“The Management of Grief” offers a glimpse of the mourning rituals of Hindu women. Are these rituals different for men and women? Examine your own culture’s mourning rituals. Do they have varying expectations according to gender?

In Bharati Mukherjee's “The Management of Grief,” Shaila loses her husband and sons in a plane crash, but her mourning does not take the form usual for a Hindu woman. Kusum's mourning, however, does. Male relatives do tend to move on more quickly and thoroughly than female relatives, as many remarry almost at once, and Dr. Ranganathan moves to Texas.

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The Management of Grief” by Bharati Mukherjee reveals the various mourning customs of Hindu people, both women and men. The protagonist and narrator is Shaila, who has lost her husband and two sons in terrorist attack (the bombing of a plane over the ocean near Ireland). Many Indian people in Shaila's Toronto community, including her neighbors Kusum (who lost a husband and daughter) and Dr. Ranganathan (who lost his wife), are grieving their loved ones, and they express their grief in many different ways.

Shaila, for instance, feels mostly numb. She is given Valium pills and takes them, but her personality also contributes to her sense of dullness. She is not, she explains, “normal” for a grieving Hindu woman. Kusum, however, is. She shrieks when she hears the news and refuses to get dressed or interact with people. Shaila functions fairly normally (to an outsider's eye), and others, like government official Judith Templeton, look to her for her steadiness and assistance with other relatives.

Dr. Ranganathan grieves differently from either Shaila or Kusum. He focuses on rational thoughts, even as he casts rose petals into the bay in memory of his wife. For a while, he maintains their house even though he takes a new job with an extremely long commute. But later, he moves to Texas and begins a new life, no longer wanting to tell anyone about his wife, although he still calls Shaila each week.

Other men in the story remarry quickly, mostly because their families insist upon it. Some of them don't want to and resist, at least at first. Others bow to custom and marry almost immediately. Their new wives are mostly widows with children, so these men once again take on the role of husband and father and move on with their lives. The narrator does remark, however, that some of them shun their new wives and families.

Kusum remains in India, seeking spiritual comfort. She seems eventually to find peace. Shaila, however, returns to Toronto. For a time, she continues to help Judith, but although Judith is really trying to do her best for the relatives of the victims, she simply does not understand their culture, and eventually Shaila ends their partnership. The story ends ambiguously, with Shaila hearing the voices of her family telling her that her time has come and that she is to go and be brave. She begins a new journey, and she does not know where it will take her.

As for mourning customs and rituals, indeed, each culture has them, and the description of them is individual to the student. One could write, however, about funeral customs, mourning periods, special foods or clothing used, and behaviors to be observed.

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