The Leela of Sanyas
My grandmother’s death makes me a Sanyāsi mentally
My family healthline is very good
The second death I witnessed was my grandmother’s. She was a centenarian! In my family, other than my father, I did not see a single person die before their eighties. Mine was a very healthy family. Even though they married inside the family, the longevity was there.
My paternal grandmother passes away
Suddenly, one day I saw all the people were standing around my grandmother’s bed. They said, “She’s about to die,” and doctors were called. She died.
The male relatives start dividing her wealth!
I was not crying. The moment she died, the doctor said, “Yes, now everything is over; she is dead.” And the doctor went away.
All the women ran to their rooms to change their clothes, remove all the good saris they were wearing, remove all the good jewelry they were wearing, then change into Kalyani covering (artificial jewelry). In those days, that was a very popular thing.
You need to know the first thing that all the men in the house did! You would be shocked! Under her bed, My grandmother had a trunk. The first thing they did was pull the trunk out and open it. It was full of her jewelry – the olden days’ type jewelries and the British-time silver and gold coins. She had a lot of silver and gold coins, and pearl, coral – the traditional jewelry.
When I looked at all that, I thought, ‘Oh God! This lady had so much under her cot, and she would never give a penny for tobacco!’
I was a kid; I was standing there and watching. All the men of the house were sitting and dividing the jewelry! This actually happened as I am describing. They did not cry, nothing! Do you know who was the first person they called? The goldsmith – to divide the jewelry! He came with a small weighing-scale and the cutter, because for the diamond jewelry, you have to count the diamonds and cut them.
Then the fight started among the family: Who would get what? The first thing I thought was: If she would have given little bit of this, I would have given it to that Chettiar and whole life she would have had tobacco and I would have had candy. Neither she enjoyed nor she gave Me. She just left the whole thing and died.
Then I suddenly realized: Even these fellows, who are fighting and sharing, are also going to leave and die like this. The same thing was going to happen. They took from her after her death; somebody else was going to take from these guys after their death!
I thought: Oh God, that is right. So what is the use of this whole thing? Then what is happening in this whole thing? Just, somebody steals from somebody, legally or illegally! If you are caught, it is illegal; if you are not, it is legal – that’s all!
I develop distaste for society
I tell you: Even now, whenever I see a treasure box or jewels or all these things, the first thing I remember is that old lady! She was such a miser! She saved, saved, saved, saved everything for the next generation. But when she died, see what is happening! The next generation did not even care about her body! Understand: those for whose sake you give up your whole life, they are the ones who ditch you first. That is the lesson I learned.
The women stage grief. I am shocked and amused
All the ladies who went to their rooms changed into cotton saris and ‘covering’ jewelry and gathered in the main hall of the house. It was called the ‘marriage hall’. That was the hall where all rituals would happen in the house.
All the men finished their sharing. The goldsmith was given money and he went away. Next, they brought the table and the dead body into the hall. In those days there was no ice box, so it was kept in the open. They put her sari properly and arranged everything. They cleaned her face and put the mala (funeral garland).
All the women of the house sat around the body. Then the eldest woman gave a signal, “Alright, now start!”
That was it! The whole group started crying! Actually, I was frightened! All of them were sitting together and crying, “Oh! Paatti (Grandma)! You left us and went away!”
I could not understand: If you are sad, the moment the doctor declared her dead, you should start crying. But when the doctor declared her dead, nobody was crying. I can enact the whole scene as it is. All of them sat around the body, putting their hands on one another’s shoulders, and all were crying. For me, the whole thing was only a comedy scene! I could not control myself; I started laughing loudly!
I get into an argument with an uncle
Another uncle was in the house already and told Me, “Hey, don’t laugh! You have to cry now! Your grandmother is dead; you have to cry.”
I looked at him and said, “Eyy,” looking at him in a very cheap way. Just through My eyes I told him, “You are nothing but a bunch of crap.” I did not respect his words. I said, “If you were feeling sad, you should have cried the moment she died. But when she died, you guys were only sharing the jewelry.”
“Eyy, you have to cry.” He just gave me a slap and said, “You have to cry now.”
The moment he gave the slap, My kundalini went up! The second time he tried to slap me, I just held his hand. I was a very strong child.
I personally feel I was a – how do you call it – a hyperactive child. I don’t think the medical terms would fit. I was like as if a big ghost had entered into a small body – that kind of a child. I just held his hand and said, “If you beat Me once more, I will go outside the house and tell everyone what you guys did after her death – you did not bother to cry, and you were only sharing her jewelry!”
They lock me up in a room
That’s it! My father ran to us and told My uncle, “Hey! Why are you playing with him? You know that if he says something, he will do it. Don’t play with him.” And My father stopped My uncle, but they put Me inside a room and locked Me in, so that I would not go and stand outside the house and tell all the people who were coming that they were busy sharing the jewelry and had not even bothered about the dead body.
I lose respect for society and mentally became a Sanyāsi
I cried, cried, cried, for maybe half an hour or one hour. Then, when I just fell, it was a big opening; a kind of a breaking: My whole being settled. My respect for society had disappeared. The moment they put me in the room and locked it, I can tells you: that moment, I became a Sanyāsi. My respect for society completely collapsed.