BENGALURU: When Rajya Sabha MP Dr Syed Naseer Hussain drove out with wife Mehnaz on Tuesday, carrying an urn holding the ashes of family friend Prof Savitri Vishwanathan, he was unsure of what he was expected to do. They were headed to a point on the Cauvery river. He knew that the ritual was asthi visarjan, the immersion of ashes, but was ignorant about the nuances of the rites he was to perform.
An archak was accompanying them with the puja kit, and would chant the mantras and shlokas and instruct Hussain on his role. Hussain carried out the directions, saying a prayer as he released the ashes into the waters of the Cauvery. He felt at peace that he had done his bit for his old friend.
“I kept asking the priest if I was doing it right. Asthi visarjan is the immersion of mortal remains in flowing water so the five elements are restored -- air, water, earth, fire and ether. May God give her peace in the next world,’’ he said.
Prof Savitri Vishwanathan, an eminent language researcher, passed away due to Covid-19 complications, while her sister, Dr Mahalakshmi Atreyi, is still in hospital. The sisters lived together, and were recently diagnosed with Covid. None of their family members were available to perform the rituals, since many live outside Bengaluru and some are abroad. Hussain was acting on the directions of Dr Atreyi. Savitri who was a former Professor of Japanese Studies, University of Delhi, and a teacher and researcher of Japanese language, history and politics.
With an heavy heart performed the last rites of Prof. Savitri Vishwanathan who passed away due to covid in Bengaluru. She taught in centre for Chinese & Japanese Studies,Delhi University & made immense contribution in the field. May her soul rest in peace. pic.twitter.com/Dzpkpk9SV4— Dr Syed Naseer Hussain-MP, Rajya Sabha (@NasirHussainINC) May 20, 2021
She headed the Department of Chinese and Japanese Studies. She made an immense contribution to Japanese language and studies, and was a member of the Japan-India Eminent Persons Group. She had even assisted prime ministers and foreign ministers of India in their official dialogue with their counterparts in Japan. Her numerous publications include a translation of Shimazaki Toson’s novel Hakai into Hindi (Avagna) and Tamil (Dalit Padumpadu). The professor had settled down in Bengaluru 25 years ago. Her students from across the world joined in a prayer service organised by the Japan Foundation and Department of East Asian Studies, University of Delhi.