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Navaratri is meant to be a celebration of the female as the supreme power. Let’s use it as an opportunity to raise questions about the stereotypes and ignorance that still occupy our lives.
When I was a child, we didn’t have the tradition of Golu in our home. But I have fond memories of the festival. My mother would help my brother and me decorate the Puja room for Saraswathi Puja. We would pile up all our books, notebooks & stationary with great enthusiasm and clean our bikes to a shine. My mother never believed in gender based roles. A working woman herself, she expected both my brother and me to pitch in all with the household chores. To be fair, my brother did more.
When I had my own family, and we moved to the USA, I chose to start the tradition of keeping the Golu in my home. Navaratri is a festival that worships the female as the supreme power. We celebrate Navaratri, so that our daughter learns to celebrate herself for her inherent strength, throws away inhibitions and grows up to be an independent, individualistic and strong woman.
It was also a way to teach her our culture and traditions, to connect her to her Indian roots. We always took her to our ‘Golu shopping’ and would use the opportunity to point out the dolls and tell her the story behind them. Sometimes, she would pick a doll just because she liked the God, and sometimes a story would help her make her choice.
Though traditions and culture help us stick to our roots, I believe they have to be questioned of their relevance as the world around us changes. I don’t believe in the traditions that restrict women during their periods. I have my own questions about a lot of our mythology, and have consciously kept my daughter away from stories that are discriminatory, biased and sexist. Social conditioning creates unconscious inhibitions in a young girl’s mind.
As she grows, and starts to question things that are taken for granted, it was time to expose her to the discrimination and sexism that she has to face in her life. She cannot accept that women are not paid equally as men. “Why Amma? If Appa & you do the same job, won’t you be paid the same?” I said, “Should be. But it is complicated”.
Slowly, I need to talk to her about the price women pay for being the primary care givers in the family, the glass ceiling in the work place, and the steel spine she needs to have to fight for her choices.
So, this Navaratri, we chose to display some of the sexist and gender equality issues of today’s world. We hope to get into the minds of young girls, mothers and fathers at least to begin to question ‘Why?’ We believe it will start a discussion about the expectations that parents have for their daughters and sons. We believe such discussions will change the way we treat women and change the way we talk about them. We believe it will help change stereotypes and open our minds.
And, I believe it will help change the world, one person at a time.
You can find more such ideas and inspiration at the Occupy Navratri Facebook page.