I was sitting last Sunday evening with time hanging heavily on my hands when my ten year old daughter said to me, “Getting bored Daddy? Why don’t you write something in your blog?”. “Can’t think of a suitable topic, dear”, I replied. “Well I can suggest something for you to write about. Why don’t you write on how much fun it is to celebrate festivals?” she asked. At first I dismissed the idea thinking it would make me feel like a school kid writing an essay. But after reflecting on her suggestion a bit, I realized it would not be such a bad idea to involve my daughter in it and and write the post with her inputs.
This little piece you are about to read is a joint effort between me and my daughter. So here goes.
India is a country of diverse cultures. No wonder there are so many festivals celebrated in our country. From common festivals celebrated all over the country like Holi, Diwali, Id, Ramadan and Christmas to regional festivals like the Chhath festival in Bihar and Onam in Kerala, there are a large number of festivals that we celebrate.
What are the advantages of celebrating a festival?
First and foremost, it maintains bonhomie among people in a multi-cultural society like ours. Festivals instill a sense of togetherness in people with different religious beliefs and ideologies. In other words it helps in promoting religious and cultural harmony. Celebrating festivals brings together families, it brings together friends and foes alike, at least on the day of the festival. Festivals like Raksha-Bandhan reminds sisters and brothers of each other.
The various festivals celebrated in India, be it Christmas, Id or Diwali, are based on the multifarious cultural backgrounds of the people of the country. They help in keeping our rich heritage alive. Another important but often overlooked reason for celebrating festivals is the way they break the monotony of life. Just reflect on what life without festivals would be like. The pressures of modern life are severe and create so much stress. Festivals come as a pleasant break from this stress. The celebrations help us rejuvenate ourselves and tackle life with a new perspective.
Festivals also help in the exchange of ideas among people. They help to bring together complete strangers. Festivals instill a sense of well being in all of us. As you might very well guess all the stuff you have read till now is from me and not from my ten year old daughter.
At this point I looked at my daughter who was breathing down my neck and looking at me expectantly. I asked her, “what do you want me to write sweety?” She squealed, “Daddy, write about onam and pookalam and onam-sadhya and diwali and the sweets mummy makes which are so yummy”.
We are actually Tamilians settled in Kerala but we have plenty of Malayali friends and we never fail to celebrate Onam. We have been living in Kerala for eleven years and I for one never tire of admiring the beautiful floral designs called pookalam that are made on the day of Onam. Pookalam competitions are held in different parts of the state and we never fail to visit a few on the day of Onam. Pookalam competitions are held in information technology parks and the designs put up by various organizations are simply marvelous. The meal called onam-sadhya served on banana leaves with a variety of mouth watering Kerala dishes is simply a treat.
The next festival on my daughter’s list was Diwali which she simply loves. I asked her, “what do you want me to write about Diwali, dear?”. “There is no school no homework. Thatha and patti come from Chennai and patti and mummy make mysore pak and mixture and diwali marundhu and I wear my new pattu pavadai and burst crackers.” came the prompt reply. My parents (thatha and patti to my daughter) always visit us during Diwali and pamper my daughter endlessly. I visit them every 2 months, so for Diwali they come to our place.
For those of you who are wondering what is a pattu pavadai, it is a silk dress worn by kids in south India which is very popular. My parents always bring one for my daughter when they visit us during Diwali. As far as Diwali marundhu is concerned, it is an important delicacy prepared by all south Indians, especially Tamilians for Diwali. It is a kind of paste which is sweet and spicy at the same time. You cannot have more than a couple of spoons at a time lest you get your throat burnt.
Then my daughter mentioned Holi. Living in Kerala, my daughter has never seen Holi being celebrated. She has read of Holi in her social studies book. Holi is the festival of colors and it marks the end of the long winter and the beginning of summer.
I smiled at my daughter and asked, “what else? What about Christmas?”. My daughter replied in delight, “I exchange presents with Kerin and Neha and Andrea and we go to Kerin’s house to see the Christmas tree.” Kerin, Neha and Andrea are my daughter’s best friends in school. My daughter studies in a christian school and she loves Christmas too. 25th December when Christmas is celebrated is another day when one is reminded of the sacrifices made by Jesus for humanity. The beautifully decorated Christmas tree and the exchange of presents again brings people together.
Now let us look at the banes of celebrating festivals. I did not turn to my daughter for this. To be honest I too could not think of anything intrinsically wrong with celebrating festivals myself. It is only the anti-social elements of the society that cause problems on festival days. Every year on the day of Holi we hear of so many cases of drunk men misbehaving with women. Men gamble heavily, get drunk and make a nuisance of themselves.
Similarly we face problems on Diwali due to anti-social elements. Another problem with Diwali is the noise and air pollution caused by the bursting of crackers. It is indeed shocking to think that in order to manufacture crackers, intensive child labor is used. It is imperative to regulate a few things while celebrating festivals. Anti-social elements must be kept in check. Festivals are definitely needed but several things need to be regulated about the way they are celebrated.
Festivals – Boons And Banes – A joint post with my ten year old daughter