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Daughters’ solidarity to their father
On June 6, 2018, our father -- Karna Jung Thapa -- left for the heavenly abode at Mediciti Hospital surrounded by his four daughters. He was fortunate that one of his daughters, a medical doctor by profession monitored him till he took his final breath while the others chanted hymns for peace. As per Hindu customs, the final rites are mostly done by sons. But what about the one who does not have sons? Often times, we have seen that it is done through the hands of some relatives; if not a Brahmin lighting a funeral pyre by married daughters was something unheard of, for us too until then. Though, grief-stricken, we four sisters stood in solidarity and took the grave decision. We neither left his side until all the arrangements were made at the Aryaghat nor we were very verbal about what steps we were about to take.
Our father was born in a prosperous household on January 28, 1942, in Sindhuli district. He finished his high school from Padmodaya High School in Kathmandu. He got his Master’s Degree in Arts and Bachelor’s in Law from the Tribhuvan University. At the age of 19, he started his career as a newsreader in Radio Nepal. He did very well professionally, holding key positions in government, semi-government and private sectors until he retired at the age of 65.
Our father, born in the 40’s, in a male dominant society always valued women. Maybe his education and training in the US in the 60s and 70s influenced such thinking which was very unheard of in our society at that time. Our parents have been blessed with four daughters but there was never a moment in our lives where our father ever showed any remorse for not having a son or longed for one. Our parents instilled good values in us and shaped us into being good human beings. We got the best education and were encouraged to soar to greater heights.
Though our male prejudiced Hindu society which idolizes and worships the male, expects them to light the parents’ funeral pyre, we noted that even our own family priest showed some reluctance in supporting our decision wholeheartedly, especially as all of us are married. Just to see our dad get a prick from a needle used to break our heart, lighting the pyre was not easy at all, yet giving him salvation was equally important for us. We would like to ask these people: Did anyone know our father better than us? Did anyone love him more than we did? Just because we are daughters, should we be deprived of this role? It is a matter of personal choice for every family. At that point, we did not think that we needed permission from anyone to take this step.
It was shocking for our orthodox family to be seeing us lighting the pyre whereas some supported us wholeheartedly. There was an outpour of relatives and acquaintances who applauded our effort and said that we opened doors for them too. It was not easy to be doing what we did. Each of us went through a roller coaster of emotions. It’s the eldest child who lights the pyre; the others follow. As we completed the three rounds going around the pyre, on the last one the priest told us to join our hands (Namaste) and leave. Sons are supposed to bow down at the feet and leave. We defied and all four of us bowed down at our father’s feet and left. For us, he was our everything. Why is it that only in our culture such a fine line has been drawn saying what girls can do and what they cannot? We cried but gathered ourselves too as we had to be by our inconsolable mother’s side too. She is all we have now. We did not do it to gain popularity but felt that today’s women should have the right to stand up for themselves. If they do not have any brothers, then why not give salvation to their parents.
To all the ladies, who are married and don’t have brothers, sooner or later a day will come for everyone when you have to make a tough decision just like we did. Do not hesitate. Your parents brought you to this world, fulfilled all your dreams, when they get old, take care of them. When they die, go ahead and give them the final farewell because they deserve it and that right is yours and yours only.
This article was contributed by Utpala KC, Anita Basnet, Dr Arati Thapa Hamal, and Isabel Singh.