Archive: March 2013

Festivities all around!

8149144784_c28eee8649_zDusserra’ was just round the corner, Halloween tricked us by, ‘Diwali’ is at a stone’s throw away and then, ‘Thanksgiving’ would march by. It is always overwhelming to celebrate so many festivals in the US. My kids enjoy all the festivals as much as I did when I was a kid.  Enjoying Thanksgiving and Christmas with friends is a very common sight in the US. Dressing up for Green hog day or for Halloween is part of life now. But, I feel that it is very important for our kids to know the significance of each of our Indian festivals too.
With the overwhelming festive season all around me, I thought that going with the flow would be exciting and so thought of sharing my thoughts about it. Festivals of any country reflect the culture and traditions of the people of that country. Every country has its own share of festivals and festivities. Come to think of it, we celebrate Halloween and we celebrate Diwali for two different reasons, but they are a little similar, the jack-o-lanterns replace the diyas. Isn’t it interesting to know that Halloween is celebrated to wade of the evil spirits in harvest season and we celebrate Diwali because we were rid of Narakasur, an evil demon?!!
Bringing up kids in a non- religious country like the USA is a difficult job, especially when we Indians are from a religious way of life. There is a certainty and clarity about birthdays everywhere. But, when it comes to festivals of India, most of the kids born and brought up in the USA don’t know much about them.  There are families who are religious and perform pujas religiously, but they fail to involve their kids. And there are yet some who don’t believe in rituals and so don’t celebrate any festivals. All they do is go to the temple once in a while and that too when the kids are at their dance class or at play dates.
Actually, there is always a feeling that people become more religious and follow rituals when they are out of their country or rather, in a foreign land. But it is not always true;this holds good only for a certain percentage of people, the ones that you see regularly in the temples. I strongly believe that wherever you are, kids need to know and follow the rituals of the house to some extent. My point is that if there is any festival celebration in the house, the kids should be involved. Let them know that Krishna was born on Janmastami, that Durga killed mahishasura on Durgastami, or why rakhi is celebrated and why Diwali is celebrated.
When we were kids, being brought up in the Orissa instead of Andhra Pradesh didn’t in any way hamper our celebrations of our festivals. Not only our Telugu festivals, but also we knew and celebrated the festivals of Orissa. ‘Sankranthi’, the harvest festival of Andhra was a big celebration for us in my house, as much as Jaganath Ratha Yatra was in the community. A festival called ‘rajjo’ which is celebrated for the girls of the house in Orissa was celebrated by my mom for me. It is said that Lakshmi , or Mother Earth, ‘comes to age’ on this day and so is celebrated by women  for 3 days. Obviously, being a curious girl, I always asked my mom specifically why any particular festival is celebrated. That very curiosity is missing in our kids today and as parents I believe that it is in my hands to arouse that curiosity or keep the knowledge of festivals intact in the kids’ minds.
The eating of sweets for festivals shouldn’t be the only thing in my kids’ minds, they need to know why modak is made on Ganesh puja, why neem and mango chutney is made on ‘Ugadhi’ which is Telugu New Year’s day. For me it is as important for them to know that I make nine varieties of sweetmeats on Sravan month’s Fridays , as they know that Turkey is cooked for Thanksgiving on a Thursday! And you bet, they do!
I remember when my older daughter was in Pre-school, I was volunteering for Easter there. I was surprised when a white lady, one of the kids’ parents asked me why ‘easter’ was celebrated. Thanking all my ‘Moral Science’ classes in school in India, I told her about it and she was as surprised to know about it from me as I was to know that she didn’t know!! I sure don’t want my kids to go back to India and ask people there why ‘Sankranthi’ is celebrated or why we play with colors on ‘Holi’.
My daughters don’t have a brother, but they know the importance of Rakhi and tie one to their cousins. My kids search the moon for me from amongst the Seattle clouds for my ‘Karvachauth’ as much as they search for Halloween costumes in the stores. They love going to the temple for Diwali to play with ‘sparklers’ as much as they love to watch the July 4thfireworks. Isn’t that what it is all about, mould ourselves to the country we are in, though keeping our country’s culture intact?!!

"Electronically Yours"

I sat down one day with all work done and totally bored! I thought of catching up with friends and/or cousins, whoever is good enough to pick up my call! After half an hour of talking to every lady on the ‘voice mail’ of every phone I tried, I gave up! Looks like no human voices are available anymore to talk to, it is all electronics dear!
I see my teenager always playing with her fingers on her touch screen mobile and wonder what is it that she texts away. When the curiosity has killed the cat to a total pulp, I jump at her and ask her one day, “what’s it that you text every minute?” “Well mom, whatever we want to talk, we text.” “And why so?” I ask, not understanding the concept at all. “Oh, it is easier to text than talk and anyways, phones are so outdated mom!” She surprises me a lot these days!
It is very surprising for me to even think that people don’t want to talk with each other anymore. I see even spouses’ text each other sitting in the same room. Oh well, they are in a party and maybe want to share some ‘sweet nothings’, I console myself. But, this might not be the case always. Someday, when you peep into the mobile of the lady next to you in a party texting to her husband, you might be knocked out. “Did you put your clothes in the dryer before coming here?” or “where did you leave the salt container last night after your drink party, I didn’t find it in the morning when cooking?” could throw all your ‘lovable’ assumptions to the wind.
I know of people close to me too who love to write emails rather than talk. They would rather chat with you electronically than speak with you over the phone. Now-a-days, a lot of families, where husband and wife both work, they don’t even have a phone connection at home. They manage with their cell phones or tablets or iPads as all they want is to text with one hand and drive with the other. Or sit in the meeting and text under the table, even if they have to do it with one hand.
I vividly remember when I was a kid, and having telephone in the house was a rarity but we had one at home, and it was so special. I used to call up my friends for some doubts in homework and end up talking about all things irrelevant to our studies. It was fun sharing incidents, joking about school in general and boys in particular. Do kids today share this joy anymore? Wish they did!
It wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that I have a lot of cousins and friends in this country and I haven’t heard their voice in ages now. I see their pictures on social networks, I get to know about their well being in emails, we wish each other on birthdays and anniversaries electronically. Now, they exist only electronically for me, no more any ‘human’ touch to them.
For me, spoken words are special. . I love to meet people and I love to talk; I love to listen to people talk too. How I wish we would go back to those days when talking over the phone long-distance was an achievement by itself. Now all I hear people saying is that “Phone is a bad way to reach us, try email or texting!” The phone is exclusively for the ‘telemarketers’ now, isn’t that so?
In spite of all this, I still call up my parents, my brothers and my close friends and talk for hours! And of course my husband is always a ‘phone call away’. We still sit and talk to each other and laugh our hearts out when we are together every day! I would love it to be this way for ages to come, so that ‘Electronics’ is some distance away from my family and ‘voices’ are heard always!