Home is where the celebrations are

March 24, 2011
Celebrating festivals at home has a rehabilitating effect. Something akin to leading a nomad to a shelter home and asking him to cool his heels, where he gets to see people of different shades and hues who learn to exhale their myriad lifestyles as they adopt their new-found status.
After more than a decade when I saw flouroscent paints splashed across faces ruthlessly and people going berserk during the festival of colours or Holi ,  did I realise how far I had walked into the woods.  In my adopted land, all the festivals are celebrated on the weekends for convenience. Up until the weekly off there are no signs that remind you of the significance of any particular day that visit us enroute. Of course, e-mails and phones do the buzzing where menus are prepared through the week and the place of get-together and invites are decided over. This is followed by traditional attire being dished out form wardrobes to be straightened out at the laundry in time for the celebration in air-conditioned halls. We hug and kiss each others’ neck on arrival, get about doing the customary ritual of that particular festival and proceed to hogging yet-another traditional meal discussing traffic and work before waving goodbyes to meet the same group in different attires and make-up at another place for another festival. In fact, I thoroughly enjoy this. We are keeping the tradition and culture alive for progeny.
But a trip back home during one such fest changed my perspective… first about people. Family and friends alike said the fast-developing Indian economy has taken the sheen away from most festivals. But I would beg to differ.  With caution out of the windows kids and adults, thronged the streets and spared no one who crossed their path.  So where’s the vigour lost? Well, the celebration began around 7am and lasted around until noon unlike earlier days when families congregated and spent time with each other from the run-up to the day.
These days, people don’t make an effort to make delicacies, said my neighbour. Youngsters are too busy and the elderly do not have the energy anymore. They buy a few and distribute them. Shops at the local market was doing brisk business, all sweet shops stocked fresh supplies. Can’t understand what’s the harm in buying stuff to celebrate?
It’s only when you move farther away from your roots that you begin seeing your real home.  Yes, the development and economic prosperity over the years has altered the way festivals are celebrated in India but they still continue to hold the same significance. The rituals associated may be slightly rushed for want of time but they are never compromised. The preparations may be hastened and pushed to the ninth hour but they are done, nevertheless. The Family Congregation may not take place as nuclear families are the norm, but the so-called break-away units do observe the trend in their own miniature forms.  If traditional dishes should form the menu for any particular fest for lack of time the number of items may be reduced or better still instant mixes bought to dish up things but never is fast-food ordered to save time and energy.
So all those who say festivals have lost the sheen, is probably going colour-blind or are being too rigid in their minds to accept the old in the new formats. It’s time they take sit back and watch their own adapt the new as they try to preserve the old in the best way possible.
Nisha Sanjeev

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