|The Rangoli taking shape while the pumpkin
waits for its turn to be carved
It is that time of the year, the time of festivals and festivities, celebrations and joy and the time to make memories.
The dhak (drums), dhunuchi (a slow-burning coconut husk) and khichudi(a one pot meal of rice, lentils and vegetables) of the Durga Puja, the pumpkin patch, pumpkin pie and the pumpkin spiced everything, the diyas(lamps) and gujiyas and the Christmas tree. It is that time of the year where for the next three months life suddenly gets so much busier and happier.
Amidst all the festivities, there is also an onset of discussion among parents about teaching and making the younger generation, the kids, a part of the rituals and celebrations.
“How do we teach them and hand it down to them?”
I also often hear parents complaining about their children’s non-interest, non-adherence to their culture and rituals. What if we just raised our kids surrounded by our rituals and traditions without imposing it on them. Allowing them to be mere observers.
Let me give you glimpse of what happens at my home.
We as a family are madly fuzzy about celebrations. For instance my mother set the tradition of Navratris (a celebration for nine nights), something almost unheard of in a Bengali household. So this time every year, when the whole Bengali community is feasting ferociously, we are fasting. And we do so with no qualms every year.
On the other hand, my husband who is not a Bengali, is however more excited than us about the Durga Puja festivities. His tussar Kurta’s(silk shirts) come to quick aid in camouflaging him into the world of BabuMoshais (gentlemen in Bengali) and we often hear people come in and converse with him in Bengali. He promptly responds in a language he did not grow up speaking.The children are a witness to all of this and in their own way learning to blend cultures, languages and rituals.
For nine straight days my daughter showers and dresses up early in the morning during Navratris, sitting next to her grandmother, listening to the prayers or helping with the morning navratri puja.The morning arati is done before she leaves for school. She would clean our little temple, offer flowers, give handwritten notes to the Goddess (“I need one extra laddoo today”), adorn the Goddess with a handmade necklace of beads. Every year both children accompany us to eat bhog and watch the sandhaya aarati and dhunuchi naach in the Durga Puja celebrations.
But just because my kids are watching what their grandmother does during navratris or what happens during Durga Puja or lighting up diyas during Diwali or decking up the tree with us, it does not mean they will adhere to all or any of it when they are old enough to make choices. But one thing I am sure of, it will stay with them and it will allow them the freedom to make their own choices.
That is how I remember learning about the rituals and traditions. They were never dictated to me. What I do with my children today is from my own childhood memories of the festivals, it is from what I remember. It is not in a book handed down to me. It is something within me that comes very naturally.
So enjoy the festive season with your kids and make them a part of all festivities. They are watching and thus learning everything around them. Ask them to do the little chores around festivals – lighting the diyas, making the rangoli, decorating with flowers and helping with the varied delicacies we stir up during this season. It will stay ingrained in their memory forever.
At my house, along with newer wardrobes, gastronomical binges, loads of mishti and mithai (sweets), tons of festivities, we look forward to another festive season in our family. The cowboy and the pumpkin have already made their way into my porch, the lights for Halloween will go up in few days and will stay through Diwali and Christmas, the rangoli from Diwali will stay till Santa arrives and then a brand new year to look forward to.
Written by and Pictures by : Piya Mukherjee Kalra