Beed, September 10: In a rare display of affinity, four tearful daughters-in-law broke age-old traditions and carried the body of their beloved mother-in-law, who expired here on Monday morning for the last rites, a family member said.
The incident, which made many onlookers emotional, was witnessed in Kashinath Nagar area of this town in Marathwada. The woman -- Sunderbai Dagdu Naikwade passed away aged 83 at her home on Monday due to old age, leaving behind her inconsolable family of four sons, their wives and many grand children.
"Her last wish was to donate her eyes. We fulfilled her final wish. In fact, when our father Dagdu passed away in 2013, the family had donated his eyes, the oldest son, Navnath D. Naikwade told IANS.
As her two sons and two step-sons, grandchildren and other relatives started making the funeral arrangements, the four distraught daughters-in-law decided to do something for their mother-in-law, who was more like a mother to them.
To the amazement and disbelief of many relatives and the neighbourhood, the daughters-in-law volunteered to lend their shoulders to carry their mother-in-law's body to the local crematorium.
They are - Lata Navnath Naikwade, Usha Radhakishan Naikwade, step-brothers' wives - Manisha Jalinder Naikwade and Meena Machhindra Naikwade.
When there were some mild murmurs of protests, the four women insisted on breaking the traditions and finally hoisted their mother-in-law Sunderbai's flower-bedecked open coffin on their shoulders and marched to the crematorium.
They were trailed by their relatives, neighbours and friends, including many women and en route, many curious onlookers also joined the never-seen-before funeral procession.
The women didn't falter and boldly carried Sunderbai's body for around a quarter of a kilometres, then the menfolk took over for another quarter km before it was placed in a waiting hearse-van to go to the crematorium, around four kms away, said Navnath.
For Monday's development, Navnath, his brother Radhakishan, their step-brothers Jalinder and Machhinder say they were inspired by their grandparents, besides social crusaders Anna Hazare (Ahmednagar), Baba Adhav (Pune) and Ajit Deshmukh (Beed).
"In the early 1900s, my grandfather, a widower and grandmother, a widow, had entered into an unprecedented re-marriage, which was considered taboo in those days for which they encountered lot of social barbs," he said.
In another trendsetter, the Naikwade family cancelled the 13-day post-funeral mourning and other rituals, and will complete all the ceremonies in just five days, Navnath declared.
"Coincidentally, I had discussed it with my mother only on Sunday, and she gave me full freedom to whatever we deemed fit. The following day (Sep 9), she passed away peacefully," he said.
A social worker himself, Navnath is associated with Anna Hazare for over two decades, accompanied the latter in all his agitations around the country, implements his teachings at the grassroots level to transform society and Hazare had reciprocated by visiting the Naikwades' home twice in the past.
Monday's revolutionary social step was in sharp contrast to an incident that happened last month when a 12-year old boy succumbed to AIDS in a neighbouring village.
"Sadly, no family members, relatives, friends and neighbours came to console the bereaved family or assist in the last rites. Finally, the child's parents hired an autorickshaw and took the body to an AIDS rehabilitation centre, some 45 kms away, in Pali village where the cremation took place," said Navnath.