Any one who knows me would know that I am not a “God- person” in the conventional sense of the word. The last time I voluntarily stepped into a temple to pray was before my teens, and I think that asking God to bless you is a little demeaning – surely God is not going to do something merely to get one pathetic individual to chant his name in a particular way. To me, God is something that exists, something that you know will look after you, and something that doesn’t want or need any of offerings people thrust on it.
Yet, for the past five years, come rain, shine, illness or injury, I have celebrated Gokulashtami by drawing Baby Krishna’s feet exactly the same way as my mother does, and her mother used to before her. I do use white paint and a brush, instead of the traditional rice paste, but the kolam pattern is exactly the same one that has been handed down in my family for generations.
Diwali is a twin celebration for us – we bathe, put on new clothes and eat sweets in the morning (no pre-dawn Ganga snanam for the kids – I have yet to completely forgive my parents for making me go through that ordeal year after year), and perform a Lakshmi-Ganesh Puja in the North Indian tradition in the evening.
Last year was the first year we were in Mumbai after the birth of my kids, and we got a Ganapathi idol home (we celebrated Ganesh Chaturti when we were in Delhi too, but without the idol). And we are doing the same this year too.
During Durga Puja, I make it a point to take the kids to a Puja Pandal whenever I can – a tribute to my pseudo-Bong heritage acquired during all those years in Calcutta.
On Tamil (and Punjabi) New Year’s Day, we make it a point to go to a temple, and have the kids do the pradakshinai.
Have I suddenly got religious? Is the fact that I have two little ones making me superstitious about not turning my back on organized religion?
Not at all – my Belief remains as strong as ever. My God doesn’t need to be appeased with rituals. My God is good to me, because he wants to, not because I remember him a couple of times a year. But my kids are not old enough to know that.
I celebrate festivals at home, because I want my kids to grow up with a conventional God, till they are able to establish a relationship with a God of their choosing and definition.
I also celebrate festivals at home, because I want my children to grow up with strong traditions. In a cross-cultural marriage like ours, it is very easy for the kids to grow up knowing neither culture. I want them to be aware of both – hence the Tamilian rituals on Gokulashtami and the Punjabi ones during Lakshmi Puja.
The choices my children make are their own – I cannot and do not want to interfere with them. But what I do want to do, and what I am trying to do is to make sure the foundation they build those choices on are as solid as I can possibly make them.