by Sarabjeet Kaur
When my naniji, died in Kanpur, India on September 18, 2010, my mother, Gurmeet Kaur Saluja, was told to stay home from the funeral because, “daughters do not go to such places.”
My mother had spent the past few years making frequent trips from America to be by Bibiji’s side. Mom refused to sleep anywhere but in Bibiji’s room, although Bibiji had a night time nurse. Mom instinctively sensed that Bibiji was going to die that September morning. She says that she could see it in her eyes so, mom made her as comfortable as she could, did path, and held Bibiji as she died.
The men in the family told my mom that they were not going to let her go to the funeral explaining to her that women have meek hearts and cannot handle the emotional experience. When she heard this, she defied the old, senseless tradition; my mom simply told them that she did not care about this outdated rule and will be going, alone if she had to. As my mother and the men debated this, a female relative walked over and stood by my mom, announcing that she too will be attending the funeral. Then, a male family member came forward and offered the two ladies a ride to the cremation grounds.
The following morning, the men got ready to scatter Bibiji’s ashes in the Ganges River*. My mother was already dressed and waiting when the men were ready to leave. None of the male relatives resisted my mom’s company to the river. The beautiful irony of this story is that my Bibiji was known for being fearless, outspoken and a woman who defied norms.
My mother was able to honor her mother that day, not just by attending, but by advocating for a basic right that all women should have. I imagine that my bibiji was aware of this exchange and left this earth with an even greater amount of pride and love for her daughter.
On Mother’s Day, I celebrate my mother, her mother, and all of the women who stand strong in their beliefs and impact change.
*While not a Sikh tradition, some families practice this.
Feature Photo: Left: Sarabjeet’s mother, Gurmeet Kaur Saluja, Right: Sarabjeet’s naniji, Mohinder Kaur Bagga.