What are traditions and why do we persevere to follow them. I am not sure if many of us ask ourselves these questions often enough. There is an inherent and oblivious ability in us to habitually and unquestionably accept traditions the way they are.
It is time to change that. We need to understand the truths of life through independent reflection, imbibe the culture and traditions through verification in our own lives.
I think people follow traditions for 3 reasons:
1. It’s something that goes way back i.e. it’s an ancient tradition that no one has questioned yet;
2. It’s being followed in vast numbers; or
3. It’s been endorsed by some leader
But if you actually ask someone why do we do what we do, you will rarely find an answer. At best you will hear, “beta kehte hain ki aisa karte hai” (they say it is done like this). But this universal mystery of who are “they”, is something I have not been able to unearth just yet.
I am not against traditions, in fact I would call myself a person who values traditions and would like to preserve them but they need to make some sense. There needs to be a value, a reason associated with it. This “they said” business just doesn’t sit well with me.
Traditions are meant to evolve with time and make themselves relevant in the social context of today. Following traditions mechanically because “they said”, will only make these rituals more hollow and burdensome to keep up with.
Let’s take a few examples that I have encountered in and around me:
A. Should I enter the kitchen during my menstrual cycle ?
Though there has been much debate about this but I don’t see very many people trying to find out why this tradition commenced in the first place. One of the reasons is the play of our energy body during the time when we are menstruating. I wont bore you with those because there are many who might in general not believe in those concepts. Another very basic reason was just to give the women’s body rest during this time. How this Chinese whisper transcended into construing women as impure is beyond my imagination. If at all, during this period (pun intended), women are in its purest form, they are living goddesses. I mean for Christ sake, you are whipping up & shedding eggs that are going to procreate this planet. You are nothing short of a miracle.
Next time some one asks you not to enter the kitchen, chin up, bless them and know that you are too pure to do these meagre and daily mundane tasks.
And if you wish to actually enter the kitchen, by all means whip up the purest and most sacred meal. I prefer the former. I tend to fluster and falter in the kitchen anyway.
B. Should I touch feet or the knees will suffice
This is one tradition that I absolutely love and adore. This form of utmost respect and surrender towards elders truly melts my heart. But has anyone thought why do we touch someone’s feet and not their head or their stomach. And why do the elders reciprocate with their blessings by touching us with their hands. This is because the positive energy of the heart is emitted through the hands and feet.
So all of the Gen X, Y & Z, please switch back to touching FEET instead of KNEES.
C. Who should feed the grieving family
Apparently, when someone dies in a family, the parents of the daughter-in-law of the grieving family, are required to provide a meal to king and country that makes its way to offer condolences. I again came across the same absurd logic “beta this is done”. Why is it done, who said it needs to be done, what is the purpose behind it, nobody knew!
So I did my own digging and figured that the unfortunate home where a death has happened cannot be expected to cook meals obviously because of the grief they are drowned in. And so, the only need is to ensure that all meals are catered for and that they are fed. Who gives these meals has never been defined or set it stone. But as luck would have it, someone, somewhere deviously decided to cast this responsibility on the sole and lone shoulders of girl’s in-laws.
All the girls out there, if you get cornered into this one, please make sure you have an answer ready for them.
D. Should I celebrate the birth of a daughter
I know, I know, this one is old and deliberated upon in literally every nook and corner. In fact, there has been a sea change in the mentality of people and finally we have started to turn a corner. But have you ever tried to ask these son lovers why do they want a “son”.
In the olden days, sons were celebrated because they were considered the only bread winners for the families. The day this concept stopped ringing true, should have been the day this ludicrous approach to gender bias should have halted.
Try asking these dim witted male lovers ! You will probably get a stale answer like; he will take our family name forward. If you come across that lame line – tell them – Kudos to you for producing one without my egg.
Must I also enlighten you that it is the male’s cells/chromosome that determines the sex of the baby. Why this blame game trickled its way on a women head is a mystery to me.
E. Do I need to give cash at a Milni ceremony (ritual of handing over cash to the boy’s side of the family by the bride’s family while welcoming them at the wedding)
As the name suggests, originally, it was meant to be a tradition to familiarise your self with each other’s families and relations. In olden times, cash was handed over to the family members because they came from far off (probably out of station) and as a gesture of hospitality and to offset their board and lodging expenses, this custom was followed.
When did this custom become a status symbol? Why does it have to define the reputation of the bride’s family. Why are we as a human race becoming so petty as to stoop down to a level where people are judged based on the money that they can dole out.
There will not be a single wedding that you would attend in India where you would not hear 2 people discussing and comparing the cash received. Either it is too less in general or someone else for sure has received more.
Think originally with free reason. You don’t have to get influenced by a school of thought unless YOU don’t want to.
F. Do I need to donate my daughter !! (Kanyadaan)
Another form of patriarchy that I find ill fitted in today’s day and age.
Kanyadaan, essentially means donation of a girl. This too was a tradition that was carried out in the ancient days when people use to marry of their daughters during childhood. At the time, they were actually, giving away their daughter into the hands of another to raise, groom and mould. Many a times, people did it out of sheer financial helplessness.
Child marriages have been abolished. And your daughter isn’t a cause that you donate.
A girl isn’t anyone’s possession to give away. All you can do is give her the blessings to live a happy and prosperous life.
Ask the relevant questions, formulate your own opinions about these traditions and then do what feels right to you and for you. Traditions are meant to enrich our lives. If the old ones don’t seem to fit in, create new ones. As long as they hold relevance, they will be treasured. This blind faith never took anyone anywhere. Let’s not stifle our minds and cram it with irrational beliefs.