I grew up in a conservative, rather traditional tambram family. Observing practices like ecchal, patthu, theetu and madi*. I never thought too much about it but for the theetu part. I know much has been said about it in various posts on the blogosphere and I am not bringing it up again. I also grew up comfortable with the concept of madi, vizhhupu, sesham* and such. So much so that my in-laws surprised me with their rather liberal outlook on these things. To me all of these were just relics from my past. I honored it just as my parents and their parents before them did. Any rational thoughts were bundled away because I did not want to hurt any one’s feelings. These practices did not harm me in any way other than the inconvenience they posed on occasions like sumangali prarthanai or devasam or any vaideeha karyam. I refuse to look at it from a feminist point of view simply because it applied as much to me as my dad or my bro.
So years later when my family means just me and my spouse and we are at the stage where we decide what rules we follow and which we don’t I am still haunted by my upbringing. Over the past few years I slowly grew immune to the infiltration of patthu and ecchal in my kitchen. I forgot what it meant to observe theetu or madi. I did not need to. The passing away of my father brought these back into focus. Caught between wanting to do for my dad what he did for his, I question the beliefs, I question the rituals.
The easy answer would be to just chart a new path for myself comprising of the things I want to believe in. It would be easy if I did not care as much as I do for my mom’s or FIL’s feelings. I feel caught in between when I see her take so much care and prepare for the annual devasam for appa. I bite back questions and lack of belief in the hope that the day will be perfect for her in the way she wants it to be. I sit in stillness wondering about the elemental concepts of my religion. Life after death. Exotic as it sounds, it seems to be the cornerstone of the many things we do yearly for the departed soul. Feeding, quenching and making the soul feel loved. I wonder what if we “knew” there is no life after death. Once you cremate or bury the life that was. It is The End. Does it change the way you honor the memory of the love you shared with the person? Does it mean that we will create different kinds of rituals to keep the memories alive?
So many questions. Not as many answers. I feel am at the crossroads and I have no idea where to go.
*Practices that stem from the belief that cleanliness overrules everything else. I am not dwelling too much on the practices themselves on purpose. And I am not debating if they are right or wrong either. 🙂