Friday, December 25, 2009

Celebrating Holidays

Every Christmas is a little different with and for J. The year she was born, we took her to the mall to get the de rigueur picture with Santa and she bawled the whole time. That picture has a scared J sitting on the lap of a disgruntled Santa. A lot has changed since then. When she was too young to notice the holiday season, Christmas meant very little to her.

Over the last couple of years, J has been agitating to have some kind of celebration during the holiday season. Having celebrated Diwali a few months prior is not quite cutting it. She wants to celebrate something along with everyone else - it does not even have to be Christmas. Even the tree and presents are optional as far as J is concerned. The only thing that matters is the timing of the celebration.

J feels like when she has her festivals no one shares in with her unlike Christmas which almost everyone is a part of. To her being American and celebrating a festival of some kind over the winter holidays has turned synonymous. We've talked about this a bit and it turns out that the peer pressure is mounting as she grows older. Everyone in class will be bursting at the seams with elaborate accounts of what they did over the holidays. J does not want to be the one left out with nothing to say for herself. This time of year, lack of conformity is far more painful than it is at any other time - it has her feeling anxious. To J's credit, she is very much her own person almost all the time and does not have any pressing need to be like anyone else. But the holiday season is more than even she seems to have capacity for.

Last evening, I sat her down and explained to her the importance of being true to oneself - indeed knowing who that was and what that person was all about. I told her about my non-Hindu friends in India who felt left out of the big Hindu festivals and celebrated their holidays in relative isolation - an experience that parallels her own in America. I have not been in their shoes and don't know what it feels like - but J does and I realize it is not easy at all.

I told her, what I have learned from observing those friends is that the more confident they were about their identity, the better they have fared in their adult lives. It takes tremendous strength of character to be an ethnic and religious minority and still negotiate successfully in the social and cultural context. Yet, those who do it successfully are the ones who thrive best.

I explained to J the importance of feeling confident despite being different and this is not just about celebrating a holiday (or not). If you take the path of least resistance and fit in, you will find yourself needing to make many more compromises all your life to continue to fit in - increasingly you will lose your sense of self. A time will come when you would no longer know who you are because you have turned yourself into what most people expect you to be.

Next year when you go back to school, I said to her,  it would be much more challenging to tell your friends "I don't have a holiday to celebrate in December but I had a great time doing other fun stuff over the winter break" and take interest in what they share about their holidays. The easier thing would be to put up a Christmas tree and have Santa bring in the presents. That would give you exactly the same things to talk about as the other kids.

J went to sleep with what I hope was food for thought. Time will tell if what I told her helped or hurt her. The one thing I do know, I was being true to myself and consistent with what I believe in. The hope is, that will be of value to J and help her find direction.


Anonymous said...

" explained to J the importance of feeling confident despite being different and this is not just about celebrating a holiday (or not). If you take the path of least resistance and fit in, you will find yourself needing to make many more compromises all your life to continue to fit in - increasingly you will lose your sense of self. A time will come when you would no longer know who you are because you have turned yourself into what most people expect you to be ".

Heartcrossings ,

Spot on !

Merry Christmas to J & you and America also !!

Because that is your home , give up this silly fetish for ethnic identity. Whatever you and your daughter feel most at home with is your ethnicity. Even if you don't do pujas that all hindus exhort/intimidate into doing ( only then you will get this and that) our Maker is not going to glare.

But the fellow hindus would brand you a pariah/heretic/loose morals yadayada (my experience I am telling). Now that I am really tranquil , I don't plan at all.I don't celebrate at all. If I am able to lie down with a PG Wodehouse or RK Narayan with a tumbler of filter coffee (& dunking idlis in it) beside me that is the best celebration for me. Being ostracised by all relatives , neighbours , friends etc has turned out to be such a blessing for me.

Thank God for internet , an American stranger offered me the simple advice which I had totally lost.." Eat what you want".

It is your life.Live it the way you want.

Anonymous said...

Heartcrossings ,

Continuing...a British homeopath succinctly summed it up:

" Cancer is the penalty for an unlived life." ( not karma ,paap of poorva janma etc)

Hence imperative live it entirely on your terms.


Sublime ma'am! good advice. In fact, when I used to live there, It never even did occur to me to celebrate festivals. I just did my usual morning 1 minute prayer and went on with life :) Good that you are presenting J with all the choices in life.

Heartcrossings said...

Anon - I am hardly an observant Hindu so J does not see us celebrate festivals of any kind. During the holiday season she has a sense of void - it would actually help if I did celebrate something or went to the temple regularly.

For her it is not so much about Christmas as it is about special day even it is from a culture that most of her friends are unfamiliar with. If I am not able to offer what she seeks, she is likely to cling to something else that is easily accessible.

My challenge is probably two fold - getting her to appreciate her religion minus the ritualistic aspects of it and getting her to enjoy and thrive being different instead of feeling at times challenged by it.

Anonymous said...

Life Refactored,

Thank you.

Heartcrossings ,

Don't I know. What a painful anxious dilemma a conscientious mother or father would face.But go for a placid pace. Never frenetic I must achieve achieve contribute to society world , all rounder , famous , - all that is rubbish.

My precious father who died very early of heart attack actually sowed the seeds of guts in me I realised much later in my life.

When the rest of conceited men showed off we are doctors from Edinburg/America he shot back:

"MBBS , stands for master of big buttock society". He introduced me to Homeopathy. He was entirely self made man. Has treated so many around for FREE rich , poor , muslim any caste. Sick getting healed would make him very gratified. He introduced me to Cary Grant , Gregory Peck , Charlton Heston , Alfred Hitchcock much earlier. When the rest of girls around squealed for rajesh khanna I was unfazed. I had never seen any of those tacky movies. never pined also.

But before his death , he insisted on my watching Baiju Bawra just to listen to Md Rafi's Hari Om , Thu Ganga ke....we had no tape recorder , radio etc. He caught hold of a trustworthy man to take me in a boat across the Hooghly to some solitary hall screening last show. A value is a value when its value is valuable to you.

He was passionate about music. All he knew without formal training.Sang Rafi's songs to give me a taste & then sent me. Concurrently poured spiritual soul stirring hymns also I don't know how he managed.

My mother before dying told me:

"By mundane standards our marriage would not be termed a 'happy marriage'. But thank God I got a truly Spiritual man as my husband. I feel redeemed".

Anonymous said...

" My challenge is probably two fold - getting her to appreciate her religion minus the ritualistic aspects of it and getting her to enjoy and thrive being different instead of feeling at times challenged by it ".

Sri. Ramakrishna Paramahamsar as a young boy looked at the breathtaking sight of a flock of cranes (storks , geese whatever) across a sky laden with rain bearing clouds and that is IT.

Samadhi selling freaksidiots are turning into trillionaires like art of living ravishankars , ammachis , puttaparthibabas.. ROTFL what Mother Nature is nonstop providing you for FREE !

Buy His Gospels or Life dunno tha name 2 thick volumes. Vivekananda is not the only disciple of Gurudev.

Read about Girish Chandra Ghosh who was a nonstop alcoholic , the consummate baddie & His disinterested forced encounter with R. And what followed. Vivekananda said :

" I have never seen anyone as spiritual as Girish Chandra Ghosh ".

After stepping out of the Ganges River , GCGhosh again went back & took a dip. When asked why , He replied:

" A Jnani (gyani whatever) by dipping purifies the pollution it is said. I wanted to purify Her further increasing her potency ".

Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi OUTDISTANCES that further , emphatically declaring :

" Yearning for God is like Ganges or any waterbody ( Rivers in America , Canada also SAME SAME dindubinduindoooidiotscientistvandemataramssswadeshixenophobicsanghis will never get it) feeling thirsty ".

Anonymous said...

Jonathan Swift says :

" Death has been created by a Merciful Providence ".

Anonymous said...

Thank God for non fanatical truly Enlightened America !

Society of Abidance in Truth , California , 1834 Ocean Street, Santa Cruz, California 95060 USA has published ' The Song of Ribhu ' , English Translation of the Tamil Ribhu Gita.

Buy that pronto SOS.( or else swadeshimilitants might turn who knows what). VERY IMPORTANT. Don't miss the Introduction. All lucid English.

No sonorous firebrimstone belching of memememymymy narcicisstic hindooootvavaadiees.

Even if the dindubindusiliconvalleycolonizers do situps nonstop ,forget about dipping in ohlygangamaiyaamaatrilandpitrisky would NEVER be able to even come near the Magnanimity of White Man/Woman.

Now garrulousgoondas called thinktankpolicymakers of india are planning to impose hindeeee.

Borrowing Sir.Winston Churchill's words I say:

" Up With This I will not PUT ".

Anonymous said...

I don't know, Heartcrossings. I find it hard to understand how identity can be threatened by something as harmless as the secular version of Christmas (a tree, a cake, a simple gift). After all, you seem to celebrate Hindu festivals sans ritual, why not this one?

I grew up abroad and we had a tree. It was no different from any other festival like Diwali. In fact, we co-opted it and made it our own so, instead of hampering our identity, it enriched it. Conformity is important in some aspects, it gives comfort in youth so that you can grow into individuality later on.

I think Indians abroad are too defensive when it comes to culture. I'd like to see them adopt more of the culture of their place of residence--after all they live there.

I know from your blog that you don't live the kind of cocooned Indian existence that other NRIs do, so a bit disappointed at this resistance.


Anonymous said...

Heartcrossings ,

Apropos SG's comments , this is EXACTLY why I abhor indians wholesale.

Enter into your house for no reason with a singsong 'disturbingyouvaa , owwaar UUU , oyyaar you looking like this , toeday is auspicious no aaiilbaath , oyy drinking so muchh kaapi that too sipping brahminnnn know , now in night you are listening to phillumsongaa that too vold TMS PSusheelaa & am NOT making it up literally physically aaasthaeyladeees LADYMACBETHS brimmmmmming with konsurn have massacred me a million times.

Whether the WHITE man/woman okays it or not my insides are liquefying to know they are virulently spreading all over the world.

ThatakaasSoorpanakaasGaandharees they are in disguise.

Whatever be their religion I am dead scared of indians wholesale. Alas I can't say anymore I am perioding leave me alone...I am smiting my head , forehead with BOTH my hands.

Anonymous said...

Oh God ! If only I could afford ruthless Arabs ( only then I suppose indians would not invade one's boundaries) as my guards to without any question give 13 LACERATING lashes any indian even desiring to look at me....Aaahhh aahaaa !

Ill mannered incorrigibly irredeemably illmannered.

Heartcrossings said...

Anon - Thanks for the book recommendations :)

SG - You are right - a harmless (and now even secular) tree and some presents do not have to threaten my ethnic identity.

I have a problem in general with celebrating any festival without understanding the meaning behind it really well and being convinced that it is something I do want to celebrate.

That said, I like going to the temple when it is quiet and empty, attending alow-key puja at someone's home etc but I turned off by large scale, commercialized festivities. I opted out of Diwali and Durga Puja even when I lived in India for as long as I can remember. I feel just the same way about Christmas - too big, too commercial and not meaningful enough.

I would love for J to attend a midnight mass. I got her to listen to Handel's Messiah yesterday - Christmas day. If she wants to study the Bible I would be very happy.In fact, I would encourage her to learn more about any religion she wants to.

I have a problem with ritualistic aspects of any religion devoid of real meaning, far removed from their provenance. But that's me. Since I'm J's mom she's just going to deal with my eccentricities :)

Anonymous said...

" I would love for J to attend a midnight mass ".

Heartcrossings ,

You Must. Because Madhu Sapre is married to an Italian Sportsman & says:

" He bows down to my Ganesha & I have no problem attending Midnight Mass...".

And know what , her photo with her husband has plenty of ' umami '.

(Vovovovo what have I done...a lot of moustache twirling indian Thundering Thighnesses must be harakiriingg hahaha....)

Anonymous said...

" I have a problem with ritualistic aspects of any religion... "

Precisely. Listen to your instincts. Read what Edgar Wallace has written on Instincts.(Oh another WHITE Man I like very much even wrote James Hadley Chase Type of stories vvgood).

You are like someone who has successfully peeled a banana. So you toss the peel & eat the fruit right ?

Would you be ludicrous enough to say " but youknowyouknow , the peel will feel left out , I will continue to chomp chomp the peel??

This maturity I am sure J would have inherited.

After reaching the top of a mountain climbing steps you rest there (analogy I am giving).But the steps we don't get rid of. Because others need those steps.

That is all.

SGs & indooooos have not been able to peel at all. Figuring out...

Anonymous said...

Some facts about festivalssing RENEGADE brahmins:

That mbbbs S (my Mother's paedophile rapist) ( drooled over by multitudinous people for his ladykilling skills ) forcibly yanks ( what else can you call an arranged marriage) a self extinguishing demure , hardworking but very rich (imp all the huge quantities of gold , silver etc entirely was hers) from Vaalaadi in TamilNadu. Openly ridiculing throughout the cermonies youunletteredmeMBBS..this is called 'kalakalannu kuthookalama kalyanam '.

LITERALLY robs her of everything buying huge estates , cardamom plantations , cars , haveli type of houses , drivers , cooks , nubile daughters of cooks asked to thael maalish the towering doctor. Wife of course made to procreate 4or 5 sons & 2 daughters.Plus non stop cooking in various batches because Dr is infamous alleged 'nutritionist' wrote poems like:

Vitamin C is much in the air/ Talks are given by dark & fair / How can apple a day/ keep you away from the doctor/ who is much in your way ?

If at all he caught the wife putting the chopped amaranth plus greens in a not so clean vessel would stride with heavy boots , trample all over them silently. Till she apologised , disposed off all dutifully. And resumed all over again....


Filter coffee in a special Huge Silver Tumbler / Nutritious Upma like handpound aval / broken wheat/parboiled broken rice speckled with vegetables for vitaminising & glistening with oil for maintenance of his skin+ malted ragi dosai+ home churned fresh dollops of butter+ spicy gothsu (salsa) variety of chutneys like tomato , mint , onion ( visual effect) , fresh grapes or whatever juice harvested from his estates made right in his presence. Finished with another Huge Silver Tumbler coffee.

No repeat of the same stuff next day. All malting of ragi, dehusking of pulses like green gram , black gram , toovar all done by THAT wife manually stone ground (yendaram) Plus she had to make huge quantities of toothpowder by roasting rice husk etc. Eco Terroristhealthfreakterrorist husband.

One of her young sons called Swaminathan was BRUTALLY snatched away by the terroristhusband & thrown into sanatorium in Thambaram for alleged tuberculosis. Despite her heartrending pleading NEVER allowed to ever visit or talk to him.

Later He did very well in his life in Singapore.His mother herself got TB in spinal cord , enduring torture for 7 yrs. The affluent son was wantonly denied ANY kind of access to her. Eventually when she died Swaminathan gave a prominent ad in block letters that his mother at last got deliverance from a TYRANT .

Even then the putrefying carcasses were aghast discussing " how much of money he must be making for giving such a paragraph sized ad from SINGAAPOOOR !!!

Anonymous said...

My Paternal Grandfather , that is my Mother's father in law , the REal father of my Real father & the REAL husband of my REAL Paternal Grandmother ( my late father their only son ) would retort with RAGE , whenever he heard shouts of vandematharam with:

" VAruDHEY MoothiRuMM " in ear splitting decibels.

Anonymous said...

All thundering thighnesses & Aasthaeyladiess LADYMACBETHSssess getting MASS IMPALED is how I define a gratifying finale celebration whastever.

Anger off/ indeed.....

Anonymous said...

The nonbiodegradably BRUTISHBESTIAL thundering thighness I was " kalahalakuthookalayankanam (goddamned forced handing over along with all requisite dowries (cot , mattress etc etc which were all purchased with MY FATHER's ENTIRELY SELF EARNED savings soon after his " heart attack " despite my vocal refusal to consent) told me after watching Schindler's List ( which till date I have not can't bear to):-

" In one scene there is a woman sitting on top of a man & ......( whipping out a tiny navarathiri betel leaf comb from jeans & backcombing 3 wisps of hair on that BASTARDYhead)....I want you to do that for me...."

Still driving Auddy , with blackberry , mobile , laptop , all money in his custody......CFOCEO top influential with powerful vaastha including cops....nurses , doctors , secretaries...

Wise , omniscient Life Refactoredsss out anything making sense at all?????

Anonymous said...

In fact I was perioding on that oospicious day 31 March 1982.

The SAME maternal ladymacbethy grandmother gave me a resounding slap & said:

" Tholacchuppuduvaen , velila sonniyo poi okkaru ".

All chartered accountantees were also present.

Oh india is full of caring sensitive country indeed.........