I was eight years old. A family prayer before sleeping was compulsory for all of us. My bhuaji (aunt), related a story to us children. She said, “A merchant was going abroad by ship in olden days when it took months to reach the destination. While going the merchant handed over a bagful of jewellery and valuables to his friend, telling him that he will take it back when he returns. After several months, when he returned, he went to his friend and asked for his jewellery. Now children, please tell me whether the friend should return the valuables or not?”. Spontaneously, all of us said, “Of course, he should return the valuables. How can he be dishonest!.” Bhuaji continued, “Similarly, Munni (our cousin) whom we all loved so much, has been called back by God. Therefore, we have to return her dead body to him through flames.” At this, none of us shed a tear and bade goodbye to Munni who was in the next room lying dead in the lap of her grieving mother.
by Sukanya Badhwar