From birth till death, the circle of life is guarded by many rituals of the faith that one believes in. In Christianity, a deceased is buried, in Hinduism, he is cremated and so on. In practicing the final rites of the deceased, it is often not allowed for women to enter the cremation ground or perform any rites. Behind breaking this stereotype, there is the story of the 34-year-old Praveena Soloman who chose to take her career to a crematorium ground in Chennai, as documented by BBC on August 04, 2016.
It was when an organisation named Indian Community Welfare got the contract to revive and run a 120-year-old crematorium that had gradually turned into a dumping ground, and Solomon, who was associated with the above mentioned NGO for 12 years, got the opportunity to work here. A total of 4.5 acres, the ground was reconstructed, security cameras were installed, got clean toilets made as well as protected with boundary walls; it was ensured that it doesn’t turn back to the drinking spot that it earlier was.
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An English graduate from University of Madras and a mother of two, Praveena Soloman started working at Valankadu crematorium ground located in the Anna Nagar in 2014, a very busy place where Soloman is the administrator. She looks after all arrangements before the dead body is readied for the funeral. The entire day of the funeral goes hurriedly, where the body is laid for the procession and a mourner beats with percussion instruments and blows a shell to announce the arrival of the body.
As per Hindu rituals, a woman is not really banned from entering a cremation ground but is generally not allowed to. People justify this with the reason that women have a delicate heart, so they can retain the image of a body burning and often its parts falling off the pyre or even the foul smell of the body. But despite people’s remarks, the death threats, and accusations, Solomon chose to defy the predetermined notions and came and worked here, mentioned the BBC report.
Appointing Solomon as an administrator here was a way to create a peaceful and safe environment for women who could now pay the last tributes to their deceased loved ones, said ICWO chief AJ Hariharan to BBC. It has become more of a trend for women to enter the cremation ground and pay final rituals in the obituary.
Solomon further added that it was emotionally overwhelming, to begin with the cremations. On the first day at her job, she cremated 7 corpses and cried every time with the people, who cried for the departed souls of someone close. The time of crisis was during the Chennai floods, when a total of 246 bodies was cremated, nearly double than the usual number.
– prepared by Chetna Karnani, at NewsGram. Twitter: @karnani_chetna
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