It's a world riddled by mindless following of empty practices that has lost its meaning and setting in today's world. Starting from everyday notions like a woman being 'impure' during her period to being but an ally during all religious rites in most cases, the status of a woman is always judged by her biological clock ticking or assumptions on her psychological strength.
The most favorite of all these has been the ban that has been imposed unsaid in the houses of most families, that women aren't allowed to go to the crematorium or perform the last rites of the dead. I have never really understood the concept but from the perspective of mental strength. A woman might probably lack the mental strength to hold back tears (which are apparently considered 'impure') thus causing a scene as the pyre is lit. But aren't there women who are far more stronger than some men are in such cases?
I come from a semi-orthodox Brahmin family as a whole. My parents however, have been broad-minded enough to let me make my own decisions in almost every matter. While the extended relatives scorn at my doings, my parents silently watch me through it irrespective of whether they approve my stance or not. In my opinion, I believe in attending the last rites of the deceased till the end. It's my way of paying the last respects, the final goodbye. Death is a concept I am trying hard to understand and accept as a part of life and something I'll continue to do so.
My father is an interesting man.He has always made me deal with my situations on my own, instilled a sense of independence in my sister and myself. When I told him that I would definitely attend the last rites of a close relative who passed away recently, he didn't immediately agree to take me there. In the end, he did. But with a disclaimer: 'I'll take you there, no qualms about that. But anything that happens there, you'll have to face on your own.'
Several uncles I knew stopped me at the gates to the cremation grounds. There were blissfully unaware that I had attended these funerals in the past and that I knew what to expect.
'No. Don't come beyond this point.'
'You won't be able to take it. Don't you come inside.'
Of course, some sensible men there supported me and said it's no big deal and that if I would be strong enough to take it, I may come inside. I did attend the whole rite, but with what level of ease? I had be less obvious of my mere presence among the other men so as to avoid any last minute scene.
The only thought that constantly races through my head in all these scenarios is a big, block 'WHY'. Why should it be so difficult to pay the last respects to someone dear to me fearing social stigma? Why dodge through a scene that is likely to be caused by some hotheads at a point that is important in the final journey of the deceased?
A relative of mine once told me that the concept of death as understood by a man and woman are two different things altogether. The man sees the ashes and bones of the deceased post cremation and before scattering them in the sea, understands death in its complete sense; that there is no return to the physical being of the one gone.But the women on the other hand are merely exposed to the body last seen, still thinking that there lies the wishful life and the memories but not the hard hitting truth. It makes sense to leave behind people who are bound to be emotional and don't wish to witness what happens 'beyond'. But what about those who wish to come along and say goodbye? What of their wishes to pay their last respects to fulfillment?
The general notion is that the menfolk want to protect the womenfolk from it all. I ask you this : how long will you 'PROTECT' us from all this?
Maybe we don't want to be protected. It's best to call things by what they are. Masking and hiding anything definitely doesn't alleviate issues.Why not try to understand death as a household concept? How long are we going to keep the women in dark about what happens after the body leaves a home in a hearse? What if one day, they can be included in the process and we as a community grow spiritually, understand death in its form and sense? Customs that we tend to 'upkeep' now are irrelevant to current times.As far as my knowledge goes, Hinduism doesn't forbid women from entering crematorium grounds. If there are such 'rules' written down anywhere, I'd love to hear from you and its prevalence to current situations.