Friday, September 26, 2014

Stepping Out of Boxes and Into Ourselves

Yesterday, Raghav and I were trying to fix some of the light wooden dolls (from a Kondapalli Dasavatharam set that we have) to a wooden base, so that they didn't keep falling over every time there was a strong gust of wind that blew from the balcony. He was helping me fix them on with some blue-tac.

"What is this mutated horse-man thing?", he exclaimed with a weird look on his face. He was holding the doll that symbolised Kalki Avatar :) If only my mother-in-law was around to hear this! She would have fainted in shock I think :) I was in splits, guffawing out loud and explaining to him what that symbolised. And all the while, I was thinking to myself that this is perhaps how an alien would feel about the multitude of gods that we have :) Perhaps that was the new-age definition of Kalki avatar!

Yes. Raghav has no clue about most of our Hindu gods and goddesses, except for Rama, Krishna and Ganesha. Not that we have kept him away from all this deliberately. We tried to read him those stories when he was younger, his grandparents tried to tell him those stories, but he was never interested in them. They didn't appeal to him. He could not relate to them. He would just walk away. He has most often liked only 'real' stories with everyday happenings woven into them or stories with lots of humour. He has loved listening to stories of what my dad or my husband did when they were little kids, or the series of fascinating stories that my dad made up for us when we were kids - one was about a boy and a talking parrot and all their fun antics, and the other one was about a little boy and his magic carpet that took him on adventures to far away places all over the world. These are the stories that inspired him. Not stories with violence or a lot of fantasy. He has often also told us that the stories about our gods have too much violence in them, which he didn't quite like. And so we respected his choice and never forced those on him. Maybe some day they will appeal to him. Who knows?

Looking back today, I can say happily that we are a family with a curious blend of different beliefs -  where we have given each other the space to pursue what we believe in with minimum interference (we all try hard). I have to thank my husband for that - for his understanding and commitment to the journey we have chosen to undertake with our son. My husband likes rituals, visiting temples and following some traditions and customs, while I have (as far as I can remember) questioned everything and not followed anything that didn't make sense or appeal to me. I have moved from being an avid temple goer in my childhood and teens, to not finding the need to do that anymore, from being one who followed all rituals and customs to often please my family, to doing only what I feel like doing now. And our son  has been the one who has made us sit up and think about what we were following and why. He doesn't like going to temples and so we just don't go so much anymore; or else one of us stays with him while the other goes. Somehow it has always worked out okay.

So yes, we celebrate some festivals, and we don't celebrate some others. We celebrate what we love and we don't celebrate what we don't care about too much. Diwali is a festival which we don't celebrate like the rest of the country does. It is a time when we get away from the noise and hungama to find our little space of quiet and light. Raghav loves Christmas and so we celebrate it in the ways we know. We have stopped doing puja for our vehicles the traditional way on Ayudha Puja day as Raghav didn't like the idea of cutting and using young banana trees and a heap of flowers for the puja. Every time our son questioned something, we would stop and look at or question ourselves and our beliefs and that would open up a whole new world and way of thinking for us.

Often it is my husband who does puja or lights the lamp at home, while I often just cook the special dishes and organise everything, and my son just hangs around somewhere in the house doing his own thing. If he feels like joining in, he does, but otherwise we just let him be. None of us forces or enthuses the other to partake in things that we don't feel drawn to partake in naturally. And I am grateful for this understanding and space that we have been able to give each other.

So yes, we are not ones who believe that we have to give our son a good grounding in our culture, our roots, our religious beliefs, mother tongue or traditions. We believe that the best grounding he can have is in an understanding of himself. Yes, he sees people around him follow some of those traditions, speak only our mother tongue, and he also sees some people who do not follow some of those things. We believe that he will pick up what he needs and form his own opinions that will of course change and evolve with time, just like it has happened with us.

We feel that these are the safe boxes we get into and cling on to for a feeling of security and belonging. And these are the very boxes that feed our fears. So perhaps it is time for some of us to step out of these boxes and into ourselves. For that is perhaps where and how we will find ourselves.

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