A Date with The Gods

She woke up earlier than usual that morning. Pangs of excitement left no place for the slightest traces of slumber. Shower? Check. Saree ? Check. Hair braiding? Check. Breakfast? There was no time for that. She smoothed her hair into place and made sure her pleats were neat. As she adorned herself with bangles and earrings, flowers and perfume, she hummed a sweet song of joy. She would dress in nothing but the best to meet her beloved Lord, who after all, had given her everything that she called her own.

The mere sight of the Gopuram* induced waves of happiness and unsurprisingly so, the temple was deliberately built where the earth’s magnetic field gave off high positive energy in abundance.¬†Discarding her slippers and worries at the door, she stepped into the temple. She loved the feel of the marble on the soles of her feet and with every step, she absorbed positive energy from vibrations bouncing off the temple floors. A large bell was struck, the sound ringing loud and clear, dispelling any negativity that might have been lingering in the environment.

She reveled in the sight of the Gods, bedecked in layers of silk and jewels. She adored the temple air that possessed the most heavenly smell one could dream of: an oddly satisfying combination of camphor, ghee, flowers, sandalwood and incense. The sonorous recitation of ancient Vedic texts amidst the strains of nadaswaram* made her soul so, so happy. She circumambulated the Ganesh idol first. The sound of the prayer she chanted fervently in her mind competed with the overt chanting of the priest in the inner sanctorum. With every arathi* and abhishekam* the priest conducted in there, vibrations of all things good increased. All she was doing by going around the idol again and again was sharing in the vibrations already created, free to anyone that cared to tap into it.

An elderly couple walked past, their faces resplendent with the light of wisdom. The experiences of decades were etched into fine lines that appeared at the corners of their eyes. In the background, peels of laughter emanated from a group of children who were engaged in playful banter. The melody of old Carnatic compositions could be heard as some middle-aged women sang their hearts out with much sincerity. People from every stage of life were at the temple, it seemed, reminding her of her past, hinting at her future.

She made her way to the Navagraha *and payed obeisance to the planets who had the potential to rule her destiny, if only she allowed it. Deep down inside though, she knew that with God’s Anugraha *, the Navagraha could do absolutely nothing to the course her life took. Her surrender to God’s grace was not absolutely perfect though, so she still circled the panel of planets, just to be safe ūüėõ

Her rounds now all complete, she sat down quietly for a few moments to enjoy the glorious atmosphere. Fully satiated with her temple run, she rose to exit through the grand temple doors. Not without a handful of prasadam* though, which happened to be yoghurt rice on this particular day. She smiled to herself. It was God’s nature to give, no one visiting His home would be allowed to leave empty-handed. Her heart and stomach were both full. It was time to go home.

Do you have any cherished memories of temple visits? Leave a comment down below!

Glossary: Gopuram (a large pyramidal tower over the entrance gate to a temple precinct), nadaswaram (double reed wind instrument), arthi (ritual of worship in which light from wicks soaked in ghee (purified butter) or camphor is offered to deities), abhishekam ( Hindu ritual of pouring water or other sacred substances on a statue of a deity while also chanting mantras), navagraha (nine ruling planets of astrology), anugraha (grace), prasadam (a devotional offering made to a god, typically consisting of food that is later shared among devotees).

 I am a 22 year old tradition lover living in Australia. As I have never lived in India, I am no expert in Indian culture. However, my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Parts of this blog are fictional, while others are based on my own experiences. Happy reading! РDivya

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More Indian than Most Indians

Is it just me or are NRIs more Indian than most Indians living in India? I mean while my fellow NRIs are busy enrolling themselves in carnatic vocal, violin, mandolin AND keyboard lessons (because where I’m from, pursuit of one art only is simply unsatisfactory, you see), our metropolitan Indian counterparts are busy enrolling themselves in salsa, western drums and electric guitar lessons. While we look forward ¬†to any Indian festivity that will allow us to wear sarees and kurtas, our Indian counterparts embrace any opportunity to wear sundresses and crop tops ( bindis and salwars¬†are reserved for “ethnic days” only people!). We travel all the way to Chennai from the other side of the world for music season, while our Indian counterparts would much rather go for a Coldplay concert in America. And so, the list goes on.

Of course, I am not denying the fact that there are traditional, orthodox families still existing in India who epitomise¬†“Indianness”, nor am I denying the fact that some NRIs are more Western than the Westerners, but for the most part, Indians today are more modernised than ever before! I suspect that¬†the¬†“grass is greener on the other side” adage is contributing to this fascinating socio-cultural phenomenon and while I can’t speak for the lifestyles of metropolitan Indians, I can fully understand why NRIs cling on to culture with their¬†dear lives.

Our parents are often the first generation of the familial line to call a foreign country home and in a multiplicity of unknowns, culture and tradition are the only known knowns. ¬†They are so scared that we will lose touch with our traditional roots, all of which are steeped in¬†immense spirituality, that they will go to any length to keep the spark of culture burning brightly within our hearts. And so, they spend hours of their week driving us to bharatanatyam classes, exposing us to temple-going culture and celebrating all Indian festivals at home to make sure that we know what our culture is about. They make sure that we spend time with our grandparents so that we may tap into the wealth of their knowledge and learn about the beauty of our traditions from people who have been practising them for decades. They constantly remind us that the “God first, others next and myself last” checklist¬†should drive our lifestyle choices always, always, always!

Plus, as they say, distance makes the heart grow fonder. Living further away from India makes us appreciate even the smallest aspects of¬†Indian culture. Seeing a kolam on every doorstep, for instance, or buying a million pairs of earrings from a street vendor for a grand total of 100 rupees. The sight of a temple gopuram every 10 kilometres, or the sound of temple bells. Echoes of the Venkateshwara suprabhatam ringing out from homes in the morning, or watching ladies engaging in all sorts of strenuous physical activities in sarees. Listening to the spell-binding singing of the apartment doorman who you would have sworn was Ustad Rashid Khan if your eyes were closed, or the go with the flow attitude of every single person you speak to on the street. The lack of road traffic rules and the lectures¬†of the local taxi uncle ( “In India, driving is all about mutual understanding mam” said he¬†as he drove onto oncoming traffic. On a one way street).

So, if we appear like country bumpkins in our braids, bindis and salwars rather than ¬†glamorous, bollywood actresses to everyone out there, we do not mind in the least. Our highs are¬†driven by incense¬†and bhajans and our lives are simple and straight-forward. Such¬†peace, much wow.¬†We are the way we are, and we are very happy with that ūüėõ

What are your most favourite aspects of Indian culture? Leave a comment below! 

Glossary: NRI (non-resident Indian), bharatanatyam (indian dance form), kolam (rice flour art), gopuram (temple arches), bhajan (devotional singing). 

The Curious Tale of The Wandering Tube-light

Here lies a tale of an effeminate soul, older than the body it called¬†home. Dropped from the heavens above, it found refuge in the womb of a woman it would soon call “amma”. It knew not where it came from, nor where it was going . All that it knew, was that it did not want to be born again. As it floated around the confines of it’s temporary home, it asked itself “Who am I?”. Asking thus, the new born babe made its dramatic entrance into the world, with firm resolve of answering this question by the end of its earthly sojourn.

KabńęrńĀ jab ham paidńĀ hue¬†jaga haŇĄse ham roye…..¬†

Saddened at leaving the heavenly abode from which it came, the infant cried. Around her, everyone smiled, eager to welcome the family’s newest member. As time passed, she began to smile too. After all, what was there to worry about? Before being born, she did not make arrangements for as to where her next meal was going to come from, nor where she would be sheltered. She did not choose the family that she was going to be born into and yet here she was, fully fed and clothed, with not a worry in the world. In this drama of life, with its pre-written script of pleasures and pains, triumphs and tribulations, she was merely a witness.

Of course, as she grew up, she sometimes forgot this reality, giving herself far more importance in her role of “planning her life” than she should have. She stressed over the outcomes of her efforts, walking around with the burden of her expectations lying heavily on her shoulders. She worried about bank account balances and future job prospects. She wondered where in the world life was going to take her. She cried over biochemistry and anatomy, over other mundane things of human reality, free-falling into the world of stress and worry.

prakrteh kriyamanani
gunaih karmani sarvasah
ahankara-vimudhatma
kartaham iti manyate

The confused soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks itself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by the Supreme.

Until one day, ¬†she decided that she had had enough. “Who am I?” she asked. Who was I before all the stress, and who will I be after all the stress? That day, she chose the path of happiness. The kind that could not be shaken by the trials of life. That day, she chose the path of love. The kind that put God first, everyone else next and herself last. That day, she wore a smile that could not be wiped off under any circumstance.¬†To the One who took care of her before she was born and the One that will continue to take care of her for time immemorial, she offered ultimate faith. She was no longer the doer.

She worried about nothing, she went with the flow and she took life as it came, one step at a time. Unfazed by calamity, she walked on her journey of life. Life was a game and she played it, laughing all the while. She knew she had God on her side. “Oh is this what we are doing now, life? Ok then! ” she chuckled as life took its own course. She still put in her best efforts into everything she undertook, but placed no expectations surrounding their¬†outcomes. She stopped taking herself and life seriously. She was just a humble tube-light, floating her way about life. She was very happy and in the end, that’s all that mattered. Therein lied her satisfaction. Everything was perfect, just the way it was!

Purnam adah purnam idam purnat purnam udachyate purnasya purnamadaya purnam evavashishyate

The Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete. And because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as a complete whole. Whatever is produced of the complete whole is also complete by itself. And so everything that happens, is perfect in His eyes.

What is your “quest for happiness story”? Leave a comment down below!

I am a 21 year old University student living in Australia. As I have never lived in India, I am no expert in Indian culture. However, my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Happy reading! 

 

 

The Navarathri Survival Guide

 

A comprehensive summary of recurring themes that inevitably present themselves during this 10 day extravaganza.

Pre-Navarathri

Forget about embracing your inner Goddess. Weeks¬†preceding the festival facilitate a need for you to embrace your inner architect. After hours spent thinking about which spot in the house would be perfect for the Golu of your dreams, there is then the business of designing the 3/5/7/9¬†step structure fit to bear the burden of both the idols, and the weight of your expectations. Of course after all the effort and time that you and your family members have put into the golu, mere completion of a frame that actually works brings about relief aplenty. To¬†your eyes, the structure looks just as good as if it were designed by Vishwakarma ( the celestial architect) himself. Once the golu is set up, ¬†there’s just a few more things¬†that need to be addressed before the festival starts.

Step 1: Bring out all Sarees and Kurtas that have not seen the light of day since Deepavali of the preceding year

Step 2: Think about all bad qualities and habits that you’d like to give up

Step 3: Mentally prepare yourself for the consumption of copious amounts of Chickpeas

Day 1-3: Goddess Durga Special

The first three days of the festival are dedicated to Goddess Durga. Dynamic and powerful, She is the giver of all forms of energy – spiritual, mental and physical. She represents the first potency present in man, the power of purposeful action (Kriya Shakthi). As your tongue rolls its way around the lyrics of the Lalitha Sahasraanam and your body acclimatises to the Navarathri fasting regime, you will be more than grateful for all the energy that you are tapping into during the first few days of the festival.

Day 4-6: Goddess Lakshmi Special

She is the Goddess of wealth galore; the wealth of character, intellect and health! She manifests herself as will power or Ichchaa Sakthi in you. Her worship thus serves as a reminder of the importance of accumulating the wealth of character, firm faith and steadfastness in your spiritual journey. Praying for iPhone 7s and Sephora gift cards are not recommended. Chanting the  Mahalakshmi ashtakam is suggested instead(better long term gains, you see).

Day 7-9: Goddess Saraswathi Special

This period is when you will witness the devout outpourings of fellow students in prayer rooms across the globe. With hands folded together in prostration, they pray earnestly. The phrasing might be slightly different, but in essence they are all praying for one thing. Maa Saraswati Gyaan do (Divine mother, please grant me enough knowledge to pass my exams). Goddess Saraswati bestows intelligence, the capacity for intellectual inquiry, and the power of discrimination . She manifests herself as the power of discrimination or Jnaana Shakthi. Ayudha pooja (worship of all educational tools) is conducted to pay respects to the instruments that help you in your worldly work. From a spiritual perspective, the weapons to be worshipped are the divine powers in man that enable spiritual progress.

Day 10: Vijayadashami

A day of great joy and jubilation, this day represents the triumph of good over evil. It is also a celebration of the conversion of ;

  1. Your will power (ichchaa shakthi) into a yearning for God
  2. Your purposeful action (kriya sakthi) into a force for doing Divine actions
  3. Your power of discernment (jnana sakthi) into the Divine Itself.

The entire festival is thus an elaborate construction of man designed for you to¬†¬†contemplate on God for ten days and cleanse yourself of all impurities to experience the divinity within. So enjoy visiting other people’s golu’s, basking in the glory of Her worship and chanting Her many names this Navarathri! You might get sick of sundal and¬†all the fasting you’re going to have to do, but you will always be glad for the inner peace you derive from celebrating this festival!

What are some of your cherished Navarathri memories? Leave a comment down below:)

 

Nava= nine, Rathri= night. Navarathri= nine nights devoted to the worship of the feminine principle. Various goddesses are revered throughout the course of the festival- culminating with Vijayadashmi on the tenth day. The festival symbolises the victory of good over evil and the awakening of Divinity within us.

Prayer Room Memoirs

Leaning on the door frame, she stared into the room that bore witness to some of the most precious¬†moments of her life. The memories were so vivid, stored as pristinely preserved images¬†in her mind’s eye. ¬†She¬†still remembered the day she first moved into the house as a new bride, happy but slightly overwhelmed by the prospects of a new family . “With one match, light¬†the wick ma. May you bring as much brightness and prosperity into our family as this sacred lamp does” said her mother-in- law a few seconds after she had stepped into her new home. She chuckled at the remembrance¬†of how young she had been, still untouched by the world or weights of responsibility. Eager to please, brows furried in concentration, she had prayed to the Gods above that she wouldn’t drop the matches or do anything untoward, something quite likely considering her naturally clumsy disposition. As the flame burnt brightly, she had breathed a huge sigh of relief and then, the rest of her life began to unfold.

The room acted as the backdrop for the infamous Thala Deepavali* couple shot ( which everyone had oohed and aaahed over for days together…lakshanam/tejas* filled,smiling faces + new saree/veshti combination always resulted in¬†newsfeed domination!). It acted as the recipient for every single food item she prepared with lots of love on festival days. Aah..how many kolams* had been drawn in that blessed room. How many job applications, home loan agreements, first salaries and exam results had been placed at the altar for blessings of the Almighty! How many times had they taken blessings there from the elders before embarking on important journeys, before making important life decisions? It was where the days of each and every member of the family started, and ended, for what was life without frequent reminders of our higher purpose?

As her offspring made a dramatic entrance into their lives, slowly but surely, the room began to take on a whole new dimension. It was no longer just the place where she could spend hours in blissful meditation. It was no longer merely a place of prayer. It was now a room where she would ponder about how best to maintain her inner peace amidst the spiralling chaos created by her adorable little toddlers, who seemed to be running on pools of limitless energy. It was now a room with an added disciplinary element, a naughty corner of sorts.”Vaishnavi, go and sit in front of Bhagawan* and think about what you have done. Once you feel truly sorry about your mistake, you can come out” she would chide, trying her best to maintain a serious expression. Of course, she would peep into the room on the sly to watch what her little brat was up to. The cute conversation between the child(now extremely sorry about her¬†mischief)and the Krishna statue was not to be missed. In fact, there had been times when she had run to call her husband to come watch!

As the¬†kids grew up, the room resonated with the sound of the tanpura which was used to tune voices, tablas, harmoniums, mridangams¬†and sitars. Countless hours of practice¬†was completed in the confines of those four walls. “Happa! How many instruments do you want me to put manjal*, kumkumam* on? I can’t bend down for that long di” her grandmother had said during the Saraswathi puja*. They were a musical bunch, indeed. She smiled as she remembered the numerous times she had bribed the kids with promises of trips to the park and ice-cream if they promised to chant 108 Gayathri mantras in that very room, ¬†daily. They would thank her for it later, hopefully.

Her thoughts were interrupted by her father and husband, who were carrying an assortment of tools and wood pieces into the room. Navarathri* was approaching and the Golu* was due to be put up. For reasons unknown to her, they had decided to go with an elaborate nine step structure. Time to make an exit, she thought. The construction ability of the men in the house was less than enviable, to say the least. There were bound to be a few mishaps. She rolled her eyes as they rejected her suggestion to perhaps, try and make a simpler version and wished them luck. They were going to need it.

What are some of your cherished prayer room memories? Leave a comment down below!

Glossary: Thala Deepavali( first festival of lights celebrated as a married couple), lakshanam/tejas (divine radiance), kolam( rice flour design), Bhagawan(god), manjal/kumkumam (turmeric, vermillion), Saraswathi Puja ( day where homage is paid to books/musical instruments ), Navarathri( nine day festival where the feminine principle is worshipped), Golu ( step-filled structure filled with various idols and dolls).

I am a 20 year old University student living in Australia. As I have never lived in India, I am no expert in Indian culture. However, my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Happy reading! 

 

 

Dilemmas of the Fourth Generation NRI ( Non Resident Indian)

If like me, you belong to¬†the fourth¬†generation NRI category, an identity crisis is definitely on the cards at some point in your life. If you are the first generation in your family living outside India, then¬†not so much. For you guys,¬†things are nice and easy. For instance, when people ask about where you are from, you are able to give a¬†short one line response (i.e. I’m from Mumbai¬†and I currently live in the U.K.). When it comes to adaptability, you only have to deal with the fusion¬†of two cultures( that too, you will still be 90% Indian with a¬†10% hint of global flavour). Essentially, you are still ¬†Indian, with zero chances of an impending identity crisis. But for us fourth¬†Gen NRIs on the other hand, oh boy, it’s a whole different story. Why, you ask?

#1 Queries about our place of origin are enough to make us doubt our own identity

Aunty: Where are you from?

Me: Australia

Aunty: Ahaan, but where are you really from?

Me: Oh, I was born in Malaysia but moved to Australia a while ago.

Aunty(now annoyed): Yes, but originally?  From Tamil Nadu or Kerala? Your features are very Indian.

Me: Well,I’m sure several generations ago my ancestors were from¬†India, but everyone in my¬†family including patti(grandma) and tata(granddad) were born in Malaysia. I have no idea which part of India we are from.

Aunty: Aah that’s what I’m telling na, you’re Indian.

Me: …… yeah, I guess.

#2 India is home, but India is not home

Making a trip to India brings about a mixed bag of feelings. Everything is so familiar; the sounds, the smells, the food, the people, the culture, but at the same time, there is no particular part of India that we can call home. There is no family or family home to go back to. And so, we experience India much like tourists would, living in hotels, eating in restaurants and getting around in taxis. It’s¬†fine because India lends its charm to everyone, foreign or not, but it would be pretty¬†cool to have an ancestral family home in a quaint town somewhere!( cue dream sequence vision of family members in sarees, hair laden with malli pu (jasmine) , anklets tinkling as we walk around a Kula Deivam Koil(ancestral temple). Sigh.)

#3 We understand our mother tongue, but aren’t confident speaking it

We love¬†the sound of Tamil and are quite capable of understanding and¬†formulating sentences if need be, but because everyone from our parents to grandparents speak in¬†English, speaking in Tamil doesn’t come naturally to us. It’s so nice to observe families from India speaking in such beautiful Tamil to each other and we really should try to learn our mother tongue! There are some classically Tamil sentiments and expressions that English just can’t do justice to.

#4 We belong neither here nor there, when it comes to pretty much everything

We aren’t typically Indian, nor are we Western. We have no idea which subsection of Indian familial classification we belong to ( a result of a long line of inter-cultural marriages once the family line left India). Our values are Indian, but we aren’t fussed about caste or creed. We aren’t as good as Indians at pronouncing Indian words, but we aren’t as bad as Westerners at pronouncing them either. Indians recognise us as foreigners(unless we¬†look super traditional) and so do Westerners! Along the way, we have incorporated¬†a little bit of the culture of each¬†place we have lived in,¬†resulting in an amusing blend of socio-cultural adaptations(i.e. yours truly, the South Indian looking, Hindustani music loving, ¬†English speaking, ¬†Malaysian food eating, Australian Tamil Girl!).

As confusing as it can be to be a fourth-generation NRI, we still manage to maintain our Indian heritage abroad and that in itself is an amazing feat.So to all my fellow NRIs, chin up and keep celebrating the glory of our beautiful culture!¬†Let’s learn more about our traditions and culture¬†so that they will be vibrant for many more years to come.

What are the dilemmas you face as a NRI? Leave a comment below:)

 I am a 20 year old University student living in Australia. As I have never lived in India, I am no expert in Indian culture. However, my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Parts of this blog are fictional, while others are based on my own experiences. Happy reading! РDivya

 

 

The only caste I belong to is the caste of humanity

Nothing irritates me more than caste based discrimination. It is never okay to treat people as lesser beings based on their caste. It is never okay to think that we are better than other people just because we belong to a particular sect of society and above all, it is never okay to treat someone without love and respect.

There is no need to employ the usage of¬†labels like¬†“Shudra” or “Dalit” in our daily conversations, nor is there a need for us to mention caste at all, in light of the lifestyles we lead in the 21st century. Why ¬†highlight something that divides people and creates conflict? To be honest, I think that caste based discrimination is an insult to Indian culture that is built upon the foundations of non-duality(i.e. seeing no difference between oneself and God, and seeing everything in the universe as a manifestation of God).

At the outset, we must realise that the Vedas assign people into castes based on their Gunas(qualities) and Karma(activities), NOT birth. If you take a look at verses from the Gita, you will notice that it says;

ekavarŠĻáama idama pŇęrvam viŇõvama ńĀsida yudhiŇõthira,¬†karmakriyńĀviŇõesena caturvarŠĻáyama pratiŇõthitama¬†

The whole world was originally of one class but was later divided into four divisions on account of specific duties.

chńĀtur-varnyam mayńĀ srishtaŠĻĀ guna-karma-vibhńĀgaŇõhah,¬†tasya kartńĀram api mńĀm viddhyakartńĀram avyayam

The four categories of occupations were created  according to people’s qualities and activities.

In essence what this means is that the classes are¬†based on innate temperament and role in society, not heredity! And really, this makes a lot of sense. I mean, you don’t become an engineer just because your father is an engineer. You can only become an engineer if you complete your degree and are qualified to take on the role right? Similarly, you can only assign yourself to a particular caste if your life reflects the activities that are associated with the caste.

So, let’s play a little game of “What Caste Do I Really Belong to?”

If Sattva(Divine) guna(quality) predominates your nature, and you live a life filled with acts performed in remembrance of God, then you are a Brahmin.

If your temperament is predominantly Rajasic(Passionate) with a tinge of Sattva guna and you are a brave warrior involved in upholding the safety of society, then you are a Kshatriya.

If your nature is predominantly Rajasic with a tinge of Tamas(inertia) and you are a trader or farmer, you are a Vaishya.

If Tamasic qualities predominate your character and Rajasic qualities are secondary and you are extremely efficient at serving others, you are a Shudra.

If you do not feel like you fit into any of the above categories, fear not! IT REALLY DOES NOT MATTER. Indian culture teaches us that divinity resides in the heart of ALL beings, and that we must respect and acknowledge this divinity in everyone (this is the significance of greeting people with Namaste). Love and respect is part of Indian culture, ignorance and hatred is not. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

And yes, we are all¬†aware of the scriptural reference that¬†describes Brahmins being born out God’s mouth and Shudras being born out of God’s feet, which creates much confusion in the minds of people who have misinterpreted this to mean that Brahmins belong at the top of a hierarchy and Shudras belong at the bottom. The reference is merely a¬†METAPHOR. What it means is that all four classes have to work together for society to function efficiently, just like how all our body parts need to work together for us to operate!In all the fuss¬†created around who belongs to what caste and what place each one should occupy in¬†society, we seem to have forgotten what it means to be human.

Why do we forsake compassion for the sake of rigidity?It is time to let it go, it is time to be free. There is only one caste, the caste of humanity.

Modern Day Tradition Lovers!

It’s not easy being a modern day Indian Girl. I mean, we are occupied with¬†the pursuit of degrees and careers (which is likely to lead to stress related hair loss along with financial independence) whilst¬†trying to strike a balance between modernisation and tradition. I feel like in the toss up between trying to be a high-flying professional in heels and being the quintessential Indian woman, culture and tradition often take the back seat. If we really wanted to, we could be the kolam* putting, bindi wearing Indian girl and power-suit wearing career woman at the same time. Where there is a will, there is a way!

Here are 4 things modern day Indian girls trying to preserve culture know all too well…

#1 Contrary to popular belief, our lives are NOT boring. Neither are we.

Our wardrobes are an amalgamation of jeans and saris, maang tikkas* and floral headbands, kurti tops and evening dresses. We are just as good at making pav bhajis as we are at making lasagnes. We enjoy¬†reading the works of Tagore¬†just as much as we adore the works of Jane Austen. We don’t mind a bit of fusion even though our hearts are lost to the greats of Indian Classical music. Plus we can tease you to no end in at least two different languages (be prepared to get owned).

#2 We are strong-willed (aka stubborn)

We are adaptable to change and are happy to go with the flow for practically everything ( cue no major preferences for places to see, type of car we drive or clothing brands), but one indication that our morals are at risk and we turn into  warrior princesses. Of course, we are not perfect and we make mistakes sometimes, but we really do try to be uncompromising about our values and traditions because this is the only way culture can be passed on to future generations.

#3 We often end up being the centre of unwanted attention

As much as being traditional feels so natural to us, we often forget that we are seen as a rarity in modern day¬†society. Our friends and family are used to us, so we don’t really notice this fact until we meet new people. Then, there’s no running away from the spotlight. Be prepared for gasps of disbelief and comments about your past life “nee romba nala padare, nee pona janmathule Bhagawanekke ten ode abhishekam pannirpe*”.

#4 We are subject to interesting predicaments our peers will never understand

Sorry, I am not allowed to carpool with boys (Amma voice : THE ONLY BOY you are going anywhere with is your husband). Sorry, I have to get home before it gets dark ( Amma voice: everyone who lives here¬†needs to get home¬†before Bramhamuhurtham* ends). Sorry, I’m doing my prayers ( Amma voice: there is always enough time in a day to think about your salvation). Call it being over-protected or old-fashioned, but ultimately, our parents only go out of their way to protect us because they care for us. And really, we will only be treated like pampered, spoilt princesses by¬†our parents. No one else is really going to drive us¬†around everywhere at the cost of their inconvenience or go out of their way to make sure that nothing ever goes wrong for us!

What are other things you experience as a modern day Indian girl( or a friend of one)? Leave a comment down below:)

Glossary: Kolam( rice pattern made in indian homes), maang tikka( indian hair jewel), nee romba…( you sing really well, you must have offered so much honey to God in your past life), brahmamuhurtham ( auspicious time period of ¬†4-8 am/pm)

I am a 20 year old University student living in Australia. I am no expert in Indian culture, but my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Parts of this blog are fictional, while others are based on my own experiences. Any Brahmin influences on my writing are solely due to the fact that most of my exposure to the Tamil language has been through my TamBrahm friends ( I am not one). Happy reading! РDivya

 

Tamizh New Year Adventures!!!

Kausalya Supraja Rama Poorva Sandhya Pravartathe Uthistha Narasardoola Karthavyam Daiva Manikam*…..¬†The smell of incense wafted through the air, amidst the fragrance¬†of the tremendous¬†ghee content present in the javarisi payasam*¬†offered as naivedyam* in the prayer room. Patti* had already heated coconut oil and camphor in her prized kuli karandi* which she had apparently inherited from her great-grandmother. ¬†She gently applied this oil onto my¬†long tresses while simultaneously¬†delivering a dose of scolding. “Thala la ozhunga ennai thechuka matela? Yen ipdi thalaiya viruchu potundu pei madri sutharel?” “Patti, neenga mattum ipdi solrel. Ellarum enakku ¬†Koonthal Azhagi nu per vechirka*”. The oiling was complete and Patti gave the hair one final brush through. Amma walked in with the new panchangam*, freshly anointed with sandalwood¬†and vermillion. “Where is everyone? I’ve been calling everyone to come to the puja room for the past twenty minutes!”

En Kaadal¬†Sikki Mukki Thikki Vikkethu, Kumari*…. Appa emerged from the bathroom with an enraged expression on his face.¬†“Who is playing all this kandraavi* on New Year’s day? Sailu, how many times will we have to talk to you about this?” “Yenna, be happy that he is at least awake at this time. Remember last year….?” Amma came to the rescue of her precious son, as usual. Eventually, everyone settled down, much to the relief of patti, who looked like she was about to blow her fuse at any moment. She could never understand why so much hoo-ha was caused on festival days in this household. ¬†Of course, as the resident chamathu kozhandei* of our family, I cause 0% of this hoo-ha. Naturally, 100% of problems are caused by my brother, who due to some misfortune, believes he is God’s gift to mankind and has the freedom to do as he pleases.

No festival day is complete without a family photo in which we are all dressed up in our finest sarees¬†and veshtis which will most likely only ever make a re-appearance during Navarathri* several months later. Obviously, the photo will be sent to all relatives and family friends who will gush over how big I’ve gotten and tell amma to dhristhi sutthi podufy* me.

Anyway, New Year’s day or not, the practice of oiling and plaiting my hair is a regular occurrence. I have a natural hair product collection that could rival any modern day girl’s makeup collection. Almond oil, bhringraj oil, coconut oil, amla oil, shikakai, gingelly oil etc. Let me tell you that washing hair that is way past your hip¬†is no easy feat. That stuff is time consuming. Not to mention the drying process. But, it is such a therapeutic thing to brush out your hair, such a comfort to have your head massaged by your paati and no doubt, a great joy to have sambraani* waved under it to have that heavenly smell lingering about in your hair all day long.

I used to wonder why all Indian women had such long hair and it was only recently that I found out that it wasn’t just about the aesthetics. Hair is inextricably linked to energy and the Kundalini and that is why many saints and holy men place their hair at the very top of their head. This leads to a higher perceptibility to higher order thinking and actually aids in spirituality. Staying away from cutting your hair regularly also means that the energy your body would utilise to regrow your hair continuously, can be better used for spiritual enquiry! Keeping hair tied and not letting it hang loose is also an aid in conserving energy. So as much as many of my friends and family members would like me to “layer” my hair and “get with the times”, I think I’ll stick to my long hair thanks. Nothing more beautiful then a long, neat braid with some jasmine flowers in it :p

Happy Tamil New Year to all my readers! How will you be celebrating today?

Glossary: Kausalya supraja…..= line from a morning prayer regularly played in Indian households, javarisi payasam= sago sweet dish, kuli karandi= steel, curved spoon naivedyam= food offered to God, paati= grandma,¬†Thala la ozhunga…= won’t you put oil in our hair properly? I don’t understand why girls these days walk around with their hair loose looking like ghosts,¬†Patti, neenga….= you’re the only one who says all this, everyone calls me the one with beautiful hair, panchangam= hindu calendar, chamathu kozhandei= well-behaved child, En Kaadal….= line from a love song, Kandraavi= nonsense, Navarathri= festival, dhrishti sutti podufy= removing evil eye, Sambraani= frankincense¬†

 

I am a 20 year old University student living in Australia. I am no expert in Indian culture, but my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Parts of this blog are fictional, while others are based on my own experiences. Any Brahmin influences on my writing are solely due to the fact that most of my exposure to the tamil language have been from my TamBrahm friends (I am not one). Happy reading! РDivya

Goals of Human Existence: Lest We Forget

I’m quite new to Facebook. In fact, I’ve only had it for nine months, and so far ¬†#cargoals, #housegoals, #makeupgoals and other¬†related¬†hashtags have been dominating my newsfeed. Which got me thinking: how much time do we spend thinking about the goals of human existence? If life is about eating, sleeping and gathering objects for survival, then aren’t we leading lives that are akin to those of animals? What makes human life so special?

I mean, let’s think about this seriously for a second. There are hundreds of thousands of species inhabiting the world and out of all the possibilities out there, we were born as humans. Texts of all religions converge on the fact¬†that once man was created, there was nothing higher left to create. Which I think is pretty on point. Of all the species, man is the only one endowed with manas( mind), buddhi (intelligence), chittha(reasoning faculty) and ahamkaara(ego/identification of self with the body) whilst the ego aspect is predominant in animals. With all these extra endowments, ¬†it’s pretty safe to say that man would be in a grave predicament if he too centred his life solely around needs and desires for survival, much like his animal co-habitants.

It is embedded so deeply within Indian culture that obtaining a human birth is the result of accumulated merit of millions of births, and not using it to discover our higher purpose is a travesty.This raises an important question: how do you survive in this world that requires you to earn money and pay  bills AND also think about your higher purpose in life?

According to Hinduism, the four goals of human existence are;

  1. Dharma: Righteousness
  2. Artha: Accumulation of wealth
  3. Kama: Fulfilment of desires
  4. Moksha: Liberation via knowing the nature of the self, termination of the cycle of birth and death

So the solution to this question is pretty simple, really: accumulate wealth only for the sake of upholding righteousness(i.e. providing for you self and your family) , and redirect desires you have for things that give you temporary happiness, to that which will give you everlasting bliss( liberation).

Hinduism also prescribes 4 stages of life, which makes accomplishing these goals a whole lot easier.

Stage 1: Bramhacharya(0-25 yrs)

Accumulation of knowledge and skills

Stage 2: Grihastha(25-50 yrs)

Marriage, raising righteous children and creating a household that is fit for God.

Stage 3: Vanaprastha(50-75 yrs)

Retirement

Stage 4: Sanyasam(75-100 yrs)

Giving up all attachments and desires and turning the mind fully towards God.

Combining the 4 goals with the 4 life stages, you can see that Stage 1 involves Dharma, Stage 2 involves Dharma, Artha and Kama while Stage 3&4 pertain to Moksha. Pretty cool right?

Every aspect of Indian culture is pretty much a chapter fit to be a part of a “Moksha for dummies” guide. It has literally all been laid out for us. All we have to do now is sit back, relax and follow the path so easily marked out for us by this beautiful culture. I suppose we could challenge the knowledge given to us by the ancients, and test the waters by going against what has already been prescribed for the sake of our own affirmations and fancies, but I’d much rather stick to the tried and tested method. Why lose energy digging up so many different holes for the sake of experimentation to strike gold when we can so easily strike the same by persistent digging in one spot? I don’t know about #cargoals and #housegoals, but I’m definitely all for #humanlifegoals :p

What do you think? Is it so easy to get caught up within the ephemeral in today’s day and age? Leave a comment down below!

I am a 20 year old University student living in Australia. I am no expert in Indian culture, but my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Parts of this blog are fictional, while others are based on my own experiences and interactions with friends. Happy reading! РDivya