Wednesday, June 15, 2011

On Traditions and Why We Do What We Do

When you are young, you take a lot for granted. The small little idiosyncracies of your family are easily explained by a that-is-how-we-do-it-at-our-home. The Sunday morning bajaar - that is what Baba does. The weekly cake baking session - my mother likes to bake. The once in a while Chinese - we cannot afford to eat out everyday can we? The list is endless, new clothes for Poila Baisakh, visiting the Ramakrishna Mission on the first day of Durga Puja, the family evening at the book fair.

You grow up, you move away and those little rituals of family life - well, you miss them sometimes (when the food in the canteen is really bad) but slowly and steadily you adjust. You adjust to a new life, new people and a new way of living. You form your own little rituals - the Sunday morning pancake breakfast with room mates or a Friday evening Happy Hour. Somewhere along the way, you get married and start afresh. You discuss your family rituals like that weekly cake with the better half and describe an elo-jhelo with great relish. And when that pang of nostalgia hits, you promise to bake yourself a cake every week and you do. At least for the first few weeks, till life takes over. A few more years down the line when you have a baby and and a lot of sleepless nights to mull things over, you come to see these traditions for what they are - little rituals that remind you of home. Through the mindless repetition of these mundane activities over years, you form associations. Associations strong enough to survive through the years and across geographical boundaries. Jasmine blossoms remind you of hot, muggy evenings which in turn brings up memories of cool glasses of orange squash. To this day, the smell of incense and the sound of the shaank never fails to remind you to start working on that homework for school.

And that is why, you procure a shaank and set up a little shrine. That is why you light that incense and blow the shaank in the evenings. That is why you try to cook up a big breakfast on weekends and a cake every now and then. That is why you try to make her eat rice and dal when she would rather have pasta. Not because you are afraid that she may grow up loving mac n'cheese*, but because when you are long gone and she is in a place far, far away, you hope the smell of ghee melting into a bowl of hot rice reminds her of you, of home, of childhood.


Reshmi said...

Hi! I have been a lurker on your blog for a while (a loyal one at that :)!). And this post brought back so many memories, that I had to post a comment. Let me say- beautiful post! That last line just did it! I am going to have a baby myself, and have been wondering about these things lately.
Now back to lurking :)
Best wishes

Anyesha said...

@Reshmi: Thanks for making yourself know and congratulations to you and your better half as you embark on this exciting new journey. All the best.