Yearly family rituals are those special days of the year that children look forward to. Each family has their own way of doing it, which helps create a unique bond among the family members. You experience the same event unfold every year and it becomes one of those shared common experiences that makes your family what it is. The familiarity of the ritual, and everything associated with it, is what we crave for once we have grown up and moved out. Some of my childhood memories of yearly family rituals are the oiling and bathing on the Diwali mornings or the rangoli creation outside every door or the fasting during Mahashivratri and the special fasting foods that I would have only on that day of the year or the special banana leaf lunch on Dussehra (it’s the celebration of a new harvest). For a lot of us, it meant we had to stay away from all the planning and organizing of the special events as little kids, so that the parents could execute the festivities with perfection. It limited our role to feasting on the festival foods. It was good enough for us. We had our friends to hang out with and we were happy to stay away.
But with more intentional and involved parenting and not so familiar neighbourhoods, a lot of us parents have got our kids involved in festival preparations from an early age. It’s a beautiful opportunity to start something exclusive with your child, based on your family values. It is also something that can help set the culture in your family. As employees of high performing organisations, we know how important the culture of an organization can be. Some organizations inherently have a ‘just do it’ attitude; some others are informal, chatty and creative; some are ‘jugaadu’ whereas some are detail and process oriented. Think of your home as a mini organisation and the values and culture you would like to inculcate.
My best friend from childhood used to spend half her waking hours in our house. She used to tell me she enjoyed the quiet solitude that pervaded the daily routines in our house. We could find a corner for ourselves bothering no one and with no one else bothering us, food was always available and a kind exchange was just a smile away. I’m sure most people could sense this clean, dignified, studious house of mine. What kind of person was your house?
Another friend of mine–I don’t know how to introduce her because she’s such a powerhouse of everything-but I’ll stick to her being one of the most involved and attached parents I know. And if you’re thinking-oh, that’s all well, but we want our children to be socially smart, independent and have a life of their own- her boy, all of 7, is all of that and more. He’s smart, generous, passionate about animals, always saying something kind or doing something extraordinarily gentle for someone close to him. He’s friends with the entire neighbourhood but hardly has a competitive bone in him (in a nice way).
Manisha and her son Abhi have a yearly ritual around making their Ganapati bappa. It all started over 4 years ago when they went for a camp where they did some work with mud. Soon after came Ganesh Chaturthi, and they had their perfect opportunity to practice their newly gained skills with clay. They were lucky to source some very good clay from Meetakriti (www.meetakriti.com) One big reason they picked up this project was it was eco-friendly. With Abhi’s passion for animals and all things environment, this was going to be an important qualifier for whatever they are doing till date on the project.
Learning on the go:
At home, Manisha and her husband are quite hands off with religion. Abhi knows the names of Gods in the Hindu religion thanks to the time he spends with his grandmother. She takes him with her to the temples and engages him in stories of the Gods and Goddesses. So this was another way to introduce little sonny to the Hindu Gods.
Abhi makes most of the idol, right from the beginning. In the first year too, when he was just 3, he learnt to roll the clay, choose what proportions to use for the different body parts and stick them together. His mum spoke to him all the while, guiding and encouraging him, while he used his pudgy baby hands to give shape to their first Ganapati idol. He also made a small, simple seat for Ganapati to sit on. He was so excited at having learnt something new that he made one for his cousin sister too.
Abhi’s idol making skills are getting better each year. He does most of it by himself. The mom’s role is restricted to smoothening out the texture and giving finishing touches. This year, in fact, he could do most of it. He only got bored at one point and Manisha had to fill in for the legs. This year they also did a new thing. They learnt a new Ganapati song, called ‘Tuz magato me aata”. This compensated for the absence of friends and extended family members during the celebrations.
A corner for creativity to come to you
The family has dedicated one place in the house to making creations for all their celebrations. Abhi knows that this is the place where he can bring forth all his artistic tendencies and create something that’s uniquely him. It helps him to bring his creative best to the festivities. This is where the Christmas tree, with all his lovely decorations goes. Vishu pani (Vishu is New Year for Keralites) also happens here. The Onam pookolam gets clicked on this same sweet spot every here.
Bonding with friends and family
They celebrate the festival for the entire 10 days. They buy modaks. They make sure that the house is neat and clean. They do the puja and aarti at a fixed time every day. The best part is that Abhi’s friends also come over. They have a musical jam session of sorts with one person on the drum, the other on the guitar while Manisha and her husband exercise their vocal chords. Abhi wraps the puja up by distributing the modaks to everyone.
Like Manisha says, you need not do everything with perfection. Having fun, learning something new and bonding over any celebration is more important. It’s the sentiment that counts and let’s credit God for being more understanding than we imagine. Many people don’t take this project up for various reasons–some get caught up with the rites that need to be followed to have a deity at home, some others would rather outsource the idol and everything else that goes with it, to the professionals so they have everything picture-perfect.
Manisha and her family have benefitted immensely from cultivating this yearly family ritual and I feel like this is just the beginning of what is possible from a beautiful project like this.