Amina Bi had one son, and she pinned all her hopes on the chubby little thing. She didn’t have much else. A husband who’d married her for her beauty and abandoned as soon she became ungainly with his child, to pursue another girl of similar beauty and youth, had left her little in the way of money or succour.
Her saviour was the black sewing machine whose rhythmic clackety clack was the only lullaby she could afford for her son Zahir. As she would pedal the machine, hands bent on the wheel, stitching clothes for the neighbourhood ladies, she would talk to her son while the infant gurgled with happiness at the machine’s music.
“Laugh all you want at your poor miserable mother. You’re all I have. You’ve to grow up and become someone important. So important that people give you Ekkis topon ki salami* wherever you go.”
Perhaps it was his early introduction to rhythm. Perhaps it was his destiny. Whatever the reason, Zahir grew up with a marked disdain for studies, and a love for music that proved an anathema to Amina Bi.
“This boy doesn’t read his books but drums on them. I should’ve known this when he would sit next to me in the kitchen banging pots and pans with spoons and shame the miriyasins* with his melodies. Ya Allah*, give him some sense!”
Zahir had inherited his mother’s good looks and secretly dreamed of being an actor. The road to his dreams appeared before him one day when a music contest was scheduled in his town. The judge, a music director, was so impressed with his singing, he invited Zahir to Bombay.
Amina Bi was livid when she heard Zahir stammer the offer.
“Singing and acting isn’t respectable. Neither will it pay money to patch this leaky roof or staunch the draughts. I’d pinned my hopes on you and had such dreams.”
Zahir replied quietly, “Ammi, I’ll do all that you’ve dreamed of. Have faith. You’ll have respect and money, both.”
“This isn’t the occupation of genteel people. Making music or kissing girls on-screen isn’t going to earn you honour.”
Zahir left with the director. The city of illusions was crooning its siren song and he wasn’t one to close his ears.
Zahir proved successful in Bombay. He found fame and wealth in abundance. Amina Bi’s patched house transformed into a bungalow. Her days of penury were over. Still she never forgave her son for not fulfilling her one wish in the thirty years he reigned over Bombay’s music scene. She only did so when he was conferred the highest civilian honour by the President.
“Come home, Zahir. It’s been too long,” she cried into the receiver. But it wasn’t to be. Heart Attack! the newspapers screamed. “Full State Funeral,” whispered his wife into her ears.
Amina Bi tearfully watched her only child embraced by the earth, accompanied by the ear splitting tribute of the guns, twenty-one times. He’d fulfilled her dream. As he’d promised.
Ekkis topon ki Salami: twenty-one gun salute given to honour the President of India, Prime Minister on Independence Day or the visiting Heads of State.
Miriyasin – a woman from who sings at functions for payment.
Ya Allah – Oh God
Going strictly by the rule book, only current and former prime ministers, current and former Union ministers and current and former state ministers are entitled to a state funeral.
The State Government makes the arrangements. The deceased person is honoured with a gun salute and the body is draped in the national flag.
Today, state funerals are accorded depending upon the stature of the personality. It is now on the discretion of the state government.
The government takes into consideration the contribution made by the person to the state in various fields like politics, literature, law, science and cinema.
State funerals were organised for Mahatma Gandhi, former prime ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi.
A state funeral was also arranged for Mother Teresa, a non-political figure who was honoured for her immense contribution to her adopted nation.
Recent examples are Sridevi and Khayyam who were given a full state funeral for their contributions in the field of art.
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