Whoever said regrets were bad? At times, they give you a sense of direction & help you realize what you missed. I always thought I had no regrets in life. But I do! Lately, I’ve begun to feel a vacuum in my heart for not being the traditional Indian woman, who knows all the festivals like the back of her hand & who actively initiates it in her home. Connie celebrated the Chinese New Year & my neighbors stayed up late to do an elaborate rangoli on Sankranthi. And here I’m who can’t even make a star!
Traditionally, festivals served as important markers of the passage of time. They were centered on farming & harvesting rituals - a time for celebrating the present & hoping for a better future. Nature was revered because rural livelihood was dependent on its whims & fancies. As we moved away from farming towards other, more modern ways of living, for sustenance, the reverence gradually took a beating & gave way to cynicism & questioning. The likes of me who moved away from the villages failed to understand & appreciate their significance in our cultural & social ethos. For instance, as I started earning in the city, buying clothes no longer meant waiting. Why wait for Diwali, Ugadi, Sankranthi for new clothes? I could now buy it every week & for no reason at all than that I wanted to & had the money for it. None of my clothes have a story. My mother’s saris did. Nothing beats the joy that comes from waiting for an occasion & shopping as a family.
Growing up, I didn’t take an interest in rituals. I loved the festivals, sure, but remained only an eager & enthusiastic observer. Though I enjoyed watching the proceedings, the hustle & bustle, the guests, the decorations, the new clothes, the sweets, I never joined my mother in carrying out the activities. Everyone seemed to scheme to make you do ‘weird’ things. I wish they had explained why I was supposed to do it. Even if they hadn’t, I now feel, I could’ve taken the trouble to find out. But I didn’t. As a teen, being forced to do things put me off them completely. The rebellion was misdirected. What would I have lost in following the customs? People like me spell doom & the end of all these lovely practices. The next generation would only read about them in books.
It’s gratifying that these beautiful traditions, by which we are known to the world, are still alive & vibrant in rural India & nicer still, to see that at least some in the cities are continuing them. Malleshwaram 8th cross comes alive during festivals - the excitement on people’s faces, young & old, while they festival shop, the energy in the air, the goodwill, the streets lined with the colorful wares - is to be seen.
I know not, if Indian culture is ‘the best’ but I do know that we are beautifully different. The reverence has gone, should the enthusiasm go too? Let me make a conscious effort to learn & celebrate them. Come Ugadi this April, I’ll do all the poojas, make the sweets, fill my home with the fragrance of incense & do all the other things too – myself. I’ll wear a sari, jasmine flowers in my hair, & 1/2 a dozen bangles on both hands! Sathya had given up hope of ever seeing his wife say or do these things & I know he’ll do anything for one glimpse of seeing me so. If he ever reads this post, he is going to be one hell of a happy but shocked man. Hope it is not too late to start something I never did before. The little joys of a simple life!