Ded and Bub Typical Proud Parents of Yore
‘Ded and Bub’
Typical Proud Parents of Yore
ne’s life and character is molded into an individual identity by none else than one’s parents, particularly the mother who painstakingly nourishes the child in her womb for nine long months. It is the parents from whom we derive our very life, our strength and our values. It is their loving and compassionate upbringing that defines the contours and colors of our personality as a whole.
‘Ded and Bub’
I have had the great good fortune of having been born in a well known Kashmiri family of Breth© to parents who were highly cultured, noble and god-fearing. The family belonged to the illustrious Saiva Karmin Kantha Dhaumyana Gotra.
If I developed any interest in things spiritual from my very childhood, I can easily trace it to my blessed parents, the saintly mother ‘Ded’ and the scholarly father we called ‘Bub’. Both of them were deeply religious. My revered mother would regularly visit Hari Parbat early morning for ‘darshan’ of goddess Sharika and my dad would spend nearly two hours in worship in a separate room reserved in the house for gods, called ‘Thokur Kuth’ in Kashmiri i.e. Thakur Kutiya or the Altar.
Though not very affluent, my parents lived in a two-storied typical Kashmiri house of olden times, made of brick and wood with mud-plastered walls. I very well remember the low curved doorway that led to the main entrance of the house through a very narrow passage. The rooms were rarely furnished with little or no ventilation. Yet, there was something in the houses of those hoary days that once you were inside the living room, you felt relaxed, comfortable and peaceful.
Later in life, even though I was working far from my hometown, I had the good fortune of taking care of my blessed parents in Shimla. After the death of my mother in her birthplace, Srinagar, in 1959, my father spent the last three and a half years of his earthly sojourn with me in Shimla, giving me the rare privilege of caring for him during the last phase of his life. He breathed his last in Shimla in 1962.
The Saintly Mother
My revered mother was born on 31st of March in 1887 to a highly respected Brahmin family of Srinagar. She was the eldest child of her parents, Babakak and her Ded and was named Ranimi. She lost her dear mother when she was hardly five. Her father remarried soon after. My mother had at least seven step sisters and one step-brother.
However, in accordance with the custom those days to marry girls well before they attained the age of puberty, my mother was married when she was just 7. She often recalled the childish quarrels she used to have with her husband over homemade toys etc. After marriage, my grandfather, Pandit Kawal Kak, gave her a new name, Vishamali. Thereafter she was known as both Vishamal Ded and Ranimi Ded.
Beginning her marital life at 14, my mother gave birth to 17 children out of which only five survived, due to the high infant mortality of those days. Her first surviving child was a daughter, Sati, born when she was 18, followed by Badrinath, Durga, Jankinath and myself as her youngest child.
I have faint recollections of childhood days when my mother would spend late nights nursing the sickly child in me. In fact, I am told that I had been the cause of suffering to her at the time of my arrival in this world. I did not emerge from my mother’s womb in the normal way. It was quite the opposite, legs first and then the head, causing her great pain and agony. For nearly two to three hours she was said to have struggled between life and death.
Being the youngest, my mother paid greater attention to me. Despite her pronounced affection and weakness for me, I was more drawn to my father. And when at the age of four I fell seriously ill and did not respond very favorably to medical treatment, till my father came to see me, I accompanied my father to his place of posting, it was a difficult moment for my mother to bear separation of the one she was so fond of. But she made the supreme sacrifice of her love for she knew that I would be happier with my dad. Only she could do it, equipped as she was with stoic approach to life as such.
I remember once after I returned from college, she gave me some snacks to eat and while I was munching the famous Kashmiri ‘kulcha’, she called me to the window overlooking the bedroom of a close neighbor. There, a recently married couple was having evening tea in a jolly mood, laughing and coaxing each other. She told me that she wanted to see me and my wife in a similar happy playful mood one day.
And her day did come. I was married in the fall of 1947 and on the third day after the wedding she told me to lift my wife from my bedroom on the second floor and bring her to the third floor where she and my father were sitting. She also promised me a reward of one hundred rupees, a good sum in those times. Initially I hesitated because my wife was weightier than me and I knew I would not be able to lift her up. But I did not want to disappoint my mother. I took my wife in confidence and persuaded her to walk up to the last staircase where I lifted her for a few seconds and brought her in presence of my dear parents. My mother’s joy knew no bounds!.
My mother had what in Kashmiri is called “Naav Badli”. In modern scientific terminology, it is called ‘Near-death' or 'out-of-body' experience.
In May, 1939, my revered mother suffered a severe bout of illness, at the end of which she was declared dead by the attending doctors. Within an hour of her so-called death, she regained consciousness. Immediately, the funeral arrangements, which were in full swing, were stopped.
Later, when asked as to what had happened, my mother said that the messengers of death led her through meadows, flower-laid paths, mountains, caverns rivers and rivulets to a different world and finally into an exquisitely built city where men and women looked very healthy, beautiful and elegantly dressed.
Continuing, she said: “I was taken to a fully furnished room in a huge palace where I saw a powerful sage with a huge flowing beard and dressed in long white robe sitting on the throne. Seated around a rectangular table were a Council of Elders (all men and no woman). They radiated love for me and I felt instantly at peace with them.
“The sage scanned a big register before him and then told Yamdhoots (the messengers of death): ‘You have brought a wrong person. Her time is not yet up as her name is not in the list of those who had to be summoned from earth. It is the other woman of a similar name a short distance away from her house who is to be brought before me. Take her back to her residence and bring the other lady in the neighborhood.’
“The moment I moved my limbs and started to open my eyes, my children raised a hue and cry exclaiming in joy that their mother was not dead but alive. All those busy in making the final preparations for my funeral were simply taken aback. They could not believe their eyes seeing me back from the jaws of death. Their joy knew no bounds, after I told them the whole story of my journey to the Lord of Death and back.”
Wonder of wonders, the same evening in the same neighborhood, another woman who also bore the name Vishmali was reported dead. My mother passed away only 20 years after this incident.
Her Passing Away
Happily married, she lived on this planet for 72 years before she passed into eternity in the early hours of the most auspicious day of Baisakhi on April 13, l959. . A great yogini that she was, her end came so peacefully within an hour of returning from her usual visit to Hari Parbhat, the abode of goddess Sharika. In that one hour before she left for her heavenly abode, she laid puja samagri for her husband’s morning worship, visited the neighbors as part of her daily routine to inquire about their welfare and then did her kitchen chores to prepare tea for breakfast and food for the lunch.
As soon as she finished her morning tea, she left her mortal coil in a sitting posture in presence of my father, my brother and his family. Shocked beyond words at the sudden and unexpected turn of events, they simply marveled the way my dear mother literally walked into death in a completely relaxed manner. The neighbors, who had talked and chatted with her, only a few minutes earlier, refused to believe that she was no more.
I was away in Shimla with my family when my respected mother passed away in Srinagar. A telegram conveying the sad news reached me at about 11:00 A.M., two and a half hours after she had breathed her last. But what happened at my end that morning is a vivid demonstration of what in occult science is known as the phenomenon of telepathy.
Baishakhi, a popular Hindu festival, marks the arrival of spring and is usually a day of fun and frolic for both young and old. Me and my wife had, therefore, planned to go on a picnic on this day to one of the scenic spots around Shimla. The only hurdle to surmount was to avoid a pre-arranged meeting with a friend on that day in my house. I picked up the phone at 9 O’clock in the morning to request my friend, a Sardarji, for postponement of the proposed meeting. As he was not home, I left a message with his wife for the postponement of the meeting that day. Instead of simply telling her the real cause behind putting off the meeting with her husband, what slipped from my tongue, inadvertently though, was that there will not be any meeting in view of the death of a relative in Srinagar. As soon as I put the phone down I realized that I had spoken an obvious lie. How and why such a thought should have come to my mind at all, I have not been able to fathom to this day.
The phenomenon of telepathy, it is clear, had worked and whispered, as it were, into my ears that something terrible had taken place hundreds of miles away. And the inevitable had taken place. My soft-spoken, saintly mother had actually left this world in Srinagar, exactly half an hour before I blurted out the apparently false excuse to wriggle out of the proposed meeting with the friend.
And by the time we were almost ready to leave for the picnic in Simla, we got the wired message regarding my mother. The idea of going on a picnic disappeared in thin air. We hurriedly packed our clothes and children’s books for a longer vacation. The food readied for picnic was used during the 3-day journey to our hometown.
As we were leaving the Shimla house for the railway station, my friend appeared to convey his condolences in person. On hearing that I had lost my mother, he asked why I had not told his wife about my mother's passing away. He was shocked when I told him frankly that the excuse of a relative’s death was just a slip of tongue and that I did not have any knowledge, whatsoever, of any such happening earlier that morning.
Pious and Kind
Finally, we reached Srinagar on the third day of her flight to her heavenly abode. My earthly ‘guru’ was no more there. “She was a great and a pious soul” was the refrain of all those who came to our house to express their condolences. Undoubtedly she was a kind, benevolent and truthful person.
Generous to the core, my mother helped all those who sought it and would never turn away anyone, even a beggar, empty-handed. Unlettered though, all our relations, neighbors and friends would invariably seek her advice and guidance for their day-to-day problems.
Her Philosophy of Life
An epitome of forbearance, she would always say that one should have the broadmindedness and patience of a river like VITASTA which flowed through Srinagar city, quietly absorbing all the muck that was thrown in it. Extolling the virtue of patience, she would, more often than not, refer to the following couplet of the famous saint-poetess of Kashmir, Lal Ded:
“Sabur chuy zyur, march ta nunay
“Who will eat (practice) patience which is pungent, acrid and bitter like cumin seed, black pepper and salt; who will buy (cultivate) patience which is costly like the broad bowl platter of gold?
“Khena khena malyo kun no watak
“Eating too much will lead you nowhere; not eating will make you conceited. Moderation in eating and in all that you do will make you even-minded and unbolt the gates (of happiness).”
“Par ta pan yem somui monui
“He who deems others as his own self; He who deems the day (of joy) and the night (of sorrow) alike; He whose mind is free from duality; He and he alone is said to have found the highest truth.”
My mother would often say; “Always remember death.” She used to explain, this would help cultivate a detached outlook and make one free from being arrogant and egoistic. Death, like birth, should be a celebration, she always insisted.
Approximately five months after her passing away, in September 1959, I visited Haridwar to immerse her holy ashes. And soon thereafter she appeared to me in a dream. Though I was in Shimla, I dreamt as if I was in Srinagar and was crossing the second bridge over river Vitasta, popularly called Habakadal. In the middle of the bridge, I saw her coming from the opposite side. As we met, she told me that she would be coming back to me.
How and in what form did my revered mother come to me? Who, I wonder, could it be among our three daughters? Shirdi Baba’s quote on Rinanubandh (relationships due to past karmic debts) makes sense of this thought: “Remember”, he would often tell people, “you never meet any person in this life without some hidden and mystic purpose. There is always a connecting link, a relationship and logic about these meetings. …We are all linked to this life because of ‘rinanubandh’ or past relationships.” Our eldest daughter was already 6 years old when my mother passed away. So maybe it was our younger daughter, who we were blessed with nearly 2 years after my mother's death. Or perhaps, the one who became our god-daughter years later, and was born exactly nine months after the bizarre dream!
My respected father, Pandit Sudarshan Shastri, was a great Sanskrit scholar who had mastered most of the sacred scriptures like the Vedas, the Upanishads, Bhagwad Gita, the Ramayana, Mahabharat, and the Puranas, Vishnu Puran and Bhagvatam, in particular. An oriental teacher by profession, he used to hold Ramayana classes, particularly of Kaambhan Ramayana, at home in the evenings after returning from his teaching job.
Before retiring to bed, he would, often narrate me stories from the scriptures, which was primarily responsible for my religious enthusiasm to the extent that I started wearing a rosary, normally used to do Japa (repetition of God’s name), at an early age. I would also accompany my mother to Hari Parbat and spend an hour in daily prayers at home.
As a child, I was drawn more to my father than to my mother. I very well remember how, when I was hardly four, I was struck with fever which did not subside for nearly two months. The elders had a name for such a phenomenon. In native language they called it “hola mund” which means ‘to be struck with the fever of intense love and longing’ for some particular individual.
Since my condition did not show any appreciable improvement even after adequate medical attention, urgent summons to come home went out to my dad, a government teacher posted at that time in a school in Kulgam, a village south of Kashmir. about 65 kilometers from my hometown. My father, who was equally fond of me, responded promptly. As soon as I saw him and sat in his lap, the fever that had afflicted me for so long, immediately came down. A miraculous recovery, indeed!
Based on this incident of Hola Mund, a decision was taken that I should accompany my father. During the three years of his posting, my father would regularly take me along with him to school, as there was no one else to look after me in the house he had rented for his stay in the nearby beautiful village of Haanad Chawalgaam.
In his wisdom, father thought of getting me admitted in the first primary class in his school, if only to ensure that I did not idle away my time doing practically nothing. Those days there were no nursery or kindergarten classes anywhere in the State, much less in a village.
Interest in the Occult
My father would narrate to me usually at bedtime the stories from the scriptures, particularly the Puranas and the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The images of Hindu deities like Vishnu, Shiva and Durga, left an indelible impression on my young mind. Epic heroes like Rama and Krishna fascinated me so much that I started getting visions of gods and goddesses. I still have a vivid recollection of one such vision during an evening stroll with my father. I saw child Krishna playing hide and seek with me. I very well remember telling my dad about baby Krishna with flute in his hand walking along with us. Knowing me as a coy, meek and sickly child, my father, a man of great faith and devotion though, simply laughed it out as a sheer case of hallucination.
During my school days, I took to wearing a rosary of Himalayan beads and recite thousand names of the goddess, Bhavani Sahasranam, and also the names of other deities, both in the mornings and evenings.
One cold winter morning in 1962 in the wake of the voluntary withdrawal of Chinese troops from the India’s borders I was preparing to leave for office. My eldest son was sick with fever and my father was doing his routine puja. All of a sudden, a thought crossed my mind that I should not go to office that day. There was absolutely no reason for such an idea. Just for the heck of it, I thought of taking a day off.
But my father persuaded me to go, for he knew that it was an important day for me as a journalist. Since I had never disobeyed my father, I left for office, unwillingly though. And as I just sat down at my desk, a phone call from my sick son came urgently. In a quivering tone, he informed me of father’s illness. He did not tell me that my father was indeed, no more. I rushed back but it was too late for me to see him alive. He had, in fact, passed into the beyond immediately after I had left for office on November 30th 1962.
His Prophetic Words
The prophetic words he had uttered that very morning still ring in my ears. He told me: “I know you have been studying astrology quite seriously. You are keeping yourself updated by subscribing to magazines on the subject, particularly B.V.Raman's Astrological Magazine. Let me add to your knowledge a leaf from my personal experience. Anyone having Saturn placed in the 5th house in his/her horoscope, and that, too, in a debilitation sign, would not have any of his /her children by his bedside at the time of death."
And I knew that in father’s birth chart, the planet Saturn occupied his 5th house. Father continued saying: “so, my dear son, if and when I leave this world, you will not be by my bedside. In fact no child of mine would be there.”
I took his words lightheartedly. My false pride then would not let me believe him and the theory he pronounced, for I thought too much of my knowledge of astrology, with the help of which I had already figured out on the basis of his Annual Chart (Varsha) that he would leave his body during his 83rd year (September ‘62 to September ‘63) somewhere in March or April 1963. And in my never-to-be-forgiven arrogance, I had told my father that I would defeat the designs of his 5th house Saturn, for I had thought of taking sufficient leave round about March-April, ‘63 to be with him all the 24 hours before his final journey!.
But, regrettably, that was not to be and things turned out as my father had predicted. I was not there, nor were any of my brothers and sisters. My pride was humbled. He had breathed his last in a sitting posture in a relaxed and peaceful manner in almost the same way as my mother had done three and a half years earlier. Minutes before he passed into eternity, he had been talking to my wife and his grandchildren after his breakfast, which he normally used to have as soon as he would be free from the daily puja.
Tall, fair and handsome, my father lived a simple, decent and honorable life. Unassuming, he never
wished ill of others. Being a high school teacher, he did not enjoy economic prosperity. Yet, he believed in giving. He did give away, not money, but the wealth of his knowledge to all those who sought it. He never expected any reward for what he did. He would always volunteer to help those in need. While he had an amiable, quiet nature, he would, at times, lose temper not with children but with my mother, a fact that I often resented even though he was my ideal.
He maintained overall good health. It was only a few years before he left his mortal frame at 82 plus that he suffered from asthma, though not very severe. But he overcame the problem by taking Arsenicum, a homeopathic medicine. He displayed remarkable self-control at 79 by giving up his life-long habit of smoking from a hookah!. He would sit quite erect, without ever bending his back. He always walked straight and was in very good shape till the last breath. Punctual in his morning and evening strolls and the daily worship, he was mentally sound and quite alert, and retained till the end the alacrity, the balance of mind and sobriety that characterized his basic approach to life and its problems.
Father takes re-birth
The ashes, according to our custom were collected on the 4th day of cremation. Normally, ashes are immersed in a holy river like the Ganges the same day or stored somewhere outside the house. In this case, we did not have any holy river nearby where we could go to do the job of immersion the same day. It was, therefore postponed till the time a trip to Haridwar, UP, would be arranged at the end of the 10th, 11th and 12th day rituals.
In the meantime, my sisters who had come to Shimla all the way from Srinagar to take part in the last rites, left for their respective destinations in Kashmir. The intended journey to Haridwar did not materialize till 13th of April, ‘63. So, the ashes were finally immersed in the holy Ganges on the day of Baisakhi, 1963.
A wandering mendicant, an old man in his mid-eighties, and a native of Ambala city in Haryana, used to come to Shimla in summer months to avoid the heat of the plains. We used to call him Shani Maharaj, for he would normally visit our house as also those of other devout Hindus in our neighborhood on Saturdays to collect oil. He would often spend some time chatting with my father.
In 1963, Shani Maharaj visited our house in the middle of May on a weekday and not on a Saturday. Out of curiosity, I made bold to ask, “how come you have graced us today?” He replied that he had come not to collect oil but just to tell us about a dream he had seen that night. What bearing could his dream have on us, I wondered? Anyway, he started saying that in his dream he visualized visiting our house and asking my father, “Pitaji, I am seeing you after a long time. Where were you all this while?” Pitaji in reply, told him in the dream that he had just returned from Haridwar for good after a bath in the holy Ganges on the day of Baisakhi and now he was not going anywhere.
At this point, Shani Maharaj asked where is Pitaji? To his great surprise,I told him that my father had left his mortal coil about five months earlier.
My wife and I, tried to analyze the significance of the dream but failed, and failed miserably. It was only in June, 63 that my wife saw a gynecologist who confirmed she was two months pregnant. This led us to recall the dream of Shani Maharaj in which Pitaji had declared that he was back after the Ganga bath on 13th of April. Exactly almost nine months later, my youngest son was born. I have no doubt in my mind that my father is back with me, for he was so fond of me and he had not seen me at the time of his exit from this world.
This episode re-established my firm belief in the theory of re-birth and re-incarnation.
Gone but not forgotten
As we know, all that is born must die. The birth, death and rebirth of my parents has further
sealed my belief in the rebirth of the soul, without a shadow of doubt.
There is no denying the fact that no encounter, however casual or long lasting, is by chance, but rather by divine design. Sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters and the great grand ones whether of my own blood or of my spirit, are all part of the intricately woven great design- and not a thread is ever out of place!
©The original surname of our family “Breth” which belonged to the illustrious Saiva Karmin Kantha Dhaumyana Gotra, was changed to ‘Raina’ by my first cousin, Dr. Shivji Raina in 1932. This was while filling the requisite school application form at the time of my admission in government middle school, Srinagar. My cousin also changed his own surname from ‘Breth’ to “Raina”, on the eve of his joining the State Medical Services. However, it saddened me to know much later that the so-called prejudicial attitude of the non-practicing Brahmins of Kashmir was responsible for his action. Nevertheless, I must say that I feel proud of my lineage, for I know that it is the practicing priests of Kashmir like my ancestors who have kept alive to this day our rich religious ,educational and cultural traditions of yore, essentially to uphold morals and values. But, alas! the tribe is vanishing fast and the blame lies squarely on the entire Kashmiri Pandit community. -GNR
*A journalist by profession, a scholar by temperament and a writer by choice, Gopinath Raina was inclined to the study of religion from his very young age. It was Swami Vivekananda’s dynamic exposition of Hindu thought that fired his imagination while he was still at school, and by the time he entered college, he had been drawn to the writings of Gandhi, Aurobindo, Narayana Guru, Radhakrishnan and Bertrand Russel.
After retiring from Indian Information Service (I.I.S.) in 1983 where he distinguished himself as an editor, correspondent, commentator and administrator in All India Radio, he edited, AICC Journal, Varnika, (Jan.'84-Dec.'90), Koshur Samachar (March'91-Oct'95, Sanatana Sandesh,(1997-2005) and KASHEER (2003-2004),
He has been writing profusely on various aspects of Hindu thought. He enjoys writing, particularly on saints and sages, not only of Kashmir, but of the other parts of India as well. Presently he lives in Miami, and spends his time writing personal memoirs.
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