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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Letting Her Enjoy The Richness Of All Cultures....


It is the time of the biggest Bengali festival – Durga Puja - and like all years, I am celebrating it with all the proper rituals and taking part in most ceremonies. But this year, it is a little more special than all the previous years – this year my daughter has taken part along with me, and enjoyed, (which is most important), a tradition that is so special to my heart.

I am a Bengali, and even though I was born and brought up outside ‘Bengal’ and have never really lived in the ‘city of joy’, I still identify myself with the culture and richness of my heritage – I am proud of it and there is no other way I would have preferred to be.
My husband is from the northern part of India, and though he is originally a UP-ite and though he has never lived in his origin state, he too is aware of the rituals and festivities that are a part of where he comes from.

Our daughter is a child of the world – and we are glad that these days we have the opportunity of exposing our children to the goodness of various cultures and traditions. With the advent of television, internet and other channels of media and the mixing of races and castes and cultures, the world is now a big flowing pot of culture, you just need to put in a ladle and bring it up to the surface, and each time you will have a different culture on your plate.

My parents had shifted to a different state after their marriage, where later I was born. When I was young, my parents took care that I follow the customs and traditions of the place I was growing up in, but they also made sure to introduce me to the culture of the place where I originally came from, they made it a point to make me understand and appreciate the richness of that culture which was miles away from my child’s mind right then. So in a way I was lucky that I had more festivals to celebrate than my friends. Not only did I celebrate and enjoy their festivals, I also had the chance to celebrate the added festivals that came from my parents’ side.

My daughter is luckier. Not only does she have the two different cultures from her parents’ side, she also has a third culture – that of the place she was born and lives in – and of course the culture and festivals of the ‘west’ that is now a global culture.

So we have a big New Year bash each year (the Western New Year), my daughter especially loves the music and dances away till the wee hours of morning, her tiny feet never stopping for a moment, even when her mommy sits down occasionally to ask her if she needs a rest. Then again, on Bengali New Year, I inevitably have something sweet at home and make it a special day. We have a wonderful time playing with colours during Holi, we have fun and celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi with pomp and participate in all the competitions and concerts. At Eid she gets delicious 'sevayin' from our Mohammedan friends. We celebrate Durga Pujo with my husband and daughter all dressed up in traditional wear, digging in to the mouth-watering Bengali fare, looking in awe at the majestic Durga, my daughter dancing to the beat of the dhaak (the big drums played in Durga Pujo). We celebrate Navratri, joining our hands together with all others and chanting the prayers and the shlokas. We dance to the beats of dandiya. Diwali is a special time when thousands of little lights and diyas deck up each part of the house. My daughter and I get down together to make Diwali patterns and light the diya each morning and evening. I am not fond of crackers and my daughter too seems to love the lights much more than she likes the crackers and the noise. Christmas is special too, as our home gets a Christmas tree and my daughter gets to create snow!!!! She loves putting up the candies and the bells and balls and gift boxes and stars and santa and the number of tiny objects on the tree. She sits near the tree for days and talks to it, or simply stares at it with fascination and love. Christmas is also the time when there are many events lined up, what with New Year being just round the corner and invariably my daughter ends up taking part in those cute little baby shows and has a fun time. And in between there are some more events and celebrations that keep happening each year.

My daughter is growing up with a taste for all cultures and with an understanding that all this is hers – she does not restrict her emotions and liking to a Bengali, or a north-Indian or a UP culture, she does not let her love for festivals stop at just the Indian ones, as long as there is participation and a chance for her to do something at the festival, she will be happy and look forward to it. She is too young to differentiate yet, and it is our responsibility as parents to ensure she is introduced to all that is good and interesting for her little mind, as well as all that will give her the tools to embrace the world in a more loving manner.

Both my husband and I believe that each culture has its own good and richness and that exposing your child to all the positives from an early age will let her develop a sense of understanding and tolerance towards those who don’t necessarily share the same heritage or cultural background as hers. Exposing her to many cultures and letting her participate in events and festivals will erase any cultural boundaries that a child might otherwise have. The more they know about each others’ culture and ritual and religion, the more they will open up to the world, sharing each others’ goodness, and eventually turning the world into one big family – the way it was originally intended to be by that person who is supposedly sitting up there somewhere……..

So let her know all the flavours and cultures there are in this world to explore – it is her own world after all, let her make it her home too.

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And like I always say and believe in:
'Heal the world we live in
Save it for our children' - MJ

Happy Parenting!!!

- Debolina Raja Gupta
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