Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Mt. Auburn CemetaryIt's been a distinctly schizophrenic few weeks.

After the frenzy of our New York events, I took a very necessary and relaxing vacation for a few days. But then I got word that I needed to be in Boston for a wake and funeral this weekend which put everything back into overdrive.

I've only been to one other Hindu funeral and so I find that I look on the rites themselves more from an anthropological perspective. The ceremony featured a yogi who took one of the nearest family members of the deceased through the rites while stopping to explain what she should do at the end of every page. So, apparently neither yogi nor family is obligated to know what to do in advance and it's not considered rude to talk or leave and return throughout the ceremony. Then some songs are sung - none of which I understood - and then you pay your respects by pressing rice into red ink on the deceased's forehead and you leave a flower petal or a flower in the casket.

One of the handicaps I go into any Indian gathering with these days is that I don't speak much Gujrati and I understand slightly more that that. Still, it was amazing how much more of the language barrier I could bridge after just a day around all the extended Indian family. Not long ago, I got a Bollywood film in Gujrati from Netflix thinking that would help me remember the language - alas the sound recording was so bad that I could barely make out the words and the movie was so incredibly awful that I couldn't watch more than 45 minutes. I'd also forgotten how any outing to eat with Indians always involves many, many requests for hot sauce and crushed red pepper.

All chattiness aside though, seeing that much distant family at one time was somewhat stressful since at this point I barely remember their names much less how they're related to me. They all seem to know me and chatter on in Gujrati while my mind whirs trying to unearth that word I heard 30 seconds ago that came after my name. My 26 hours in Boston also featured a lot of smiling and nodding to random pronouncements on how I was now responsible for whatever, which was helpfully communicated in English. No questions about an impending marriage, but someone did opine that a boyfriend was keeping me from getting in touch more often.

Of course, it was set against the very prominent backdrop of a funeral with all the grief and solemnity that accompany them. That made all the things that I normally would've laughed off feel more like an opportunity to go hang out in a cloud of mosquitos. Combined with very little sleep before and during and flight complications along the way, my nerves were pretty fried and my brain felt like a kaleidoscope that someone wouldn't stop turning. So as much as I usually love my visits to Boston, I'm glad to be back to my normal life.

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