Haresh Shah

Uncovering An Intimate Inheritance

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I am in Bombay about a year after my Dad passed. Other than waiting for close friends and the family living within an hour or two’s distance, within the Indian tradition, the deceased is immediately cremated by the family members. So it wasn’t expected nor was it possible for me to be there for the cremation. There are some rituals that are performed within the first thirteen days of a person’s death, something akin to the wake, followed by a family feast to celebrate the person’s life. But the true tribute to honor my father’s memory was going to be Saptah. Saptah literally means a week, but it’s always understood as a weeklong reading of Shri Bhagwat by a scholar who most of the time is also an animated performer and the interpreter of the stories contained therein – the book by which the followers of Vaishnava faith are guided.

The reading happens all day long with appropriate breaks amidst a revolving crowd of attendees in an open house format. My brother Suresh and his wife Aruna are hosting the event and have set up a beautiful mandap in their backyard. It’s one of the most attended Saptahs, also because Shastriji, is not only a serious scholar and the interpreter of the holy book, but also because his crystal clear booming voice  makes all those stories come alive in your imagination. He is a very close family friend and for him our Saptah is more than the ones he is hired to do. My father had always been one of this biggest fans and sponsors.

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