No matter where we were born, geographically speaking, be it anywhere in this world, the only determining factor of what we are, is our genes. Apart from those genes, we comprise of millions of customs and rituals which were being followed, down the years by our ancestors and passed on to the descendants, and on each transfer somewhat of it was losing. Yes, through each generation aren’t we losing out on those practices exceptional and some not, by reasoning or science, laziness or lack of enthusiasm, lack of peripheral physical or mental? Today how many of us feel it is an imperative to keep the customs and traditions of our family alive? How many of us still have the sense of belonging, the kinship.
In this modern cosmopolitan mechanism, we tend to overlook or even forget those customs, those which were once an integral part of us and fail to pass it on completely since our children are in contemporary settings with largely heterogeneous society, where the mixed religion/caste/race background marriages is becoming more and more common. Parents in such cases prefer not to impose and overburden their children with all the customs from both sides.
I was only born in Kerala but I spent all my life in Delhi, till four years back when I moved to Germany. I must have visited my birthplace around 15 or 16 times in all, being kids we had no choice then, short of being dragged or handcuffed, me and my brother acquiesced each time. It took really long until we grew up to understand what it meant to have bathed in the nearby stream, spread out on paarapuratthu (rocks) waited for our goats to finish grazing, watched my grandmother fetch water from the well, running towards the backyard where the aroma of chicken being prepared filling the entire village, the walks and the thrill to reach the local movie theatre (of course thatched roof) through the paadams (paddy fields), savouring of pazham pori (banana fritters), dosa with chamandhi (chutney), kaapi (coffee) in local chaya-kada (teashop), finding film posters of Mohanlal, Mammutty, the superheroes everywhere, the hours and hours of bus-rides from paternal to maternal homes, the pamperings from relatives, hogging onto chakka, maanga, roasted cashews etc, lighting up the villakku at the dusk and waking up when radio played unfailingly Vande Mataram every morning at 6 am.
My parents followed all the Hindu traditions, customs and festivals, how deeply religiously cannot be measured, but they did so eventhough they lived in Delhi (thanks to temples and large population of Keralites) since they were in their twenties or even before, and we as children have almost entirely absorbed and imbibed all that we saw and heard. Onam, Vishu, Mahashivaratri amongst festivals, Chorunnu, Vidhyarambham, Iruvathattu (naming of baby on 28th day) amongst ceremonies are the prominent ones. I now feel it’s my moral duty to pass all these on to my children, who speak German as first language, English as second, Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil yet to follow (not burdening extra languages at this juncture when my daughter has just turned 3). Should I say even the languages/mother tongue is also losing out (I am not perfect in Malayalam, my husband is not good in Tamil :(). The tradition of buying malayalam calendar is definitely over as eventhough I could read somewhat but certainly never could understand the translation of months, zodiacs etc. I am glad as of now and so far so, I have been able to celebrate all the abovesaid festivals and ceremonies along with my children despite the non-availability of all the puja items out here. And I am sure when grow up, they too will realize the beauty, purity and significance of these rituals, their genes and instincts won’t fail them either.
First time I watched Chendavaadyam in a temple, I stood their unmoved obeying the deafening beats of the drums till the end, why and how was I relating to it is inexplicable. Howsoever modern or displaced your identity might have become, your five senses will never desert you. Smell will tingle your neurons, language will resound to reach your heart, the taste buds will perceive it, and sight will finally testify and shout out loud that you belong here.