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A light hearted look at our culture. We had a death in the family recently and we went to go do Avsose and it occurred to me how we all follow certain unwritten rules, I have noticed this over many years of going to avsoses. The ladies normally come in in packs and each will take turn to embrace the main woman of the house whose father or husband has died. Each lady must embrace and then cry, cry loudly if possible. The more she cries with added wailing the more it is regarded as she is showing sympathy. My mom used to say sometimes, "Pritam Kaur really cried loudly on the widows shoulder", admiring her ability to turn on the tears at will. They then sit down and quietly ask what happened and this is explained in hushed tones. The mood in the womens gathering is sombre and muted and the subjects that they talk about are invariably medical related. They will then look curiously at each other, and I would say with a little envy, at the noises coming from the room where the men are gathered. You will enter the mens room and shake hands with various people and then go hug the guy whose father or grandfather has died. You will say a few words of condolences and ask what happened. The guy will say what happened in a few sentences and then the room will fall silent for a few moments. Them someone will pipe up with what happened at the Gurdwara, or in Indian politics or such like and suddenly everyone will perk up and then a good old debate will start. Topics will range from how corrupt the committee of the Gurdwara is, to indian politics, and world politics. Then someone will crack a joke and everyone in the room will laugh out loud, with whoops of laughter, at which point the women in the other room will look on bemused at it all. Many times we have come out of an avsose and my wife has asked me what was going on in there? to which I would have to explain that someone cracked a joke and we all fell about laughing and shes like "I know, we could all hear it in the other room!" Then at some point the Avsose family will bring round a tray of hot tea. Protocol dictates that you do not take a cup of tea when offered, under no circumstances take the cup instead make an excuse "no ji, no thank you ji" which is intended to convey that you are feeling the hurt of the family and you are taking a voluntary fast in sympathy. But they will insist "we cannot stop eating we all have to live on" to which some who have been sitting for hours will succumb to the temptation and sheepishly take a cup and start taking sips, the rest will look on in disdain. On the funeral day a lot will go straight to the Gurdwara but if you want to show sympathy with the family you turn up at the house, ladies wearing white and a lot of gents now wear black. The dead person may not have set foot in a Gurdwara for years but it is now imperative that his body is taken inside the gurdwara hall and placed as close to Guru Sahib Ji as possible, this is followed by speeches about how his soul has gone to Satch Khand. It is a big snub to the family if you do not go to the crematorium, even if you didnt know the person that well. So coaches are laid on that find it difficult to pass through the crematorium gates and everyone piles in to the little chapel. It seems to be a tradition that everyone must stare at the smoke coming out of the tall chimney when the body is finely consumed by fire. Then its back to the Gurdwara with furious hand washing by everyone. It seems to be a measure of the deceased on how many people turns up to his funeral. People say admiringlyhow many people turned up, wow there were two coaches lined up! What they do not realise is that the poor soul has to leave all this behind, ALONE. He goes to be judged with only his Naam accompanying him and if he has none then he is in big trouble.