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What is culture? Is it good? Do we recognize and change the culture in which we raise our children? Is the populist view always right? Questions with no answers.
I watch my children as they groove to my playlist on the iPhone. The songs change from peppy to pathos. Sensing the shift in moods, the kids home in to my lap, ensconcing themselves as they drown in the sounds around them.
I ruffle their hair as my mind mulls decisions.
Our peer group is eclectic. There are a few who believe in immersing their children in the culture they grew up in. Their kids learn their mother tongue, they recite prayers and they wear their ethnicity as a badge of honor. Then there are a few who seek balance. A little mythology balanced with jazz. Ballet classes offset with carnatic music or bharatanatyam. They celebrate Holi and Halloween with equal fervor.
I am not sure which path I want to tread. I stay on the sidelines listening to both sides. I join in their celebrations as an observer. Feeling at home some times and tired of the posturing at others. I am not even sure if I should influence what my children should be interested in. Then there is the often bandied about term ‘culture’ the meaning of which I am yet to understand.
What does it mean? Language? Mythology? Religion? Arts? Music? Food? Stereotyping? Misogyny? Patriarchy?
Different people I talk to interpret it different ways.
“I want to move back to India because I do not want my children to imbibe the western culture”
“I send my children to Bal Vihar so they can better understand their culture”
“I insist on speaking with my children in my language even if they respond in English because if they cannot speak in our language, they will miss out on the connection to their culture”
“I celebrate all festivals in a traditional manner so my children can relate to their culture”
I look back on my childhood remembering the traditional ‘kolams‘ in Margazhi (December). The women at the local Devi temple entering a trance midst the frantic drum beats and crowds chanting the Devi’s name. The tradition of walking on coals at Bannari. Kavadi attam in the month of Thai (January). Golu hopping during Navarathri. The vibrant colors and sounds of Deepavali. All of these experiences were organic. A function of the time and place I was part of. None of it was something my parents exposed me to intentionally.
Then there are the things I have picked up semi consciously. I never touch a book with my feet. I walk barefoot within our home. I fall at the feet of people elder to me even if I do not particularly like them. I stop to close my eyes and dwell on God if I see a temple anywhere. I bite back strong words if I feel my views are in contention with the popular sentiment. I hesitate from speaking my mind even if I am saying nothing wrong. I hesitate from entering a place of worship if I am menstruating. These are a function of the unwritten rules enforced by the society in which I grew up.
Do I want my children to experience the same things I did? Do I let them figure it out for themselves or nudge them a certain way? What do I want them to think of when they reflect on the culture in which they were raised? What is the heritage I want them to be proud of? Do I expose them to the mythology that seems so flawed to my adult eyes? Most importantly, what is this elusive culture everyone speaks of?
I am still searching for answers.
*Photo credit: Steven Depolo (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)
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I huffed, puffed and panted up the hill, taking many rest breaks along the way. My calf muscles pained, my heart protested, and my breathing became heavy at one stage.
“Let’s turn back,” my husband remarked. We stood at the foot of Shravanbelagola – one of the most revered Jain pilgrimage centres. “We will not climb the hill,” he continued.
My husband and I were vacationing in Karnataka. It was the month of May, and even at the early hour of 8 am in the morning, the sun scorched our backs. After visiting Bangalore and Mysore, we had made a planned stop at this holy site in the Southern part of the state en route to Hosur. Even while planning our vacation, my husband was very excited at the prospect of visiting this place and the 18 m high statue of Lord Gometeshwara, considered one of the world’s tallest free-standing monolithic statues.
What we hadn’t bargained for was there would be 1001 granite steps that needed to be climbed to have a close-up view of this colossal magic three thousand feet above sea level on a hilltop. It would be an understatement to term it as an arduous climb.
She was sure she was dying of cancer the first time her periods came. Why did her mother not explain anything? Why did no one say anything?
Sneha still remembers the time when she had her first period.
She was returning home from school in a cycle-rickshaw in which four girls used to commute to school. When she found something sticky on the place where she was sitting, she wanted to hide it, but she would be the first girl to get down and others were bound to notice it. She was a nervous wreck.
As expected, everyone had a hearty laugh seeing her condition. She wondered what the rickshaw-wallah thought of her. Running towards her home, she told her mother about it. And then, she saw. There was blood all over. Was she suffering from some sickness? Cancer? Her maternal uncle had died of blood cancer!
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