India as a country has various cultures-either based on the religion or on the region. Festivals are a major part of that culture and there are many views to it. Some say that festivals are ‘directed’ at women. Here’s my take:
I dont agree that festivals are ‘directed’ for the women. I would say it was made by the women for the women. Lets not forget that not even a century ago it was the man who would be away from home to earn a living. And the women stayed at home all day long, all year long tending to the home and children. Dont you think they would’ve got bored? Dont we get bored, feeling all cooped up in the house all day long all year long? So they came up with festivals – festivals where they could insist on cooking something special, visit people, wear new clothes, maybe even insist the men to stay home one day where they could also rest and relax. It was one way of doing something different, something out of the everyday activity, something to look forward to so when one festival got over, what would they need to prepare for the next one. Something to keep them interested and in the interest of the full family where the children got to spend time with the fathers and the rest of the family. Also a way to socialize – people couldnt travel so easily those days-so once in 3-4 months they would all gather in one place to celebrate – isnt that what festivals and celebrations are all about?
Today, festivals are a way of passing on that same culture – of meeting people, of visiting family, of exchanging gifts. And I dont think any of that goes to trash or is a waste. Yes, along with the celebration if we can also help the under privileged thats a bonus. But why cant we think of festivals as a way of introducing our kids to our kind of food and clothing? Amidst days of jeans and McD burgers it would be great if our kids learn that every season has its own special food which is prepared on the day of the festival – like pongal-with pepper in it-gives heat to the body. During Ramanavami there is a juice prepared from a fruit that we call ‘Belada haNNu’- though I dont know what it is in english-which actually cools the body in the summer heat. We dont prepare all these on a daily basis, we dont meet people on a daily basis, we dont wear new clothes on a daily basis – so why not do it all during our festivals? Why not dress up one day in traditional saree and feel good about it? Why not prepare special dishes for ourselves and eat it? No, I will not waste any of the foods I prepare-be it new year, pongal, christmas or deepavali-simply because wastage of food is unacceptable-not associated with any festival for that matter.
With us, women, also working everyday-these are the days I feel that I can pass on my culture to my child. I dont have the time to go to temple every weekend-forget everyday-so I would love to take him to the temple,tell him stories of mythology and history, give him the background of who we are and where we came from and what every symbol of the festival signifies.Ofcourse, there should be no force associated with it. When I can keep a christmas tree, when I can celebrate the english new year, I also want to celebrate Sankranti, Gauri/Ganesha, DeepavaLi, Ugadi with the same fervor and aplomb. When I dont think of wastage of cakes and candys during new year and thanksgiving and enjoy those rich foods, I want to enjoy our traditional yellu and sakkare acchu, hoLige (pooran poli) and pongal.
Would I be wrong in thinking that I wouldnt want to associate every one of my happiness in food or clothing or celebrating, with the under privileged and what Im doing for them? I believe that only if Im happy and content would I be able to give to others. Am I being selfish?
Finally, there’s a matter of force and doing it with interest-If a festival does fall on a working day, I definitely wouldnt want to do much about it-I would only be too stressed to enjoy it. I also wouldnt like anyone telling me to wear a saree or wear my toe rings or mangal sutra or bangles if I dont want to-even if its a festival. But I would love to wear it if its a festival and time permits.Also it has nothing to do with festivals alone. I dont like being forced on anyday-period. Given a choice on a day of the festival when Im doing everything to celebrate-yes I do like to dress up traditionally-its also a part of the joy and show my child that this is also something thats in our culture. I believe our festivals are nothing to be critised or embarassed about-something to appreciate and enjoy.
As for involvement of men, I would like to think that today’s generation men are getting more involved and participating in these festivals and rituals as it is no longer just a woman thing. *this* is something that our generation is adding to the growing, developing culture-our input which I hope will help our culture grow in a more positive way.