Dearest Bummy,

Yes, I know I had this conversation with you last night in my head, like the numerous other ones, but I have this urge to pen this down. I don’t know how much of an example of a traditional mom I will turn out to be, but I just want you to know that we pull along just fine without having to have an exact fit into defined roles. All I want to tell you today, is that there are choices to be made in life and there are traditions to follow – they both should be as per your comfort and should always be something you pick for yourself and not to gain acceptance by the world around you!

Remember the time I explained to your about “comfort”? Well today let us take on “tradition” 🙂

“Tradition” they define as a custom or ritual handed down from one generation to the other, what started in the past and continues till the present. “Tradition” as I have learnt, is knowing all that the society is made up of, and then choosing what you want to follow depending on the beliefs that make you up. I have never been the traditional daughter the society would have loved to cite as an example, yet I am just as human as the one who fits the shoe. Bummy, I have come to realize that it is much better to not wear the heels that cause you blisters, than to wear and feel that this shoe wasn’t cobbled for you, yet try to keep up the gait, because the world might think low of you. Strangely Bummy, the times we live in (and shall continue too) we try to bucket people into two categories who are either traditional or not. For the rest like me, sweety there’s a struggle – not for us, but for the world to categorize us and their inability to arrive to a conclusion.

So while wearing a skirt and jacket walking into the meeting room is seeing as “progressive women power”, then sharing a smoke with the colleagues is taken as “modernity” the just opposite happen when you walk in wearing a saree. You are of course expected to be NOT at ease, I mean come one, you are either a western-culture-influenced short skirt wearing girl, who wears saree only during special occasions or you are the saree clad one, who never prefer to show off her legs! Balance and tradition do not go hand in hand – or so we have been made to believe in recent times.

Tradition differs from class to class, yet another tough aspect of life that you have to gulp. A woman construction worker smoking a beedi or walking into the country liquor store for a nip bottle will not draw as much attention as you would, saree clad with your Davidoff in hand. Strangely, if there are gender defined shoes which the society tags for the argument pertaining to “tradition” it should be equal across all classes right? How I wish, that Utopia was true darling! Here, it is almost as if we have taken for granted that those with little “means” are corrupted for tradition and the “good girls” are only from families that have permanent house walls!

Tradition they say demands a lot, I have been however raised to believe that tradition has a lot to offer. All it demands in return, is your appreciating the customs that makes it up and then choosing the ones that you feel are attuned to your mindset (for the rest that don’t suit you, it demands a little respect.  What might be your choice, may not be others but that doesn’t mean we do not respect them! Right?)

Clothes don’t define what your roots are, your actions do. Your piousness in society standards don’t define your traditional morals, your respect to the world around you does. In order to uphold traditions you need not wear a saree, be a teetotaler or remain a virgin till you marry – for you must always remember that the first man/ woman to set these standards also had a choice – the choice to adhere to these or not. If they made their own choice, why can’t you? I adorn a saree, because nobody ever forced me to wear it, I was given the option of loving it or not. Your Apa*, never encouraged traditional clothing for children, for the simple reason that his little girls couldn’t run in flowy dresses. Thus, it is true that your mother never owned a single piece of salwaar kameez, till she entered college and wanted to wear one. I was never asked to pray, for faith has always been a personal affair in the family. ‘S Mashi**’ comes from a different faith and yet she is the daughter of the house. ‘A mesho***’ comes from a different faith and nationality, yet we all gather and wish them on Durga Pujo, for that is the tradition which the old lady set for the house. Tradition baby, is like your taste of “salt” nobody can ever define that for you. However, you need to try different cuisines to know your taste. Thus, tomorrow when I introduce you to art, music and culture lessons, do not think it is for the heck of making you a traditional girl, but mainly I want you to discover what you really want, and what will pay your bills and what will be your passion!

I don’t know how to answer your question (in case you ever ask me to) if I am traditional or not? How can I answer when I don’t know it myself. I learnt the rituals of Durga Puja not because I am traditional, but mainly because I found them fascinating – the stories, the smell, the chaos and yes the fun in doing things together. I learnt cooking not because I was told I need to learn it to feed my man, as the tradition goes. Instead, I was told that everyone should learn to cook to be independent – Ama**** hates it if she hears that one chooses to survive on “Maggi” because who wants to cook a lavish mean for one self? I learnt to drape a saree, not because it is the most traditional piece of clothing around me, mainly because I love the elegance it provides me and the self-confidence it oozes out! I do not smoke in front of my parents, not because of traditional demands (heck, then I would not have even told them!), but mainly out of the respect for somewhere I know they don’t like it. 

There’s a difference in me not allowing you to do things till a certain age and then after an age despite my not agreeing to your view-point, letting you make choices. I want to guard you till you are old enough to know that there are choices to be made. The world is a tapestry filled with traditions, I want you to pick and choose them. I don’t want you to abstain from anything for the argument of tradition, for trust me what is tradition in this part of the land, is not in the other part of the world. So traditions too come with their anti-thesis. It is up to you to decide which is the shoe that goes with your personality. Google, will be there to throw up answers, to provide you with all the information, however remember Google cannot make you a person. There are no buckets in which you need to be categorized when it comes to “traditions”, I don’t want to leave behind any legacies mandating you to follow. Yet, I want you to know my history, know the family you come from and then decide for yourself. 

In the end, I am sure once you adorn a saree and give a sweet smile there will be an aunty who says “Ki misti ghoroaa meye”***** – for the world loves to categorize you, it is a fascination they live by and it often feels good to oblige them, till of course you know at heart where you belong!

Loads of Love and Strength,

Amma

*Apa – what kids in the family call my father

**Mashi – Bengali addressal for mother’s sister

***Mesho – Bengali addressal for maternal aunt’s husband

****Ama – what kids in the family call my mother

***** – To Translate it means “What a sweet and lovely traditional girl”

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