Sep 28, 2013

To the man who taught me everything - II...

Conversation with Appa, last year:

"Why do we do 'devasham'?"

"Our scriptures tell us that not all of our ancestors' souls would have found a new body to move into. So, in the belief that the wandering hungry souls may get some peace, we invoke their name and offer food to a brahmin."

"Don't tell me you believe that!"

"Well, I don't. Not in the literal sense."

"Ok. Let me rephrase my question. Why do you do 'devasham'?"

"You really want to know?"


"Ok. It's a bit long winded, so bear with me. You see, life is a maze of activity. We are constantly running around, chasing one dream after another. What is it that you guys call it... ah, a rat race. Unfortunately, in this mindless chase for more and more things, we tend to forget what really matters. People don't have time for their family, even the ones we share a home with. And hence, it is but natural that people gradually forget their ancestors. Maybe, the annual ritual is an attempt to help us remember where we come from, and to spare a moment of gratitude for the ones on whose shoulders we have stood to come this far."  

"Well, in that case, there should be a better way of remembering our forefathers. Not calling an already well-fed pot-bellied brahmanan and plying him with food, and seeing him waste half of it by setting it aside because the taste doesn't suit him! I mean, all I know about Thatha is that he died when you were young, and the only time we seem to mention him is when we do this devasham once a year."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I don't know what kind of person Thatha was. Was he jolly, was he serious all the time, was he kind, was he strict with you,what were his views, how much freedom he allowed his kids, what were his beliefs, his values, the basic qualities that make a person who he is... Maybe I am rambling here, but isn't it strange that I don't know anything about the person after whom I am named?"

"Well, I could tell you all that. You just had to ask. Now, coming back to your point on devasham, what would you have done in my place?"

"I don't know. I haven't thought it through. But I am convinced that there is a better way of honouring a person's memory than what you are currently doing. Like say, pick the qualities that you admired in that person, and try to live up to his ideals. Maybe, do some charity in his name, at least the poor people would genuinely offer their blessing rather than some vadhyar who is more interested in the dakshinai. I am sure, if I put some thought into it, I can come up with more ideas."

"Hmm... You should. After all, I have never forced you to do anything. When you get a chance, you can do things your way. But I am too set in my ways and too old to change my way of doing things. Anyways, let me tell you more about Thatha..."


Appa would have been 61 today. But he gave me my chance much sooner than I expected.

I have had enough time to think on the topic of honouring his memory. And I haven't come up with any earth shattering idea. Makes me realize that it's always easier to pontificate than to practice. I would welcome any bright ideas you come up with.  

So I decided to put into practice at least the two points that I had come up with when I was debating with him.

For one, I'll pick one of his qualities and try to live up to it. This year, I pick PATIENCE.

He had infinite patience. I have never seen him get angry. Never ever. So, that's my goal for this year. Not to get angry. Or irritated. At least this year.

And two, I did some charity in his name. Nothing too significant. But it's a start.

After all, we all have to start somewhere, it's the only thing we can control, because we don't know how or when it'll all end.