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The ‘bado ka aashirwad’ that is given in large amounts of cash at family get-togethers – can’t love be expressed without these cash heavy gifts?
“Ye lo beta, aashirwad”, with this sentence a white, or sometimes a bright colored envelope comes your way. The envelope may have fancy accessories – a golden string, or a stamp of one rupee beaming on top. Some are printed; some are painted, and special mention to the environment friendly ones. After all, it’s the age of herbal and organic. But what’s inside them is all the same – the paper notes with heavy numbers on them.
In December 2014, my paternal family got together in our grandparents’ home in Allahabad. All four generations came together from different parts of the world, after a good 15 years. The house became the most beautiful home I knew at that point, with family, food, fun and laughter. After a wonderful three days, came the time when we all had flights, trains and cars to catch, and to head to different cities. And then the usual marathon began – women running and fumbling at their purses. The 500, 1000 notes came in their crispiest attire that day. One rupee, in its shiny armour, became the VIP, as without it, the bigger notes stand no chance.
“Ek rupaye ka sikka khatam, ab kaha se lau?” said one.“Arey envelop mein laga toh hai ek rupayya. Aur kya?” reminded the other. I wonder if these ‘envelopes attached with one rupee’ should be charged with higher GST, due to the value they add to these occasions?
Once the envelopes were sorted, then came the thaal with roli and chaawal to brighten our foreheads; the mithai – to mark the auspicious day, and finally, handing of ‘hard cash’ to warm our pockets.
That led to the exchange of the usual lines, amongst the recipients and awardees:
“Nahi, main ye nahi lungi, Bua/Chachi/Kaki/Mami/Bhabhi. Bilkul nahi.”
“Arey beta, aisa nahi kehtey. Ye bado ka aashirwad hai.”
More often than not, bado ka aashirwad, is way bada too. That is where the problem is. Will a 100 rupees note not depict the same amount of love? Has the cash business not gone way out of hand? How? Keep reading.
I have been meaning to write on this since a long time and finally have got onto it. The concept of ‘aashirwad’, or ‘vyavahar’ has always boggled me. I have seen this tradition since childhood, and honestly, it did not bother me much then. Truth being told, it is a simple barter system. My aunts, or any visiting party will give an envelope each to my sister, and me. Immediately, my mother will deliver the same to their kids. As I grew up, so did my questioning power. I wondered how were blessings offered in terms of money? Yes, I agree that the loved ones give us money so that we can buy things of our liking, without them getting anything we won’t like. But is that all about it? Really?? It has implications on the bigger picture, and it’s hard for me to ignore.
Everyone’s economical state is not the same, and so is the acceptance to say or depict so. When one family gives a ‘bhaari vyavahar’ to another, it automatically creates pressure on the other party to honor the precedent, with the same or higher number. Saying things like, “Hum de rahe hai, unse thodi expect kar rahe hai kuch” won’t help. Where is the blessing part here? In contrary, it’s a penalty. Penalty for not being of equal stature. Its not the delivery of cash that raises my concern, but the amount of cash?
For instance, at my husband’s place, at the occasion of Eid, everyone looks forward to Eidi, and why not? It’s a festival to rejoice and appears only after one year. What I love most about Eidi is that there is the fixed amount. “Sab bachon ko 50, aur har bade ko 100”. That’s the unsaid rule. My father-in-law has nine siblings, including him, and everyone does not have the same social standing. It does not matter whether you have more or less, when the bar is set low, everyone can match – without the guilt, embarrassment, and the hassle of “kaise manage karein?” Fixing an amount makes it easier on you, and the people near you.
Another anecdote which has to be shared, has a social message which itches my soul. A while ago, my parents invited my in-laws at their place for dinner. It was a wonderful meet comprising quaint dinner and lovely conversation, until that last minute. Without my consent, my parents gifted silver coins to each member in my in-laws’ side of family. After looking at my grumpy face when they left, my mother spoke, “kya chahti ho beta, maan-samman na kare.” I wanted to give her my usual speech on how I feel on this subject (not that she doesn’t know), but then my father backed her up. I did not speak much then, but I will now. “Maan-Samman len-den se hi hota hai?” Just a great dinner and quality time with family won’t do?
I don’t know about maan-samman, but it does give rise to bhed-bhav. I am Badi Bhabhi to two devranis. With the grace of God, my parents are adorned with abundance but so is not the case with my ‘law-sisters’. By paying respect (vyavahar) to my in-laws generously, my parents (may have) unintentionally raised the expectations, from their other two bahus. No, I am not saying my in-laws ‘are’ expecting anything from them, but that ‘may’, rather ‘will’ be the case for another household. This is how parents of a daughter make a wrong move for someone else’s daughters. Think about it. This is a very feasible scenario.
I have younger siblings, nieces and nephews, but I have never followed this tradition. Don’t I love them? Of course I do. I occasionally buy a present for them as well. A nice pair of t-shirt or a pretty set of earrings does spread love. But, in my case, it’s not a compulsion to shower them with copiousness every time I see them. I firmly believe in condemning this practice and I will pass it on to my children as well.
My mother often complains, that in life, I always choose the unusual. Maybe she is right. But you know what? When I choose the unusual, the unusual chooses me too. Because for me, that unusual is ‘the usual’. It’s all about perspective. I have never been disciplined about accepting traditions, just because they are done in a certain manner. I have always questioned, pondered, convinced my soul, and then only accepted the answer. I am defiant, and I am not going to budge from that.
Let’s make family time, about family time only. No cash attached, whatsoever. Incase you are obliged to bind money with love, then follow the mantra – less is more. The lesser you provide, makes less pressure on the other party and it makes more room for love and enjoyment. Vyavahar dijiye nahi, vyavahar badaliye.
Image source: Screengrab from the movie Hum Saath Saath Hain