Defying Norms,  A Daughter Performs Father's Last Rites

INDIAN EXPRESS:09-08-2000. 
Manoj More PUNE,India

On Thursday afternoon, when a funeral procession was snaking through the major thoroughfare of Chinchwad in Pune, it caused quite a flutter in the suburb. Curious onlookers stopped in their tracks, gazed intently and some of them even joined the procession. In defiance of age-old traditions and norms, a 25-year-old female held a traditional earthen pot in hand and led the funeral procession of her father, who had died in the morning following a massive heart attack. Not only die Deepa Salvi, the youngest of two daughters, walk ahead of the funeral procession but performed the final rites, too, as per the age-old custom. As she lit the funeral pyre amid chanting of mantras, hawk-eye mourners watched in disbelief.

In a traditionally male-dominated Indian society where most of the family rights and privileges are reserved with the sons, the Salvi family came as a welcome change. Instead of relegating the females to a secondary role, this family gave them prime position. It was because of this that they drew accolades from a cross-section of the society in the twin industrial township of Pimpri-Chinchwad and beyond. Living up to their father's long-held wish that only his darling daughters would lay him to rest, the Salvi family bid him a perfect adieu. Reminisces Deepa, "My father always parroted one line: If anything happens to me, the two of you should perform my final rites. "Only then will my soul rest in peace. So what, I don't have a son? You are no less than my sons." Adds Deepa: "He always treated us like sons. Never gave us the feeling that females are inferior to males. Go out and win the world, was the motto he cherished deeply." Proud of "a man who was cut above the rest," Deepa points out that both the sisters were given free hand in everything. "He practised the doctrine of laissez faire, never forced his decisions on us. From allowing us to choose our career to making all important decisions of life, we were free to chart our own course", she adds.

Though from an agrarian background and a 12th Standard dropout, Shrikrishna Salvi, a Telco retiree, always accorded top priority to education. A testimony to this is the fact that all his daughters are well-educated. Deepa has done B.Com, diploma in administration and DCM. Her elder sister, Hemangi Telukoti (29), who is married, is also a B.Com with DBM and MMS to her credit. She is working with the Rupee Bank. Originally hailing from Ratnagiri, Salvi was a sportsman -cricket, volleyball, weightlifting being his favourite sports -till the sleight of hand snatched him from this world. Eulogising the Salvi family, activist Gulab Birdawde says, "Though I was not very familiar with the family, I joined the funeral procession after what I witnessed. It was a bold decision and will certainly go a long way in changing the rigid mentality so deeply rooted in our society." Applauding the family, corporater Shamim Pathan, a teacher with the famous Fatechand School of Chinchwad, says, "The family has set an example in itself. We have to shed our orthodox beliefs in this modern world. Women have equal rights in the society and that they should given their deserved place