Roots en route

Tangy Tuesday PicksNo matter where we were born, geographically speaking, be it anywhere in this world, the only determining factor of what we are, is our genes. Apart from those genes, we comprise of millions of customs and rituals which were being followed, down the years by our ancestors and passed on to the descendants, and on each transfer somewhat of it was losing. Yes, through each generation aren’t we losing out on those practices exceptional and some not, by reasoning or science, laziness or lack of enthusiasm, lack of peripheral physical or mental? Today how many of us feel it is an imperative to keep the customs and traditions of our family alive? How many of us still have the sense of belonging, the kinship.

In this modern cosmopolitan mechanism, we tend to overlook or even forget those customs, those which were once an integral part of us and fail to pass it on completely since our children are in contemporary settings with largely heterogeneous society, where the mixed religion/caste/race background marriages is becoming more and more common. Parents in such cases prefer not to impose and overburden their children with all the customs from both sides.

I was only born in Kerala but I spent all my life in Delhi, till four years back when I moved to Germany. I must have visited my birthplace around 15 or 16 times in all, being kids we had no choice then, short of being dragged or handcuffed, me and my brother acquiesced each time. It took really long until we grew up to understand what it meant to have bathed in the nearby stream, spread out on paarapuratthu (rocks) waited for our goats to finish grazing, watched my grandmother fetch water from the well, running towards the backyard where the aroma of chicken being prepared filling the entire village, the walks and the thrill to reach the local movie theatre (of course thatched roof) through the paadams (paddy fields), savouring of pazham pori (banana fritters), dosa with chamandhi (chutney), kaapi (coffee) in local chaya-kada (teashop), finding film posters of Mohanlal, Mammutty, the superheroes everywhere, the hours and hours of bus-rides from paternal to maternal homes, the pamperings from relatives, hogging onto chakka, maanga, roasted cashews etc, lighting up the villakku at the dusk and waking up when radio played unfailingly Vande Mataram every morning at 6 am.

My parents followed all the Hindu traditions, customs and festivals, how deeply religiously cannot be measured, but they did so eventhough they lived in Delhi (thanks to temples and large population of Keralites) since they were in their twenties or even before, and we as children have almost entirely absorbed and imbibed all that we saw and heard. Onam, Vishu, Mahashivaratri amongst festivals, Chorunnu, Vidhyarambham, Iruvathattu (naming of baby on 28th day) amongst ceremonies are the prominent ones. I now feel it’s my moral duty to pass all these on to my children, who speak German as first language, English as second, Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil yet to follow (not burdening extra languages at this juncture when my daughter has just turned 3). Should I say even the languages/mother tongue is also losing out (I am not perfect in Malayalam, my husband is not good in Tamil :(). The tradition of buying malayalam calendar is definitely over as eventhough I could read somewhat but certainly never could understand the translation of months, zodiacs etc. I am glad as of now and so far so, I have been able to celebrate all the abovesaid festivals and ceremonies along with my children despite the non-availability of all the puja items out here. And I am sure when grow up, they too will realize the beauty, purity and significance of these rituals, their genes and instincts won’t fail them either.

First time I watched Chendavaadyam in a temple, I stood their unmoved obeying the deafening beats of the drums till the end, why and how was I relating to it is inexplicable. Howsoever modern or displaced your identity might have become, your five senses will never desert you. Smell will tingle your neurons, language will resound to reach your heart, the taste buds will perceive it, and sight will finally testify and shout out loud that you belong here.

20 Comments on “Roots en route”

  1. Brilliant post,Rekha! The customs and rituals of our culture have always fascinated me too. My parents too have brought me and brother by inculcating strong malayali roots in us. I remember I used to look forward to yearly summer vacation when we would be visiting relatives in Kerala. How I used to love running around the paadam(farm),gorge on pazham poris and chakkas(jackfruit). Oh and also I remember how intrigued I used to be upon sighting ‘toddy shops’ at every 2-3kms 😆

    You’re doing a great thing by making sure Ayshu and Yash too are aware of their roots.

    “Howsoever modern or displaced your identity might have become, your five senses will never desert you. Smell will tingle your neurons, language will resound to reach your heart, the taste buds will perceive it, and sight will finally testify and shout out loud that you belong here.” very well said,Re 🙂

    Loved the post immensely !

    • Thanks Deepti..oh how much i miss Kerala…its been 17 yrs since i last visited…Ayshu and Yash will get all that i have in excited to even tell Mahabharata and Ramayana epic tales to them and watch the serial along..once they are a bit more grown up :p

  2. Wow! that was a wonderful thought provoking post.
    I totally agree with you on the importance on instilling in our children the culture, traditions and everything that has been a part of our place of origin. No tree can flourish by ignoring it’s roots.

    Congratulations on making it be the Blogadda pick.

    Keep up the good work.


  3. well written post citra… and yes i know what you mean… but i oscillate between trying to hold onto the Bengaliness and not really caring because, moving, uprooting and finding new horizons and roots are the essence of humankind. I was told that my ancestors were actually UPites from Banaras brahmins, who moved to Bengal when the raja called them and made them head priests and over the years and generations they forgot that they were from UP and became Bengalis… if they hadnt i wouldne be calling myself a Bong at this point 😛

    What i am saying is that, India and most of the rest of the world is a khichdi and ever changing and ever evolving; like they say, change is the only constant 🙂 That said, i do try to hold onto the bengaliness as much as i can, and the dhaak and durga puja still resonates in my being… my children i dont know where they would end up being… i guess as long as they are good human beings it really doesnt matter to me… like i said, i oscillate 😉

    • I agree with you too Appu but im sure you will teach your kids bangla and take them to durga pujas, celebrate diwali and so my case unless i do something abt the situation both my kids and the progeny will be entirely called germans. Noooooooooo

      • LOL… yeah i know what you mean… i guess in your case, you are sooo far away from anything india (south indian toh door ki baat hai :p) thats they reason you feel like this. If you were in india, i am guessing you wouldn’t be feeling this strongly…

  4. Pingback: AajPruned « Avant Garde Bloggies Awards

  5. Pingback: Final Nominations in Avant Garde Bloggies Awards – 2009 « Visceral Observations

  6. it was lovely to read this…makes one very thoughtful.
    one leaves the birthplace behind for whatever reasons,but strangely the memories with
    small little things remain in our subconscious being.even our dreams sometimes get mixed
    up with images from present life and place with those of the original happens even after decades ….I find this very surprising and disturbing at times.

  7. Good post Chitra. I can relate to U since I am also a Malayali Jat from Delhi, with a confused identity which my kids have inherited, and they kinda gawk while listening to their grandparents. Aint it funny that many desi public schools are now handing over Hindi rhymes & poems typed in English. I almost confronted a school Director on this issue.

    Keep writing & sharing.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: