Published: 20th May 2021
Rajya Sabha MP Naseer Hussain performs 'asthi visarjan' of ex-DU professor who died of COVID
He said Vishwanathan, a retired professor of Japanese Studies from Delhi University, had tested positive for COVID along with her sister
Even as many family members have been unable to attend the funeral of their near and dear ones due to the COVID pandemic, Congress Rajya Sabha MP Syed Naseer Hussain has set an example of "communal harmony" as he performed the "Asthi Visarjan" (immersion of ashes) with full Tamil Brahmin customs of Professor Savitri Vishwanathan, who succumbed to COVID on May 5.
Speaking to the media, Hussain said Professor Vishwanathan for us our aunty, a colleague, neighbour, friend and we maintained the close family relationship till date.
He said Vishwanathan, a retired professor of Japanese Studies from Delhi University, had tested positive for COVID along with her sister. "However, she could not return from the hospital in Bengaluru, where she was admitted for treatment," he said.
The Congress leader said that when she was admitted we tried our best to arrange for the things that she required in hospital. And after her death on May 5, we also arranged for her cremation in Bengaluru as several of her family members were based in Tamil Nadu and in different countries. "However, as Vishwanathan was from a Tamil Brahmin family, we faced the task of immersing her 'asthi' (ashes) into the river as it is to be done by the son or the family members," he said.
"After speaking to all the family members I told them that I will perform the last rites of Vishwanathan," he said. "So I along with my wife decided to immerse her ashes in the Kaveri river with full Tamil rituals performed by a priest near Mysuru on May 18," he said. Many families were unable to attend the last rites of their relatives following the lockdown in several states and no passengers flights to India after the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic struck India hard.
Several NGOs and other people have come forward in these distressing times to perform the last rites of the COVID victims. Hussain said that we live in India and we are taught at home from childhood to be united in our social fabric. He said that since our childhood we have seen how Hindus, Muslims all stay together and share each other's happiness and grief.
"We have seen in case of death of any family member in the colonies, food is not prepared at the homes of others as well, because all are closely associated and people of another community send the food from their homes," he said.
"Nowadays, we have seen so much of polarisation on religious lines and communal divide, but these things are temporary. India is very strong and the culture and traditions that we have been sharing for thousands of years will remain there," the Congress leader said.
Recalling her achievements, Hussain said Vishwanathan set many firsts in her life. "She settled in Bengaluru in the mid-90s with her sister Dr Mahalakshmi Atreyi post their retirement from Delhi university. She led her life by example which was a testimony when students from all across the world joined the prayer service organised by the Japan Foundation and Department of East Asian Studies, University of Delhi on Wednesday," he said.
He said that she was a teacher and researcher of the Japanese language, history, and politics at the University of Delhi, where she headed the Department of Chinese and Japanese Studies.
He added that Vishwanathan made an immense contribution to the development and promotion of Japanese language education and Japanese studies -- both through her academic work and nurturing of next generation scholars.
"She assisted the prime ministers and foreign ministers of India in their official talks with their counterparts in Japan and was a member of the Japan-India Eminent Person's Group (2000-2002). Her numerous publications include a translation of Shimazaki Toson's novel Hakai into Hindi (Avagna) and Tamil (Dalit padumpadu). The Japanese government awarded her the Prime Minister's prize in 1967 and the Order of the Precious Crown, Wistaria in 1982," Hussain added.