Edited to add: This piece I came across on Sivakasi.
The toughest part of parenting has been for me, the tightrope I walk between my principles and what is best for my child. I’ve often had to back down on something I believe deeply in because it doesn’t suit my child. Firecrackers is one such issue.
I’ve loved Diwali all my life for the colour and the light. But over the last few years I’ve grown more sensitive. To child labour. To the environment. But I’ve ignored the little voice at the back of my head because of the kids. Until recently when I realised that their schools have begun to campaign against firecrackers. It disturbs the peace, the stray dogs are terrified, the streets are littered, a haze of smog hangs over the city and everyone is wheezing. But it’s still so beautiful! One part of me says “Aw… let them enjoy their childhood.” Another part screams.. “what about the little kids in Sivakasi losing their childhood slaving over these?”
This year, yet again the Bean started wheezing as soon as the crackers began. I sat there holding her inhaler and mask over her mouth while the crackers went off outside. Later at night after most of it had died down we went into the lawn to watch the last few revellers light up some anaars. As we sat there cheering and screaming, a little boy got burnt. Not too badly, but enough to singe the back of his legs. A harsh reminder of what can happen if you’re not careful.
We got up and walked back home, the Bean clinging to me like a baby monkey, wrapped within the shawl I was wearing. “Mama, it’s like being inside your stomach. I’m all warm and inside you. We are one yooman (human) being.” Yes, I smile. It is. And in those days it was simpler to take decisions on what you thought was best for a child. Today each decision I take turns around and looks me earnestly in the eye and asks – “You might think this is right. But is this what they’d want to do? Will they thank you for this choice you’re making? What about ten years from now?”
A lot of what we do is simply for the familiarity of it (a similar debate is on at Kiran’s place). I often come across people who say “Oh well I don’t believe in that but I do it just to keep my parents/ inlaws happy/ it reminds me of my childhood/ it is a deeply ingrained habit/ it’s just a sweet tradition I want to carry on. Rarely do we stop to think of the origins of a rule/ dictat. Most often we get caught up in the beauty of the picture and forget about the subtle message it might pass on to our children. Often we do it just not to upset the apple cart and slowly the habit becomes one we’re too cowardly to break. Too scared to get out of the rut. Sometimes we convince ourselves that we believe in it when actually we just do it because we’re too lazy to change things. Many a time we’re unwilling to pick up a new and beautiful custom because it’s not something we believe in or have grown up with.
Over the years I’ve given each tradition or habit some thought to see if it makes sense. One of the first few was to overcome my qualms about eating prasad. I now eat it everywhere and try not to let baggage interfere. The second one was having my father walk me down the aisle. I wanted both my parents to give me away because I did feel I was leaving one family to set up my own unit with the OA. I got the lines changed too. But as we started our wedding march, mum and dad on either side, mum broke down crying and couldn’t move. Someone pulled her away. I walked on in a daze, absolutely livid. They say old habits die hard. But over the years I’ve seen my parents break a religious tenet and accept prasad simply because they don’t want to hurt peoples’ feelings. I respect them so much more for it because almost all older people I know, take pride in the purity of tradition and ancient customs, rarely stopping to think of whether it is still relevant or sensible. It’s just given me yet another reason to respect my parents. And also one more reason to not respect old people who think they deserve respect because of their age/caste/community and the way they hold on to old, regressive customs.
What have you changed/stopped doing, inspite of growing up with it as a tradition/custom/habit – simply because you don’t believe in it/ it goes against your principles/ you don’t want to pass it on to your children. So this Diwali I wish you light, love, happiness, health, choices, free will, safety and prosperity.
And oh, here’s a tradition I will try not to break – Diwali decor pictures.
The Brat and Bean sit guard over a white urli with white floating flowers and a white candle.
The OA experimented with putting a few red petals in but we both agreed that it looked best left pure white so that is his hand you see, pulling the last red bit out.
A gift from Boo that fits right in…
That’s the OA. Anyone who says the Brat looks like him and not me, gets their IP blocked. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The house is made differently so this year I have less outside and more inside. My bookshelves are full of lights. Yes, we’re an absolute fire hazard. I am on standby with an extinguisher hanging around my neck. I love that pretty marble cutwork lamp. A gift from my parents.
The entry way. I plan to paint that mirror frame but we’ll talk about that some other day.
A serene Buddha keeps peace in our home. Isn’t it beautiful that you can find Buddhas in every home no matter what the community? Says something about the religion and the people.
More little candles and holders in bookshelves. Along with first edition books that are over a 100 years old. Foolish is what I am.
Cousin J framed in the doorway, puts in the finishing touches. She’s the little artist who will be making the rangoli for us. Yes, I’ll give you more pictures tomorrow when we really set about doing up the house.
The balcony barely supports tea lights but the view of the other lit up homes across Gurgaon more than makes up for it.
The garden will never be forgotten of course, so there are little lights nestled among the plants. Can you spy the little pink lily still going strong? I’m so proud of it.