I used to live with one of my uncles. His sister was old and she had come from a faraway village to be treated in the city. So she was staying with us. Then she died.
I used to sit outside the bungalow in the garden, either working in the garden or reading – but most of the time I was in the garden. My uncle would go to his shop, and only my aunt remained in the house.
She told me, “You have to ring the bell if you see somebody is coming for the purpose of showing mourning about your uncle’s sister’s death, because I don’t feel like crying or weeping. I had no feeling for that woman. In fact, she was an unnecessary burden, she was of no use to anybody. Everybody feels relieved but nobody can say that. We have to cry and weep when relatives come to show mourning.” This continues in India for almost a month.
So she said, “I don’t want to be caught in the middle of something…somebody suddenly comes and I am smiling or laughing or talking with somebody, and I am supposed to be weeping.”
So I used to ring the bell, that somebody has come – there was an electric bell there. I used to ring the bell and she would immediately change her whole role completely. She would pull down her ghunghat so that nobody could see her face, because the face might be still smiling and tears were coming; and those were false tears.
Seeing the use of her ghunghat, I saw that the sari in India is certainly more useful than anything else. You can hide your face completely behind it. Otherwise it is very difficult to show pain, misery, anguish, anxiety, when you are not feeling any of those things; rather you are feeling relieved, your prayer has been heard. Everybody wanted her to die, because everybody was tired and she was going on and on.
One day, I did not ring the bell and one of the relatives entered into the house. She was watching television and laughing and enjoying. She was alone in the room and this man entered from the back. He was very much shocked. He said, “I had never thought that I would have to see this.” She pulled her ghunghat and immediately started crying – it was so absurd, it made no sense…but she was very angry with me.
When the man was gone, she came out and started shouting at me. I said, “What could I do if the electricity failed, or something went wrong?…” I had taken out the wires because otherwise she would have killed, she would have been ferocious. So I said, “I had rung the bell but what could I do ? How could I know that the wires were not joined with the bell?”
She looked at the wires. She said, “But who could have done it? You and I are the only two persons here.”