I have just come back from a 'Besana'. For those who may not know what a 'Besana' is, let me tell you just one thing - it is perhaps the most healing and comforting post-funeral ritual whichever culture you compare it to. A traditional 'Besana' involves the entire community, which gathers together to comfort the family of the deceased. In this case, it was still more poignant since the person whose sudden death we were there to mourn ,was just 30 years old. It gets worse. He had taken his own life. After leaving a sweet and loving letter for his mother. So.... if the letter was sweet and loving, why did he do it? Because he could no longer live the life of someone suffering from a bipolar condition. He was done with the heavy medication and the abrupt mood swings that typify this syndrome. He wanted out.
What was extraordinary about this particular 'Besana' was the turnout. He was not a 'somebody' , not a celeb.... not even a celeb son. He was just a very loveable, very troubled young man who touched people's hearts with his simplicity and guilessness. A pure soul. An innocent human being . A person without a trace of malice. People adored him. People forgave him . Even when he drove them mad with his unpredictable behaviour.
I watched his mother dealing with the endless stream of mourners who had thronged to the venue to pay their last respects.... the hall was overflowing ( I had to stand outside, along with fifty others ), and his closest friends who'd been watching the IPL matches with him a few hours before he decided to end it all, were reading out tributes in choked voices, tears streaming down their faces, their complete puzzlement evident to everyone( why did he have to do it?). The framed picture said a lot - he was smiling happily in it, as if teasing fate. His older brother kept shaking his head in disbelief, wondering whether they had failed him in some way.
No they hadn't.
They had loved him in the only way they knew. And that was enough.
But try telling that to a devastated mother who could only recall their last conversation and ask herself why she hadn't sensed something terrible was about to happen...
I held her closely for a long, long time. And let her cry.
And when I left the venue..... I knew she would heal. Because that is what traditional 'Besanas' are for. Grieving and healing.Unlike 'Wakes' in the West, which are silent and solemn affairs, here in India, it is okay to cry openly, to express the grief you are feeling in your heart, to hug strangers and seek comfort, to converse compulsively about the person who has died, even to laugh at some of the memories. Emotions are there to be expressed, not suppressed. Sorrow is there to be shared , not buried. And the memory of the person is meant to remain as fresh as the flower garlands adorning the portrait of the deceased, as fragrant as the incense burning slowly through the long proceedings.
I looked at the beautifully turned out Gujarati ladies in crisp organdie sarees, their delicate ear lobes curling slightly with the weight of flawless solitaires. I looked again at the shell -shocked mother who had tragically lost her most precious, most priceless jewel.
Farewell darling 'N'. We will always love and miss you...
It is going to be a long and lonely night....