I don’t want to wear formals, announces H.

That’s how most of our festive days begin. We have this tussle each year, at every festival. I’ve been giving in to him slowly but surely, bending to his will, letting him have his way. We moved from Kurta pajamas, to short kurtas and trousers and then to a shirt with an Indian jacket and jeans. This year I don’t even have the mind-space to push for that.

I don’t regret it. Not much, at least. I know he’s getting older; he’s a teen and I’ve learnt to choose my battles.

‘Alright’, I tell him, ‘but change out of your shorts and vest’. Crumpled tees and shorts have been his uniform these past few Covid months. I haven’t much bothered. This was but a small trade-off for quiet mornings.

But he isn’t done. ‘Why must I change? ‘What’s wrong with these clothes? They’re clean and that’s what should matter,’ he challenges. He loves a good argument, this son of mine and I indulge him most often, but not today. The cook is on leave and a pile of chores beckon me from the kitchen.

‘This is why I hate festivals,’ he continues.

That gets my attention and stops me on the verge of my don’t-argue-just-go-and-change outburst.

It’s an almost compulsive thing with me, this need to make festivals happy and stress free. Paradoxically, the stress of being stress-free stresses me out.

That is one reason I’ve let go of many traditions. And that’s why H’s remark hits home.

I pull my gaze away from the kitchen, realise I’m frowning and straighten the frown. I will myself to relax as I prepare to gently wade into this sea of arguments.

N walks in holding up a bright orange tee shirt for H. ‘Remember, I gifted you this one? It’s perfect for today. Please please wear it.’

I sigh in relief and quickly push home. ‘Come on H’, I tell him. He gives a huge fake sigh but I know he’s coming around.

As I busy myself with the cooking, I hear them argue.

‘I won’t wear trousers.’
‘But you can’t wear these shorts.’
‘Okay, then I’ll wear my Eminem Tee shirt.’
‘Noooo!! Not on Rakshabandhan. Have you even heard his lyrics? He uses such bad words in his songs.
‘At least he has a message to convey. He’s not just mooning around like your One Direction.’
‘I don’t care. You’re not wearing that ugly black tee. Mamaaaa tell him, pleeease,’ N calls out to me.

I don’t respond. I don’t need to. As I stir the kheer on the stove and get out the dough for the puris, I know already that H will wear what she wants him to, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have his bit of fun. Just as I know N doesn’t really expect me to intervene when she  calls out to me.

When I glance into their room I find them giggling together, playing tug-of-war with the unfortunate Eminem teeshirt.

Finally, they’re ready. Much fuss is made out of tying the rakhis. As per their own weird tradition H smears N’s forehead with the kumkum instead of making a neat little teeka. She’s used to it and stands still while I wipe it off and make a small round one instead. ‘I’ll take revenge,’, she says when it’s her turn. That freaks him out a bit. He takes eons to fix the clasp of her rakhi and ends with pushing an entire kaju roll into her mouth. She does the same and we’re done.

As I put away the puja plate I realise I forgot to ask them to cover their heads, as per tradition. I realise I miss doing things the traditional way. I miss the colourful kurta-pajamas, the chaniya cholis, the laddoos, the elaborately decorated puja thali and the sitting down cross-legged on the ground with a handkerchief on the head. I miss it all. I was wrong when I said I didn’t regret letting go of traditions. I do, at least some part of me does.

I want to tell the children: this is your culture, your heritage, your link to the past. Don’t let it go.

I hear them laughing and arguing and I hold back.

Instead, I tell myself, this is change, embrace it.

Image by minxutopia from Pixabay

10 Replies to “Traditions”

  1. You are such a good parent T- your kids are so lucky that you have the intuition to listen to them first and then argue with yourself in your head. I love the fact that they tie rakhis to each other – which is also a change from the usual tradition 🙂

    You are making lovely memories for them and they will cherish these when they grow up.

  2. Hmm… i hear you OM. I’ve been having a tough time convincing Ammu to get dressed up 😐 She does not have the same enthusiasm for traditional clothes/dressing up, as before. Maybe its a part of growing up… or could be an effect of being holed in for so long…

  3. Ah, traditions! The number of arguments I have had with people over this is quite something. I’m a practical person, so I always have a why behind every tradition. If it is something meaningful, I’m happy to go ahead with it. If the answer I get is “because it is tradition” or “XYZ person says so”, I just backout. Everything needs to make sense for me.

    1. I know I know. You and my son would get along well :-). I do see the logic, which is why I’ve been giving in to him. However, if a tradition makes you feel good and harms no one, I think one should go with it. Things like like dressing up, doing up the puja thali or the mandir, decorating the house – that’s nice no? We don’t ‘need’ to do it but it’s fun when we do. It just makes the atmosphere festive, a change from routine. God knows we need that during these Corona days.

  4. You know the kids wore tees and jeans too, one of them was Avengers. And I wore jeans and top too. Just was in no mood to deck up. Maybe it’s COVID-19. Maybe it’s something else. But I remember telling them that the beauty of our religion and our Hindu festivals is how we adapt them as per what we can do and want to do. Happy Rakhi, Tulika!

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