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Avsose - Condolences To The Deceased


Bundha
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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.

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'Afsos', is a Punjabi word taken directly from the Farsi (Iranian) language meaning regret or sorrow. It is then, correctly spelt with an 'f' rather than a 'v'.

My own experience of afsos though, is quite different to the OP in the following ways:

  1. There's usually no seperate rooms for men and women. We all sit together.
  2. There really isn't an excessive amount of crying
  3. Contrary to what the OP said, I've found that its actually seen as disrespectful to refuse the cup of cha.
  4. The body is usually (nearly always) brought to the house to be viewed by the funeral directors (although I realise this is a big difference between Canadian Sikhs vs the rest of the world because Canada has some Laws about having the body in places that are not in the 'approved list')
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Every word you write above is so true and amusing in parts. The topics discussed by most Punjabi Sikhs that are Panth dhardhi are the same whether at a funeral or otherwise.

I'll try not to put a damper on your post but need to state that wailing is forbidden in Sikhi and the ladies that wail (pit) the loudest are making a fool of themselves. Nothing wrong with being sad for people like me who are not true Gursikhs, but the ones that are solid in rehat we know see it as bhana (will).

Another odd trend seen in the UK is taking the deceased to the Gurdwara like that's gonna make any difference? What we do here and now is all that matters :biggrin2:

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Every word you write above is so true and amusing in parts. The topics discussed by most Punjabi Sikhs that are Panth dhardhi are the same whether at a funeral or otherwise.

I'll try not to put a damper on your post but need to state that wailing is forbidden in Sikhi and the ladies that wail (pit) the loudest are making a fool of themselves. Nothing wrong with being sad for people like me who are not true Gursikhs, but the ones that are solid in rehat we know see it as bhana (will).

Another odd trend seen in the UK is taking the deceased to the Gurdwara like that's gonna make any difference? What we do here and now is all that matters :biggrin2:

I have been to three types of afsos

1.true punjabi - in the village where they bring someone in Vaen paun wali I think to get everybody in the mood to cry , the women will be seated in the vedda and then the lamentation will start ....honestly it builds up to a frenzy of wailing totally scary for little kids ... the guys tend to sit looking equal parts morose and sheepish elsewhere in the house.

2. modern uk punjabi - evryone sits in the living room avoiding saying too much , and much like veer ji says they do a pale imitation of the pure punjabi one I think it's the Uk influence they feel embarassed to get too loud and wailey

3. My Dad's - we were all there when he passed so I did the Kirtan sohila , I shed a tear of gratefulness for being blessed for that long with a Gursikh Dad. we did a sehaj paat in the home and did sewa of sangat ourselves everyday , we completed on the Friday after we bathed Dad and got him ready for the Saturday cremation. We did take Dad to the Gurdwara but stayed downstairs as Sangat was coming from across the country to see him , nobody cried until my Mum's cousin tried to console my bhabhi and then me . I was so mad at myself as it was not what I believed in , I was just completing my last sewa not losing my Father . We took sangat to the crematorium some family members stayed back to keep the children company and look after them at Gurdwara Sahib . We did ardas , played 'mil mere preetama jio ' when his deh was transported to the furnace then went back to Gurdwara , listened to some speeches about Dad* after the kirtan and ANand sahib , karah then thanked sangat for coming then home. Mum took his phul to kiratpur Sahib as his family members who couldn't make it wished to do something

* it was nice to hear that he left people with positive feeling towards him because he encouraged everyone to do naam japna

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