel that it is prudent take some insurance for the future when they themselves become history!
The Sanskrit word “Shraadh” refers to the ritual performed by a Hindu in order to offer homage to one`s deceased ancestors (Pitri). `Shraadh` also means `Shraddha` which stands for unconditional, limitless reverence. The sons or the grandsons of the departed person pay respectful homage to their deceased parents and grand parents by performing this ritual. It is believed that after the performance of the ritual, the soul of the dead relative is appeased and it attains Moksha. Shraddh liberates the ancestors, since the mantras chanted during Shraddh ceremony, reaches the dead ancestors soul through the atmosphere and space. This day is also thought of as a day of remembering the ancestors and parents.
Pitru pakshaShraadh is performed every year on the anniversary of the death of the person as per the Panchang or during the dark fortnight called Pitri Paksha. The Mahalaya Shraadh is performed during a fortnight called as the ” Pitru paksha” in the month of Ashwin of the Hindu Vikram samvat. The Pitri- Paksha usually falls falls between 27th September 2007 and 11th October 2007. Shraadh can also be performed on every New Moon day or ” Amavasya”.
So, if you ask me as to whether I perform Shraadh, my honest answer is – no I do not. I personally do not believe that it need s to be done and there is no Mullah or some powerful religious head sitting on my head forcing me to do it. That is the beauty of Hinduism. It is totally anarchic and each follower is free to do what he thinks is right. There are relatives and friends of mine who perform Shraadh regularly and with great fervor. It is just not my cup of tea! I however do not mind partaking on all the goodies that are prepared in such functions if I am around where they are conducted. There are also many like me who do not. It is not considered a sin. We are prepared to meet with whatever comes our way when we go up to meet our ancestors.