Monthly Archives: October 2014

KISSism – A new religion

Diwali

It’s Diwali 2014….the ‘festival of lights’ for Hindus. The ‘light’ symbolizes, among many things, victory of good over evil; knowledge over ignorance.

For years I have scrambled, like many of my fellow Indian Immigrants in the US, to recreate the Diwali of our Indian childhood days, before and/or after working hours and all after-school sports activities. My efforts have always fallen short of expectations that others have that I should uphold the traditions of our culture. Traditions that dictate that on a school/work day I wake up early than usual to prepare specific set of “labor intensive and high fat/sugar delicacies” to offer the God(s)as ‘prasadam’  and somehow assemble the family bathed and dressed at 6:45 am for a  two minute “mini pooja” before they disperse to catch the school bus. To me, my religion has been a source of stress, resentment and pain. Sometimes, just a meaningless chore.

The basic “chore” portion of the tradition of Diwali is to light lamps inside and outside the house.  Make special delicacies to mark the occasion and share it with family and friends. These symbolic gestures usually satisfy the “tradition police” and they think this concludes their religious duties. The “fun” portion of the tradition is that we wear new clothes and burst fire-works. No one seems to go beyond the ‘chore’ and ‘fun’ into the ‘core’. The true meaning of Diwali – to reflect on the Almighty and  illuminate our minds, and share that inner light with the world to light up someone’s way home and give back to society- is either lost or not enforced.

So I decided to break free from those invisible chain of disapproving words and looks to start a new tradition. If there is no room for my new tradition in my religion, I plan to start my own religion(a sub-sect maybe). That’s how serious I am. Have a cool name picked up: KISSism. Where KISS stands for ‘Keep it Simple Sweetheart’.  In “KISSism” the only tradition will be that we demonstrate love, compassion, empathy, acceptance, gratitude and most importantly common sense every day. And on special occasions, like Diwali, take the time to collectively come together to reflect and replenish the soul, over food that is easily available, tasty and healthy. Have fun if possible. Also to spread cheer in the society we live in by giving back.

On Diwali day, we are going to wear our new clothes and go about our daily routine of school and work. In the evening after soccer practice and homework, when we are all relaxed and our minds open to contemplation, we are going to offer freshly baked vegan brownies to the God(s), along with fresh flowers from our garden as our ‘prasadam’. We are then going to sit down as a family and share our reflections on “light”, list the things we are grateful for and list the things we can do to better ourselves. This Saturday, we are going to drop off some food for at a local food drive for needy families. My Diwali plans are all set! My soul feels light  with these achievable and meaningful goals!

Wish you all a stress free, pragmatic and light filled Diwali !

Blog- Arambham (Arambham is a Tamil word for beginning)

saraswati-g

Today is Saraswati pooja. The day Hindus worship Saraswati , the goddess of knowledge, music, art and culture. It’s an auspicuous day where children, in India, are initiated into learning and write their first word.  The ritual is called “Vidya- Arambham” roughly translated to mean “beginning of knowledge”.   I pick this day dedicated to learning, sharing of knowledge and appreciation of fine arts to launch my blog. My “Blog- Arambham” day!

Words! Words have endured across millenniums as religious texts and classics, have taken us on time travels; Recreating realities or imagination , transporting us into the hearts and minds of those who lived way before us; and those who may live after us; a feat  that technology has only been able to achieve in Science fiction novels. To this massive swirl of words circling the universe, today, I add my own, hoping that they too will endure the passage of time and emerge meaningful and positive.

I have always wanted to write. At age 8 it was to write the next in the series of ‘ Noddy goes to School”. At 10 it was the next adventure of the “Famous Five” (inspired by Enid Blyton).  It was a dream with no urgency to act.  The urgency came, when I lost my 52 year young father before I got to know him as a person, someone other than ‘Daddy’. And later when I stood wondering , at a ferry terminal in New York city as the ashes from the world trade center swirled around me,  if I will see my 2 year old son again and if he will ever get to know me.

I urge people to write, if not to the world, at least to their loved ones; preferably handwritten. I’m glad I wrote, letters to my parents ,at one stage in my life; When I had just moved to the United states from India (in my early twenties) and phone calls to India where almost a dollar a minute. I missed them terribly, having lived with them all my life up to that point. So, I wrote how much I missed them, how much I loved them. I don’t remember all that I wrote, although the emotions that I was trying to convey are vivid in my mind. My father became terminally ill within a year of my moving and he passed away, when I was least expecting it. I didn’t get to talk to him much the last few months of his life and for many years carried the regret that I never got to tell him how much he meant to me and that I couldn’t be there with him. One day, going through old letters, I remembered my mother tellling me how my dad, in his final days, used to make her reread my letters; over and over again. It gave me some peace and closure to know that even though I was not able to be there physically with him, my words were there. While I’m not sure I was successful in translating all my feelings for him into words, I’m sure he felt those that I had not written in between those written lines. That realization turned my “want to write” to “need to write”.

As I pick that which is mightier than the sword, I pray there no casualties. I pray that only love inspires me. I pray that my words portray even the heinous of villains with empathy and understanding of the all ways we humans can fail.  I pray that my guardian angels continue to guide me in this new path.