Sharanya Misra

We can either carry on with the traditions of our past, associating histories and memories with them, or, ask ourselves if they can be tweaked to make way for a better tomorrow.   

(This post is part of my Mommy Moments series.)


India is a land of traditions. We, as a society, revere and revel in them. They bind us to our roots, make us feel connected to our ancient culture and give us a sense of belonging. But as a parent, traditions are also a huge responsibility.

Think about it. All our lives we follow our family’s traditions. Do things a particular way. Sometimes we know why, and oftentimes we do not. Many a time we follow them because ‘that’s how it’s always done’ or ‘those are the rules our forefathers laid down’. At other times, we do them because we love their essence. This goes on until one day we have a family of our own that we, in turn, need to define traditions for! And when this happens, we can go two ways. We can carry on with the traditions of our past, associate our histories and memories with them, which indeed can be enticing factors. Or, we can rethink. Ask ourselves if there is any way these traditions can be tweaked to make them not only more suitable for today, but also essential for a better tomorrow. It’s a very important decision to make.

Being a parent changes your perspective for sure. For me, the trigger was Raksha Bandhan last year. As I prepared to send out Rakhis on behalf of my daughter for her first Raksha Bandhan, I realised with a jolt that each year when my daughter ties a rakhi to just her brothers, I would be subtly sending out a message to her, that only her brothers could protect. That as a girl, she needed protection from the boys around her.

The thought made me restless. On the one hand, I didn’t want to do away with this festival altogether just because it didn’t embody my values in entirety. I had grown up watching brothers and sisters looking forward to this day, sharing gifts, and bonding over their love. I didn’t want to keep my daughter away from that. But on the other hand, I struggled with the example I would set for her if I carried on the tradition the usual way.

Festivals, and their traditions are important. They keep us connected to our beautiful heritage. But at the same time, it was apparent to me that traditions could also be breeding grounds for a lot of regressive or patriarchal ideas. Widows cannot be a part of many rituals, for example. Or menstruating women. Mothers are often not allowed to be a part of children’s weddings or babies’ annaprashna ceremonies. Take, for instance, the festival of Raja that we Odiyas celebrate with envious enthusiasm. It’s a celebration of the fertility of Goddess Earth. I knew I wanted my daughter to learn of and participate in this beautiful tradition growing up. But I also knew that celebrating this day and then telling my menstruating daughter the next month that she was impure and couldn’t touch anything was hypocrisy that I wouldn’t indulge in. Delving deeper, I realised there were other factors too. Such as environmental. I knew I did not want to teach my daughter to celebrate Diwali with firecrackers, for instance. Or that I knew I wanted her to learn the importance of celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi in an eco friendly manner, such as with a seed Ganesha murti.

And so, I decided. That as a parent, I needed to set the right lessons for my daughter. Yes, she would partake in traditions, but it was also my responsibility to adapt them to make her world better. It would be difficult. Not only because tampering with traditions is, well, traditionally not acceptable to society. But also because making these changes could not be just be verbally imparted wisdom. I promised myself that I would be the enabler in this journey of new traditions with my daughter.

And so, as a starting point, each year now, not only do I make it a point to send rakhis on her behalf to all her first cousins, both brothers and sisters, I have also begun to send rakhi to my own sister (read my post about it here). I hope that as my daughter grows, she understands that the essence of the day lies in the strength of bonds between siblings, no matter the gender. I hope this tradition instills in her the same respect and love for her sisters that society expects her to bear for her brothers. And I hope that this also teaches her that she too in turn must be a protector for all her siblings. This is but one change. There are many more traditions to weigh and evaluate on my parental scale, many more thoughts to ponder, dwell and fret upon in my quest to impart her the best upbringing I can. But I am content to have asked myself these questions and set off on the right path. Atleast it’s a start.

In a beautiful culmination to this thought, my 6 year old nephew too decided this year to send his sister a Rakhi too hereon. Afterall, why not, he says. And I couldn’t agree more. A very touching tradition has indeed taken roots.

Click here for my previous post “A Little Lesson in Love” in the Mommy Moments series.

Mommy Moment with my daughter.

Featured Image Source – Unsplash.com

0 Responses

  1. To think of it, many decades later this would be a new tradition that you have birthed along with Inu. Very thoughtful and hope others may adapt to it too. Fingers crossed on that.
    Ani

    1. Thank you Ani! True, In the end it’s all about trying to make a difference for the next gen. Hope their society goes beyond ours in love, equality, peace and justice!!

  2. To think of it, many decades later this would be a new tradition that you have birthed along with Inu. Very thoughtful and hope others may adapt to it too. Fingers crossed on that.
    Ani

    1. Thank you Ani! True, In the end it’s all about trying to make a difference for the next gen. Hope their society goes beyond ours in love, equality, peace and justice!!

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