Friday, October 24, 2014

Black...White...And Shades of Grey...

One of the components of Raya's bed time ritual is to say a prayer. I just say a few lines aloud for her, as a prayer, and generally, this is how it goes, "Dear God, Thank you for another beautiful day of my life. Thank you for taking care of me, my family and all my near and dear ones. Please be with us always and help us lead happy, contented lives".

So after saying the above prayer yesterday, this is how Raya and my bed time conversation went.

Raya:"Mama, where is God?"

Yours truly: Raya, God is everywhere. God is abstract.
(I had to restrain a chuckle at my use of the word "abstract". Was I expecting a three year old to understand what "abstract" meant!!Either way, I have been expecting this question for some time. But for some reason, I was still not prepared with an answer. So my answer was quite vague. Fortunately for me, Raya decided to move on to her next question)

Raya: "Everyyy where....Abbbstact...Hmmmmmm". "Mama, why are you praying?"
Yours truly: "So that God takes care of you"

Raya:"Why will God take care of me?"
Yours truly:"Because God loves you"

Raya:"Why does God love me?"
Yours truly:"Raya, can you tell me first why does mama love you?"

Raya:"Because I am a big girl. I am a good girl"
Yours truly:"So God also loves you because you are a good girl"

Raya:"Mama, is everyone good?"
Yours truly: (I was stumped)...I blabbered..."we are good if we listen to our Mama and Baba...we are good if we listen to our teachers ...we are good if we are kind to others..."...(I went on and on for sometime...Couldn't figure out what parts she was able to comprehend and what she wasn't because she just responded with, "hmmm...")

Fortunately, the conversation immediately digressed into some other zone. But as I called it a night, I couldn't help thinking what do you really answer to a child who asks you, "Is everyone good?" It's easy to give a vague answer to a three year old, but what about older children...'D' had the most diplomatic suggestion for me. He said, just say,"Everyone is good in his/her own way!"...Made sense...but made me laugh out loud as well. Jokes apart, all of a sudden, the responsibility of providing a good upbringing to a child seems many folds bigger and more mammoth...I don't want to bring up a child who lives an absolutely utopian dream of a perfect life, unable to fight his/her battles in a world that can be sometimes so cruel. At the same time, neither do I want to end up rearing a child, who ends up being all cynical about the world. I just hope we, as parents, will be able to figure out a way to strike the right balance, so that our child grows up to learn that while it's best not to always view the world through rose tinted glasses,but at the same time it's important to be optimistic, energetic, hopeful and to always live with  the belief that the glass is half full rather than half empty!

That's definitely one helluva parenting challenge!!Only time will tell how successful we are though. It's tough because 'good' and 'bad' are really not as clear to distinguish as 'white' and 'black'. 'Good' and 'bad', in life, are after all just shades of grey!! It does sadden me to think though of all the heartbreaks and lessons that these little innocent kiddos will have to navigate before they are able to figure out their way in the maze, of the 'shades of grey', that life is!

On a lighter note, Ms Amber, Raya's teacher, told me about this following conversation between Raya and her classmate,Nicholas, on the playground.

Nicholas: "Raya, come with me to my home!"
Raya:"I can't come to your home!"

Nicholas: "Why?"
Raya:"I have to go to my home with Mamma and Baba. If I come with you, my Baba will be sad! He will be sad and shout at you! Do you want my Baba to shout at you?" LOL

Nicholas:(Confused stare at Raya, 'the firebrand'!!)

Oh well...looks like not just Raya has her 'Baba' wrapped around her little finger, but her 'Baba' too seems to have quite a disciple in her. It will be interesting to see how such a conversation pans out when she is 13 or better still 16!:)

Happy Friday folks!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Health Scare, Instructions, Stickers...Life!

A major health scare...panic stricken visits to the doc...multiple Ultra Sounds...finally given a clean chit...a sigh of relief...home sweet home...the following father/daughter conversation that brightened up my day, reinforcing the blessings of life! Happy Diwali folks!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The magic of the 'dhak'...

It's 'Durga Ashtami' today...If you ask me what 'Ashtami' is, all that I will be able to tell you, without 'Google search' coming to my rescue, is that it's the second big day of Durga puja, a festival that's celebrated with a lot of fervor in the part of India I come from. I don't know how many of you have heard the Durga puja 'dhak'( I have attached a sound clip at the end of this post). It is a traditional form of playing a specific type of drum during the pujas, as 'aarti' of the deity is performed. It's the part of Durga puja I love the most and it still gives me goose bumps. The resounding beats of the 'dhak' bring back memories of family get togethers, happy faces, beautiful, carefree childhood days and fills me with an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia and optimism!

I spent the formative years of my life in one of the most beautiful, picturesque hill stations of India...Shillong. While I hear it's changed a lot and is not the same any more, nevertheless the memories of Shillong I have are indelible...the charm of living in the land of mountains and hills in the clouds...the serenity associated with the whistling sound of the wind blowing through the pine trees...the calm that is brought in by the tip tapping sound of rain on the rooftop...the most delicious Indo Chinese food...and a lot more :)

Associated with these memories of Shillong are memories of those annual trips that we made to our grandparents' home in Guwahati during Durga puja (around September/October) every year. There was always a lot of fervor associated with the celebration of this festival, primarily because it was an occasion when the entire family got together...dressing up in new clothes, hanging out with the cousins at home and in my grandmom's maternal home(where they had a family pandal and
puja by the mighty Brahmaputra), chit chatting, playing with toy water pistols, pandal hopping...this was a once a year tradition that was a much 'looked forward to' period for the entire family. The few questions we had about the purpose of the puja too were answered very non-specifically by the parents and grandparents, highlighting only the good associated with each aspect of Indian mythology! Of course, that was the era before  google, wikipedia and the broader internet. So we, the kiddos, were pretty happy with the answers we got, given that they were all 'feel good' explanations:)

I have grown up to be a  non-'traditionalist', though...I guess I would be better off qualifying that statement because a statement like this has the potential for generating a lot of arguments...I do have immense respect for cultural and religious traditions...I love the camaraderie that different forms of cultural and religious traditions evoke...let's just say I don't like following traditions for the sake of tradition. However I have to admit, I am often guilty of following or not following a tradition/ritual just to make someone near and dear to me happy or just to revel in the sense of camaraderie that following a  ritual evokes.

Having said that, I am not an athiest. Neither am I an agnostic. I have faith. I believe in God. I pray. Is that possible without being a traditionalist? I believe it is, because I am and I always have been!

With a three year old in tow now, and that too someone who has a phlethora of questions all the time...why's and how's about everything on earth... these days I often find myself 'googling' for answers specific to religious and cultural rituals and traditions, more so with the onset of the Indian holiday season.Given the enormous options children have these days of finding out information,
I really want to make sure I articulate concepts associated with traditions and rituals in a way that doesn't make my little one doubt me as she grows up:)

I have found though that more often than not it's tough providing a logical/rational explanation for a tradition or ritual! The fanfare and celebratory part of Indian traditions and rituals aside, the only problem I have is when I dive deeper into the origins of some of the  traditions and  rituals (across cultures). The origins don't always lend themselves well to either my mind or my heart, given that a lot of the time, they inherently endorse the sense of entitlement of one gender over the other or one section of the society over another, encourage superstitions, validate the possibility of wiping away
conscious wrong doings/sins with the performance of a ritual!

Having grown up in a family that's very diverse and widely cross pollinated (for lack of a better term) across cultures, religions and nations, and also having always had a very diverse set of friends, I have been exposed to the traditions of diverse cultures, religions and nations. I don't ever remember being explicitly or implicitly being coerced to follow any specific ritual, though. Neither do I have any intention to enforce anything on my children.

Having said that, I do wish that I could fill Raya's life with the kind of memories I have of these festivities, because the memories are what have real meaning for me than any deep rooted meaning associated with the origin of the festivities.

We visited a a couple of Durga Puja celebrations here in the Northern Virginia area last week. At the end of a session's puja, the aarti and the 'dhak' gave me goose bumps, like it always has and took me back to those days when we ran around pandals with cousins and basked in the feeling of being together. It had nothing to do with the tradition itself. But it had everything to do with the people and memories associated with the tradition.

Today all that I wish for is the wisdom to be able to help Raya learn to revel in the feeling of wellness, optimism, magic and hope that some of these traditions evoke , without feeling burdened by lack of logic associated with the origin of a lot of them!:)

Leaving you with a sound clip of the traditional "Durga puja" dhak!! On this day of MahaAshtami, may you feel uplifted and hopeful for the year that lies ahead as the resounding beats of the 'dhak' reach a crescendo!