Drama Others



Drama Others

The Heirloom

The Heirloom

9 mins

Srinidhi and Srilata had come home once again, this time to pay their last respects to their loving mother. Just a few months back, Dad had passed away and before they could overcome that grief, Amma had followed him. True that she had discharged all her responsibilities and had lived a full life, but still, losing either or both parents is an irreparable loss primarily to the children.

The news that Amma had been hospitalised was immediately followed by the message  that she was no more. It had been a massive attack and though she was rushed to the hospital, by the time the doctors had examined her, the end had come. Srinidhi was in Germany, attending an advanced course in German. The course had got over just that morning and their batchmates had planned to spend the weekend sightseeing. She withdrew from the group, got her tickets booked and flew down to India. She had asked the body to be kept in the freezer till she arrived. She spoke to Srilata, who also applied for leave and arranged for her children to be looked after and took the evening flight home.

The staff at the Retirement Community which had been their parents’ home in their twilight years, readily assisted in conducting all the rituals. Both siblings had called off all their commitments and decided to spend a month or so in their maternal home, which they would need to vacate whether they decided to rent it out or even sell it. Srilata’s mother-in-law had arrived to take care of the kids, which was a great consolation to Srilata. As their exams were underway, she had to leave them at home. Both children were old enough to understand that they would not be able to see their maternal grandma again, but they had a last glimpse of their favourite grandparent on a video call. Srinidhi’s daughter was abroad pursuing her higher studies. The sons-in-law planned to join the sisters for the ceremonies from the tenth day onwards.

Both Srinidhi and Srilata had cleared up most of the clutter when their father had passed away and were amazed at the meticulous manner in which he had organised all his files, important documents etc. They had also decided to follow the same method back home on their return. They knew, however that their mother did not share their father’s methodical approach to things. They were quite sure that they would have to search for things and were mentally prepared for it. They were, however, in for a pleasant surprise when they opened the first drawer of the computer table and came across a sealed envelope. It contained all the passwords of the various accounts, apps and practically everything. All investments, accounts, gas connection, electricity connection, telephone papers, car registration, insurance, house documents etc., were neatly filed and kept in the safe. The details of nomination, a proper will – everything was available.

When they were going through these, one of the staff working there came up to them and handed over a sealed envelope. On opening it, they found that the PINs to be used for various credit/debit cards were neatly noted down. They both regretted that they had underestimated their mother and thought that she would have left everything in a haphazard way and that they would have to spend a great deal of time and effort to set things right.

Srinidhi recollected that their mother had told her that one copy of important information was available in the Community office. Even the authorisation letter for eyes and organ donation was readily available with the staff. Unfortunately, as their mother had been a cancer survivor and a severe diabetic, the organs could not be harvested.

Heaving a sigh, Srinidhi walked into the kitchen and made two cups of strong coffee. Both sisters sat on the verandah sipping their coffee and reliving the wonderful past which was never to come back again. The pundit arrived then to meet and discuss the conduct of the tenth to thirteenth day ceremonies. He had given them an estimate of the proposed expenses and was waiting for them to choose among the three options in order to buy the articles to be given in charity according to their budget. 

Both sisters had agreed that they would not compromise on the quality as their mother had never done so in her lifetime. It was always the “best” things she would buy, even if it were fruits and vegetables. They had both decided to ask the pundit himself to arrange for procuring the items which suited both parties. The pundit merely had to hand over the cash to his assistant, and the “daan" items would reach home as and when necessary.

Next, the pundit wished to see the pooja items available at home, so that if anything was needed, he could arrange for it. He had already agreed to bring the Havan Kund and the necessary samagri, but wanted to check what other pooja items were available at home. Apart from the pancha patra-uttarani, usual aarti, bell, camphor plate etc., they would need large plates, trays, bowls etc. Srinidhi took out a variety of steel trays, bowls, cups etc., from the kitchen cabinet, but the pundit turned them down. He said that though divine worship needed only devotion and could be carried out with true belief alone, worship essentials aid the intent of prayer. Ancient texts emphasise the use of brass and other precious metals for pooja and for offering sacred worship to deities both in temples and homes. This tradition exists for practical and spiritual reasons. He went on to say that the basic preference for these metals is that they attract abundant positivity. It is said that brass helps to invoke divine consciousness as it is made of zinc and copper. All these elements are considered holy and are among the pancha tattvas. While copper was used during ancient times, the zinc element is spiritually associated with the planet Venus. Brass, of which zinc is a part, helps to influence specific characteristics of a person such as creativity, harmony and charisma and hence is considered holy.

The scriptures mention that other base metals such as iron, steel and aluminium cannot absorb the influence of prayers conveyed by sound waves and cannot imbibe spiritual blessings. “I can go on and on, but for now, let me see if you have the necessary items at home. At a later date, if you have the time and inclination, I can quote from the Vedic texts and scriptures all about the proper ways of worship.”

Srinidhi and Srilata looked at each other. The same thought flashed through both their minds. The last time they had cleared the loft, they had strictly told Amma to get rid of all the brass vessels as neither of them had any use for them nor were they interested in them. The maid who happened to be around, said that the loft was full of brassware and they could look into it to see if they could be put to use. She immediately brought out a step ladder and climbed on to it. Opening the loft doors, she revealed a mini-godown of brass vessels in all shapes and sizes. Both sisters gasped looking at it.  

“So Amma did not listen to us. In any case, she did not like our suggestion too!” remarked Srinidhi. The pundit asked if he could have a look into the loft. The maid got down and he climbed the ladder enthusiastically and was beside himself with joy on what he saw. “My, my! What a collection! I can see that there are vessels of all kinds  sufficient to cook food for at least a hundred people! I can see that your mother has all the necessary poojaware also, for all the ceremonies. There are at least three big tambalams, and several small cups, rice bowl etc. Kindly ask your maid to get all these things down and have them cleaned. Even the brass vessels for cooking have been lined with kalaai and fit for immediate use!” 

Srinidhi and Srilata looked at each other. “After checking on the pooja items, I wished to ask you about the catering arrangements too. I have a team of cooks who are well trained in preparing meals, sweetmeats etc., according to all occasions, in particular for the thirteenth day ceremony. When your Dad passed away, COVID was raging and due to the protocol, we had to do a condensed version of all the rites and we had ordered food from your community kitchen. This time if you agree, we can arrange food to be cooked at home as you seem to have all that is needed”. 

Both sisters looked at each other. The maid was emptying the loft, which was filled with pooja items as well as cooking utensils. She would be spending a whole day scrubbing them with Pitambari, to make them shine, but she was happy to see that Madam’s collection was being put to use after all these years.

Srinidhi and Srilata stared at each other. Each had a vessel in her hand. They could decipher the name “Saraswathi” inscribed on each of them. They realised that as per tradition, the first born in each family, was named after the grand mother and this heirloom had been passed on from generations! They had also seen 1915 engraved on one of the vessels. That meant that these vessels have been handed down the several generations for over a century! Srinidhi was also named “Saraswathi”, though she was called Srinidhi at home. 

After the pundit left, Srinidhi and Srilata helped the maid clean all the vessels. Once done, they had been left to dry on the kitchen platform and they were so many in number, they occupied the whole platform from one end to another! “Didi!” Srilata opened up. “I realise that Amma must have had a sentimental attachment to this treasure and that is why she did not dispose them off when we had asked her to. She has clung on to these for over fifty years and I think we need to respect her wishes. The best tribute we will be paying her would be to use all these things for the ceremonies pertaining to her. Once these are over, we can each take half of these and pass it on to our next generation. This heirloom is a veritable Khazana. I hope you will agree”. As she was saying, tears were flowing down her cheeks.

Srinidhi hugged her little sister. “Yes Sri! I realise that we should respect Amma’s wishes. Now I repent that I had returned most of the things she gave me for my wedding saying that I did not have place in my house for all of them, though I could have accommodated them in the loft! She must have felt quite hurt as she had fondly chosen each and everything she bought for my wedding! Amma, please forgive me, wherever you may be!” Both of them vented themselves and felt relieved. 

A couple of days later the ceremonies started at home. Srinidhi and Srilata’s children too came with their fathers. They sat along with the pundit, helping him occasionally by running small errands and enjoying themselves. When all the rites were over, all of them sat for lunch on the last day. As the cooks and their helpers served food from the brass vessels on their banana leaves, all the kids asked their mothers in one voice: “Mummy, the vessels in Nani’s house are shining like gold! Why don’t we have these in our homes too?”

Srinidhi and Srilata smiled at each other. “Yes, when we go home, we will take these and keep passing on this invaluable heirloom”.

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