Category: Rakshabandhan

Traditions

Traditions

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

The heart of a festival

The heart of a festival

Dear H and N,

Yesterday was Rakshabandhan – the day for sisters and brothers.

The popularly accepted version of the festival says that sisters should tie rakhis onto the wrists of their brothers and in return get a gift as well as a promise of lifelong protection. It’s a sweet tradition and when I was young I remember feeling envious of girls when they came to school the next day jangling their purses, telling us how much money they made. We never tied rakhis because we lacked that one key ingredient – the brother. We settled for mailing ours to our cousins and that was that.

Like most traditions have a way of becoming, this one too is a tad outdated. When both of you came along we brought in some changes.

One: That you will both tie rakhis to each other.

and

Two: That there will be no gifts.

You understand the first one well enough. That thread is a pledge by both of you to help and support each other, to draw strength from each other and to be there when the other one needs you, always.

Why is it only the brother who should be ‘protecting’ his sister? Click To Tweet

“Why is it only the brother who should be ‘protecting’ his sister? That’s unfair”, I hear you protesting, H. And you’re right.

N, you should be protesting too for the tradition implies you cannot even look after your own self let alone your brother. From the countless times you have come to his rescue, we all know how untrue that is.

Now for the second one – the one I find you resenting. You love gifts, I know and I’m sorry it disappoints you that there are none for you on Rakhi. I see the shine in your eyes when you see those rakshabandhan commercials. I love them too. I like the way they capture the festival – lit up homes, children running around in traditional clothes, dressed up adults and of course lavish gifts – elaborate gourmet chocolates and dazzling jewellery.

The sad part is that these ads lead you to believe that you must have all of that to make a festival complete. What they don’t tell you is that a celebration can be fun even without all those trappings, because they are just that – trappings, not the real thing. At the heart of every festival is something more than chocolates and jewellery. I’d much rather you focus on that core. I love a good celebration more than anyone else, you know that, well. But..

When the peripherals take over the core, it is time to take stock. Click To Tweet

When the peripherals take over the core, it is time to take stock. When you are older and are making your own money, go ahead and get gifts for each other, get them without waiting for Rakshabandhan, and while you’re at it get some for me too.

For now, let’s just focus on the warm hugs and banter of the day. The way we get together with your cousin for a fun morning. Let our memories be of how you, H, never get used to the tika and how you protest and shake off the rice that falls onto your glasses. And when it’s your turn how you can never remember the correct finger to use or the correct hand for that matter, and the way you make a big long one for N, simply to annoy her and she obliges every time. N, you remember how you have to hold H’s head up each time because he insists on looking down always?

Let’s store away in our memory the way you do “Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Mo” to decide which sweet you should pick for your brother after you tie his rakhi, the way you stuffed a whole big laddoo in his mouth so he couldn’t talk for a full minute. Oh and also the way he tried to aim and lob the laddoo at you when it was his turn.

Let’s remember all of that and the long chats after the ceremony, over hot cups of tea even as you, N, are bugging us all to pose for ‘one more picture’.

It’s this – the warmth, the laughter, the teasing, the love – that are the core of the festival. Let’s not lose all of that in the clothes and the gifts.

*************

 

Linking up with Deepa and  Amrita for #MondayMommyMoments.
Kreativemommy.com
Grouchy brothers and pretty sisters

Grouchy brothers and pretty sisters

Festivals, for N, are purely an occasion to dress up. Those who know her would of course know — that would mean wearing a chaniya choli. When Rakshabandhan came up her first question was, “May I wear a Chaniya Choli.” Before I could nod or shake my head she lifted her forefinger at me (both kids have picked this rather unpleasant habit of pointing their forefinger from me.. sigh) and said, “You said I could wear it for festivals and pujas.”
A nod it had to be, then.
I had seen this coming (smart mum) and I had her ensemble ready, or rather, their outfits ready for if N wears a Chaniya Choli, H must follow in his Kurta Pajama.
Quite in keeping with his stereotypical male genes H is hardly bothered about what he wears … of course as long as it is in tune with what N wears. Then there was the issue of the gifts and much much against my better sense I went out to scout….

I must take a flashback break please…
When we were growing up the excitement of a festival was about being together.. papa coming home early, accompanying him to the market with lists of shopping, decorating the house, making cards, helping our grandmoms and mum with the cooking.. and yes yummy food and sometimes, new clothes.
I do make an effort to involve the kids in the decoration, the shopping and the cooking but the special food and new clothes are a given. What I’ve failed completely at, is the issue of gifts. Gifts have become the central theme, whether it’s a birthday, diwali or yes Rakshabandhan. Gifts take centre stage sidelining everything else .. the emotion.. the togetherness… the prayers and puja.. the excitement of doing something special together.

And I have no one to blame, except me.
My promise to myself for next year…
I WILL stress on making them do something special for each other on Rakshbandhan..
Maybe a ‘no fight’ pact (difficult of course.. but no harm trying)
Cards for each other
And maybe just token gifts
Suggestions invited for more ideas

This year I got them both gifts. Then with the major issues out of the way I went about the rest of the mundane stuff like buying rakhis and preparing for the ceremony! Finally it was all done and I peacefully looked forward to the big day.
Rakshabandhan arrived and brought with it a wonderfully excited N and predictably enough (Remember the rule: I have to have one child happy and one crabby) a superbly grumpy H.
Well I got them dressed.. they looked sweet.. I have to hand it to N – she does look delightfully cute in traditional clothes. When she was all done H thought she looked quite pretty and promptly asked me if he could please marry her. I recovered my composure in a matter of minutes (experience!) and explained that he couldn’t and that he’d have to find someone else for himself. He seemed a tad miffed but agreed.

Their cousin came over and as the time of the puja approached H got more and more grouchy.

Sometimes I wish I had the power to look inside their heads and hearts so I could understand why Why WHY they get crabby.

In the absence of any such powers all I could do was try my best to pacify him while holding onto tightly to my short fuse. He refused to get his picture clicked.. then refused to get the tika put.. then he said he didn’t want any rice on his tika.. when the sisters tried to give him mithai he covered his mouth with both his hands. When N started tying his rakhi he totally rebelled, “I won’t tie two rakhis,” he bawled.. that, when it his favourite Ben10 rakhi.
Then it was time for exchanging gifts and H chose that time to launch into a full fledged tantrum. He snatched at the gifts saying.. I want this one…. I want the big one… mine is not nice and on and on. He completely lost it.
And so did I
I know. I shouldn’t have. But I did.
And so Rakshabandhan ended up a not-so-nice affair. If only I had had more patience!

On my other blog: Beat About The Book

The Bluest Eye #BookReview

The Bluest Eye #BookReview

Book: The Bluest EyeAuthor: Toni Morrison 11-year-old Pecola Breedlove believes she’s ugly. And nothing can change that. Nothing at all. Unless … unless she could trade in her eyes for beautiful blue ones. Now if she had those blue eyes, things would be different; because then, everyone would love her.