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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

festival spirit

I used to be rather enthusiastic about festivals as a child in India, when all i had to do was to dress up in my prettiest outfit, eat wonderful foods, generally have a bunch of family around to pamper me, my friends and my cousins.

Then when I grew up, my life in the U.S. did not accommodate celebrating indian festivals and I convinced myself I did not miss them much - after all, festivals were about eating fancy foods and doing some ritualistic poojas, and I should be just fine if I didn't do all that; besides I had plenty of other things to explore and keep me busy.

And so i went on with my life not particularly celebrating any indian festival for over a dozen years until last Fall when TJOML was about 7-8 months old, I could not let Diwali slide by unnoticed - afterall, it was her first. I rushed home from work around 6 p.m ; i had bought some indian sweets and such on my way home; lit as many lamps as I could, played classical indian music CDs and tried to get the festive spirit going. I even managed to get some pictures to remember the occasion by...

Despite clashes between religions and cultures, the India I remember was secular enough to have national holidays for the festivals set up by the three popular religions there, plus a few other minor ones. And the family and community I grew up in embraced and celebrated all such national festivals, regardless of religious affiliations, plus a few more.

I feel I am somehow letting TJOML down by not capturing the essence of the various indian festivals i grew up with. Store-bought indian sweets and handful of lit lamps do not a festival make.

What made my Diwalis worth remembering? Was it waking up at 2 a.m to have an 'oil bath'? wearing new clothes bought just for this occasion? lighting up fire crackers? eating good home-made food that my mom was well-known for in our family? or was it having family and friends stop by full of smiles and good wishes and general joie de vivre?

What do i remember best about Gokula Ashtamis and Ganesha Chathurthis? Was it waiting for my mom to finish the arthi and announce that it is time to eat? or was it sitting around a cotton cloth spread out on the floor, with aunts and cousins, rolling out dough to make cheedai and murukku, laughing and joking about things in general and having a great time together?

What do I want TJOML to get out of celebrating indian festivals here in the U.S.?

Maybe someday it will all fall in place and TJOML will be writing about what she thinks she got out of festivals her mommy made her 'celebrate' over the years. I hope I manage to offer her the spirit of the festivals that I grew up with... knowing that it is intangible and subjective, I hope she meets me half way and helps me do it right for her.

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3 Comments:

At 7:47 AM, Blogger Sandeepa said...

Beautiful

 
At 3:36 PM, Blogger Shuba said...

I've been musing on this subject a lot too. I want to relive the nostalgic memories and feel the joy. But, sometimes there are schedule conflicts. My pet peeve is that it's NOT a holiday. Bala's made it harder for me by insisting on too many rituals. I feel rebellious when forced. My friends are in a similar dilemma. What Indian culture are we trying to pass on? Isn't it more important to teach kids about positive thinking, tolerance, and solid values that are essentially a part of every religion. Moms here struggle with work and life balance. Especially if they have a high-profile job. How do you fit Indian culture in? Is it really a religious experience going to the temple and pitting against hundreds of other desis that are cramming to get in during these festivals?

My choice is - do what works for you. If it's fun and possible, why not? Since it was a Sat and I had nothing better to do, I made modhakam's - turned out to be a congealed mess :-) But, it was a lot of fun. I told Srinidhi that Ganesha was visiting us. We had a tap leak and the rescue rooter plumber came by. Srinidhi yells - "mamma, Ganesha is here." It's just Ganesha 101, but it's a start.

 
At 3:42 PM, Blogger Sheela said...

Welcome, Shub! And, your pet peeve is mine too!

Absolutely cute that Sri said "Ganesha is here"!! How adorable!

Unfortunately, I don't go to temples - there is a Swami Narayana temple/ashram about 12 miles away and it always seems like a big effort to go there - especially when I believe God is in each of us and temple visits are more for individual satisfaction and should not be done out of ritualistic impositions...

 

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