I believe in God.I am not religious per say.A puja for me is a silent conversation,which is in English most of the times, that I have with this really strong and universal symbol of strength that I simply refer to as God.But I love gaities and the beautiful bonding as a family, that a festival brings with it.All the rituals associated with a festival evokes very strong and fond memories for me since I associate them with my parents and close relatives and friends back in Bangalore.It is a very strange juxtaposition that I enjoy being a part of rituals simply because I associate them with the good times I have had at family gatherings.But I do not much care for the religious aspects of the said rituals.For instance,not being allowed to participate in functions during one's menstrual cycle or the rigorous madi system that is followed.All these customs do have a resonably logical explanation like hygiene and cleanliness and as long as that is what it is about,I am fine.But the moment people start twisting things around and turn the whole thing into a freaking circus, that's when it gets my goat.
The other day,I was invited to this distant relative's house for the traditional "arishina-kumkuma" or "haldi-kumkum" ritual after a puja.I wanted to wear a saree on this occasion and I did try to drape one too.The fact of the matter is that my saree-draping skills totally suck.I can never get both the pleats at the waist and pullu, right.It is either one or the other unfortunately, thereby enforcing a ration on my traditional and ethnic Indian wardrobe.After 3 highly unsuccessful attempts,I just gave up and went back to the trusted silk salwar-kameez.I got acquainted with this distant relative very recently and she actually appears to be very sweet and affable.Her in-laws are in town and hence the festivities in their household were on a very grand scale.So I reached their place and introduced myself and tried to explain to her in-laws to the best of abilities,how she and I are related.I don't think I made much sense though.The ice was broken as soon as her mother-in-law discovered that my parents lived in the same neighborhood in Bangalore as them.We chatted for quite some time during which she asked me about the husband and his work and I found myself starting my next sentence with, "namma yejamaandru..."(ewww gross!) that literally translates to "my owner" but is used colloquially in Kannada to refer to one's husband.I managed to surprise myself immensely at that point as this was the something about which I gave a lot of grief to all my aunts and cousins who used the aforementioned phrase.I was sub-consciously trying not to give the lady the impression that that husband and I are bohemian or liberal in any way.There was no mention made about how the husband cooks and cleans not because he wants to help but because it is his home too.You get my drift right?I had a really good time at their place but I could not stop thinking about how the evening had played out.
See the thing is I have never had to watch what I say or do with neither my parents nor my in-laws.Both sets of parents are very liberal when it comes to us so I have always been myself with them.Why, then, was I being so watchful of my actions that evening?Was it because those people were related to us and everything I did or said would somehow be a reflection on my parents and family?Or was it because she was much much older and I somehow felt a sense of obligation to say and do the "right" thing and stick to protocol?
I have come across several instances when people have blindly attributed someone's supposedly bad behavior to bad upbringing by his/her parents.Especially when it comes to the daughter-in-law.A very good friend's brother got married recently to his college sweetheart.The wedding happened with much grandeur and with everybody's blessings.A month later,my friend seemed a tad unhappy with her new sister-in-law.
"She hardly talks to people.We have visitors all the time and she hardly interacts with them.Didn't her parents teach her social etiquette?" she said.
I was too shocked to reply as this was coming from someone who has an MBA in Marketing and is one of the most intelligent women I know.Since when did being shy and uncomfortable in a new environment go from being most natural to a social taboo and a sign of bad parenting I wonder.
It probably was playing at back my mind when I visited my relatives.Communication and exchange of information between the US and Bangalore happens at such lightening speed these days.And I would want my family to continue to look good and rule the roost,no?