Putra - child ; shoka - grief.
My paternal grandmother had 7 children. 3 survive. The remaining 4 died between the ages of 3 months and 2 years. She accepted it as Karma. But, despite that she couldn’t help grieving, every so often I would find her with tears in her eyes. And one day she told me that the worst kind of grief or pain that a person could face was ‘putrashoka’ – grief on the loss of a child. In later years she amended that statement – she saw a whole bunch of next to next generation go awry. Her reaction was that ‘putrashoka’ was grief on the loss of a child not just to death, but to ‘adharma’. She had a very strong definition of dharma and adharma.
My maternal grandmother lost her son – my mama - when he was 58. He died of cancer. She was broken. She told me pretty much the same thing – putrashoka is devestating. and, then she referred to someone we know who was addicted to narcotics and said, I am sure that the boy’s parents are facing worse putrashoka – even if he is still alive. Atleast, my son did his duty.
Putrashoka is not an absolute – it, like most other emotions, falls in a spectrum. There is grief caused by death. There is also grief caused by a ‘child’ who has gone astray; grief caused by a ‘child’ who doesn’t care anymore (perceptually); various kinds of grief.
Somehow, over the last few of days the term ‘putrashoka‘ has been floating in my brain quite a bit. All of us, in different ways cause our parents hurt and grief. Hopefully, these are out of thoughtlessness rather than deliberate desire to hurt. A phone call not made, a visit that doesn’t happen, a raised voice, shutting them out of our lives … my parents face it, yours may too. They may say something, or say nothing. Depends on their own pride. My parents will not say anything, but i can sometimes see it in their eyes.
This morning’s report in the Indian Express on two different grieving mothers brought home the concept of putrashoka.
This is from the mother of Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma – who died in the shoot out in Delhi:
â€œI wonâ€™t cry any more,â€ she said. â€œHe did not die in an accident or of any disease. He is martyr, and if everyone is raising slogans for him I will do the same.”
And, then there is the other mother. the mother of Atif, young man who was killed in the same incident. (aside : the word incident is so inadequate to describe what happened at Jamia Nagar, but for now it has to suffice). The young man who was allegedly planning to blow up innocents across the country.
â€œHow can anybody kill innocent people? Everybodyâ€™s life is precious, everyone loves their children. If he was in the right, then let Allah take this daag (blot) away from him,â€ she says.
One mother has the answer to why her son died. Mohan Chand Sharma’s mother knows and has the pride that her son gave his life to protect more innocents from being blown up. It may give her solace when grief overwhelms her.
Atif’s mother possibly knows that her son’s death would prevent more people from getting blown up – and that’s because he was the one blowing them up. and, her grief may be exacerbated by the guilt that she couldn’t do a damn to prevent his actions. She couldn’t have — but guilt is not very rational…
And, then there are those mothers whose children don’t come home because a bomb blew them up….
Putrashoka — grief on the loss of a child….