A dear relative passed away last week. She was 79. She was a very sweet and affectionate person, and everyone who spent time with her was drawn into the warmth of her loving circle. Her death has left us with great sadness – the manner of her death more so.
On the day of Karthigai Deepam, she was sitting in front of the pooja room, doing what she had been doing for years - stringing the flowers, and saying her prayers. She stretched to clean one of the pictures, and her sari caught fire from the lamp placed in the pooja room, and in no time it had spread right up to her chest.
With great presence of mind, she had tried to douse the flames, but wasn’t successful. By the time the family came to her side hearing her cries, she had been burnt quite a bit.
After a week in hospital, she died. One can only imagine the suffering she would have borne.
It was a terrible way to go.
Another lady, the mother of my son’s friend, died the same way last year – she was also in her late 70s. It has happened to two other old ladies known to me – dying after the saree catching fire in the pooja room from the lamp.
Which brings me to the point.
Is it really safe for older women to light the traditional lamp with the oil and wick in the pooja rooms?
The idea of lighting lamps, or even candles, is to dispel darkness. This can now be done with the flick of a switch, and we should consider it for the sake of safety.
And for the more conventional minded, there are electric lamps fashioned after the traditional ones, with little bulbs flickering like flames.
Then there are those traditional little lamps meant for outside use as in the thulasi madam, which are enclosed in small glass walled chambers, so that the flame is protected. These can be used in the pooja room, without fear of setting anything alight.
We should consider this seriously, as it really is a matter of life and death.
I already have one in my pooja room.