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There’s no denying that festivals are a beautiful way of keeping traditional alive and bringing families together – but then, everyone has to get down and do the hard work too!
Do I want to drive festivals at home like how my mom did? Waking up at wee hours (if at all she gets to sleep the previous night); making festive arrangements while constantly keeping a watch if the multitude of traditions are followed in the right order; sweating out the whole day in the kitchen, cooking elaborate meals, while, at the same time, cherishing the chaos from the living room where the husband and the children are fighting over the television remote; of course, their critical festival problem has always been choosing between the star interview and the blockbuster movie, both of which they cannot afford miss watching. Did I miss the month-long preparation of sweets and savouries, catering to guests and the fasting rituals?!
All is well that ends well because my mom has no complaints about it. She has taken it on her as an opportunity to serve exotic dishes and privileged luxuries to the family that she loves, cares and sweats for. According to her and the rest of the country, that is how Indian women ought to care (we wouldn’t read it as ‘sacrifice’) for the family during festivals. Why, I too have been a part of the chaos of the festival television shows for years!
What happened, though, when I got married? Simple; it was my turn and my Mr. Couch Potato was getting ready to continue solving the critical festival problem while I was expected to get ready to take over my mom’s and mom-in-law‘s honourable positions.
Let me reason here.
Just as, to the husband, festivals meant munching something all day and getting glued to the television, it meant the same to me as well. Just as, to the husband, the rituals were purely a mommy-led thing, it was the same to me, as well. Just as the husband had no clue of how much black gram went into the vada his mom made, I too, had no clue of the one my mom made.
In no time after marriage, on a festival day, why was I expected to shuttle between the kitchen and the pooja room instead of lying on the sofa with my feet up, watching the special comedy show? Why was I expected to wait along with my mom-in-law in hunger for the men in the family to complete their meals? Why did I hear a secret whisper, to share the overly-fried vadas while her son deserved the best vadas of the day? What was in marriage that made me less privileged than the husband, that I was to forego things which I had enjoyed in my pre-wedding years?
(Note that the husband could carry forward his privileges with added dignity, as a son-in-law of my family).
My mom accepted the festival responsibilities with joy. But, it could not make me feel forced to do the same. I am unable to overlook the fact that the older generation she belonged to cannot dictate how I want to live my life today. I have no intention of continuing to bestow these privileges on to the lazy husband, especially when it means I have to give up on ‘my idea’ of celebrating a festival. Neither do I believe that me denying cooking or carrying out the rituals on a festival day, will make me less loving or caring for the family.
With children coming in, I was initially torn between being that ‘nice’ mom to them and keeping myself away from the ‘subservience’ on the name of celebrating festivals. However, I soon reasoned out that there was no point in raising another generation who would watch their moms sweat in the kitchen on a festival day, while the rest of the family could enjoy the benefits of her hard work and fatigue.
From what I have seen of my mom, my mom-in-law and Indian women of their generation, their kind of love and care towards the family has revolved around sacrifices. But, love and care need not spring from sacrifices alone. I am trying to raise a family which understands this.
Sometimes I refuse to offer my share of the ice cream to my kids. It may sound silly of me, but that is how they’ll learn to acknowledge the emotions and needs of others – be it an adult or someone younger to them.
If a festival passes by, without acknowledging the needs and comforts of a member of the family, that festival is simply not being celebrated right. I believe in the husband and the kids getting down from the couch to cut potatoes or there shall be no potatoes at all for the festival. Sometimes, it may mean we have to cut down on the rituals or miss an integral part of the festival tradition; but anything that the family gets to do together for the occasion is what celebrations must mean.
Work-from-Home Mom of Two under Six I Blogger I Writer I Erstwhile Biotechnologist
Such a well written and thoughful article Nandhini. Relatable.
Certainly a relatable thing of every Indian household, though we seldom give a thought to it. Thanks for your words here, Sapna.
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