Your RDA of Irony


December 4, 1829: 

In the good old days, one of the few pleasures of being in an airport was being accosted by Hare Krishnas. If I had the spare time–and the airlines always guaranteed that I did–I would ever so innocently ask my would-be missionary about the practice of “suttee.”

Western literature has its macabre romance of a widow dying of a broken heart. In India, suttee ensured it. The widow was expected to hurl herself on her late husband’s funeral pyre. The practice was limited to the upper castes; after all, who else could afford the pyrotechnics.  The dutiful kindling was promised a higher reincarnation–probably as a man. 

Although suttee is now being espoused by University of Chicago economists as a way to “reform” social security, the British were appalled by it.  Using Imperialism in a rare instance of benevolence, the British Governor General outlawed suttee on this day in 1829.  (Whitehall debated his decision but finally concurred.)

Even today there are still reports of suttee in India, but it is no longer officially sanctioned or included in tourist itineraries.

p.s. Of course, widowers were never expected to throw themselves on a funeral pyre. They were free to remarry a future piece of kindling.

p.p.s. The Taj Mahal was built by a Moslem.

  1. Bob Kincaid says:

    You have to admit, the practice might certainly have cut down on those May-December romances a la whatshername the stripper and that really creepily old fellow.

    Then again, I’m assuming (a) romance and (b) free will in a culture that, at that time, had little of either in the nuptial equation.

    Yep. The Imperialists would appear to have been the good guys here.

  2. Dear Bob,

    I think that sutteed/sauteed would be entitled to an upgrade in the following incarnation.

  3. Peggles says:

    Reincarnation as a married male would seem to be a pretty good revenge.

  4. Mary Ann Jung says:

    Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot wasn’t just a menopausal problem. Guess it assured you’d take extra good care of your spouse,

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