Thursday, September 3, 2009

Hum Hindustani!!

India is land of festivals. Almost everyday is celebrated by one or the other community somewhere in the country. We have a fair idea of the common festivals like Diwali, Christmas, Holi and Id. We know about lights, cakes, colours and Biryani! But there are a plethora of other festivals celebrated across India not just in other communities but also in our own. But we only have a vague idea about them. And most of us don't have the time or inclination to educate ourselves about the mythical significance or sagas that went into the making  of these special days.

As children, we have been a part of the preparations for special occasions. We have seen our mothers clean and decorate the house (we were only assistants back then!!), make sweets specific to the festival and tell us what to do on those days. We were only happy to gorge on sweets, rustling around in our new clothes! 

Born and lived in Bangalore for 16 yrs, i am at best a pseudo-punjabi and can't claim to be grounded in either culture. As a child, i have nibbled on neem leaves and jaggery for Ugadi, been part of Mahashivratri festivities and burst crackers for our own Diwali. Another decade in Delhi exposed me to a whole lot of festivals, more North Indian in flavour. The fervour of Navratras twice a year is a regular feature up north of the country. In fact, even we began the ritual of making halwa, puri and chhole for Ashtami - something that we didn't do while in Bangalore since that spirit was hardly palpable down south.  The festival Raksha Bandhan that i thought was just tying a thread turned out to be a huge festival in its own right. Sweet makers extend their stalls for at least a week in advance to cater to the demands around the festival. Diwali brought in even more feverish pace of festivities. 

Having been through the khichdi of Indian festivals, i am still not sure if i can really claim to know properly why even one of them is celebrated. What is the importance of the rituals or the sweets associated with the day. i wonder how equipped are we, as a Young Generation, to pass on those values to our kids. Will we, with our busy lifestyle, have the time, energy, inclination and motivation to teach our kids about the rich Indian festivals and why they are celebrated? Will i as a mother, sit my kid down on Onam and make floral rangoli outside my house? Will we be able to educate them about the importance of Durga Pooja, Easter, Vishu, Gudi Padwa? Will i, on my own, even keep track of when those festivals come and go? i don't think i could do justice to days like Lohri and Baisakhi which are festivals of the Punjabi Community - technically my own. 

With the extent of cultural decline in our generation, i wonder what would it be like for the next generation. i wonder how much of that festival fervour will our kids be lucky enough to experience. We have lived a fair bit that our parents handed us town. It wasn't the real thing like it probably was in their childhood with extended families, palatial homes with verandas and the real culture in its true essence still alive and kicking. Folk songs for every festival and home made tasty food stuff. But we have still seen some of that glory and lived it! 

Today, i feel, we are so captivated by the so called modern culture that we are forgetting our cultural roots. This is a double-edged sword. It's not just taking us away from our own culture but also not helping make an alien culture completely our own. It is so important for us to try and retain some of that ardour we have inherited. Because we belong here, to this great nation called India. And no matter how much we laud other progressive nations and ape the west in what we wear and eat, our Dil will still be Hindustani. We need to ensure that our rich cultural heritage is not lost in our generation. We need to do justice to our Indianness and preserve its true reflection for the future generations - our festivals. 

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