Being born and brought up in the holy city of Varanasi (India), ideally should have made me a lot more religiously inclined than anything else. Thanks to my parents, I got to see the fun aspect and beauty behind the cultural practices than the pressure to feel religious!
Growing up in a Bengali household,I spoke Bengali at home, ate Bengali cuisine, enjoyed literature the likes of Tagore and Ray.
Through cultural events like “Poush mela”, “Sahitya sammelani”, film festivals, where Bengali literature, cinema or music was brought into discussion, my parents made sure I got my dose of cultural learning from time to time. And through festivals like “Durga Puja”, “Kali Puja” or “Saraswati Puja”, I understood the pattern of worshipping the divine and enjoying other important elements, to the likes mentioned above!
BENGALI CULTURE IN VARANASI
From history to modern day implication of community living and socializing, Bengali pujas are a lot more than showering love and dedication to the gods and goddesses.
Right from my childhood, I have understood that these are ways of enhancing and sustaining large social groups through some common parameters of fun and festivities! They are the opportunities to learn about our cultural heritage, in our wide agenda of social networking! And they work phenomenally well!
Growing up in Varanasi, which is primarily what my parents called a non-bengali city, also exposed me largely to the city’s local festivals and religious practices as well. With festivals like Holi, Diwali, Sankranti, Shivaratri etc., I sensed the religious fervor and flavor of the locals. Since, my mother was a devout Hindu, I got to relive this different side of Hinduism as well.
However, in this largely proclaimed Hindu city, my exposure to other religion, their festivities or their cultural understanding was less.
MEETING MY HUSBAND
I met my husband (a Sikh) during my growing years, yet I hardly understood what it was like living in a Sikh household. I was too young to grasp the dynamics of life and living in one!
When my marriage was being discussed, my family inadvertently made me look into the implications of marrying a Sikh (almost as if I was marrying an alien).
It was my irritation, coupled with forced curiosity of sorts that made me learn a few details of Sikhism. From food, clothing, culture, music to religious practices and festivals, I decoded a few details. For instance, covering the head, while preparing kada prasad( the customary wheat halwa at gurudwara) even when it is at home and getting it touched by the kirpan. Food is an important element in daily life and needs to be well balanced, music goes beyond yo-yo-Honey Singh etc.
I studied a little bit of all. However, without demo, theory doesn’t sink in. Hence, I realized a lot more about the cultural norms, including certain customary practices and a lot more only through marriage.
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PARENTING IN A MULTI RELIGIOUS HOUSEHOLD
When my kid arrived, the religious implications seemed larger. Suddenly, I felt responsible for thrusting whatever was my understanding of my culture (both mine and my better half’s) on him. I realized he was as much a Sikh as a Hindu. It was with his arrival that I felt the need to consciously practice the non-Hindu part of him with great gusto.
Now, I feel the need to connect to people of Sikhism, so as to understand living and loving the world, from another perspective. And all this, so as to be able to teach my son the brighter and beautiful aspect of seeing the world from two unique lenses.
Now after some eight years of marriage, if someone asks me how much of a Punjabi have I become, then I can say with some confidence that I have reached at least 50 per cent of the space. Till then, I will consciously love, live and propagate it in the life of my child, so that he becomes aware of his roots
Besides these two religions, due to frequent relocations and travels, I have been and again, not-been-a-part of so many cultures that I feel that now I’m a true blue cosmopolitan. This is what is helping me break my social barriers and reach out to make new friends across all cultures and religions.
Similar should be the kind of world for my son. He should not label himself as a Bengali or Punjabi, but a multinational, who is able to connect, accept and embrace everyone, irrespective of any religion or ethnicity.
HARMONY IN LIFE
My marriage, although was seen religious retardation of sorts (as per some of our wise relatives), yet to me, it has been a source of religious harmony in my household. I love being a Bengali as much as I love being a Punjabi, but when it comes to plain social networking, I don’t feel the need to look beyond the humane aspect of one’s character.
I wish to bring this advantage to my son. We consciously celebrate all festivals, help him participate in the customary religious and social events from different cultures and communities (not just Bengali or Punjabi), help him interact with people and enjoy their cultural differences (by way of food, religious practices etc.) and much more.
His unique genetics should aid him in breaking social barriers across all ethnicity and that is what I intend to do with some conscious social skill building exercises. I’m so thankful for all my marriage brings to my life.
What is your marriage story? Share in the comments below. I love hearing other’s stories of love. How did LOVE enrich your Life ?