Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Passing on the baton- Fasting feasting and more

I am sure for each generation there comes a time, when they wonder about what they are passing on to the next generation. More likely to be when they start getting old enough to miss their younger days and not too old to forget those. Its very human to try to hold on things and traits familiar to one’s life. Change is unsettling and unknown. Most of us try to renounce the new ways as inferior and lacking in values ...at least till it is too late . I read somewhere in Readers’ Digest that when rock music came , the previous generation declared it death of the music . Some people still argue that email and e-chatting ruined the romance of an actual face to face tête-à-tête and handwritten letters. In our country for last three generations parents thought that they have lost the battle for morals and culture with the coming of Gramophone, cinema and TV soaps respectively. But each generation survived and flourished- defined their own values, culture and moral fabric in its own ways. I often feel that a lot was lost/missed in between the transition . But you can’t miss what you don’t know…so life goes on. Before I philosophize more on the issue I must tell you the context . I went to my hometown- lucknow last week . Like all people who are away from the towns they grew up in, whenever i go, I try to spot familiar things, sights, smells and sounds. It was rather interesting timing to visit this city .It is the time when one can witness the ganga –jamuni culture at its best. I reached there on Rakshabandhan day and will be returning again on the day of Janmashtami. Of course, the holy month of Ramadan is going on and half the city was fasting and waiting for Eid . These days are special for the city and they have always been so .
Though most Indian cities are now losing their old character – at least the very visible sights of it, Lucknow always celebrated festivals in style. Even when the new stuff is paving way for the old…it was the mix of the two I found in my town this time. Well, we might have new Barista and Café coffee day now….we still have our Royal café. But for some of us the change is unsettling . You can’t blame us. Those of us who left the city years back , now go back there and try to look for familiar sounds, sights and smells to renew our days . Alas, things change…and so do cities. An old shopkeeper in Hazratganj told me that the Mehfils which marked the hours after Iftar are gone . In very characteristic lehza he bitterly told that no one bothers about the usual chit chat unless they are in a TVchat show and getting paid to talk
.Thanks to the politicians iftar parties had long lost their pure social and religious meaning . The weight conscious youngsters no longer enjoy the famous nahari kulchas and other traditional stuff used to break the roza. Even the famous shops of Nazeerabad, Akbari gate and rest of old lucknow have lost the glitter and activities of iftaar . After two three hours of iftaar these shops are closed like regular days . One will still find the stalls of Kashmiri chai or huge makeshift shops selling seviyans but the ramzani raunak of our good old days is definitely lost. Even when the new generation goes for these products, they prefer taking it from the outlets in the malls rather than the old town. People no longer prefer the leisure and the joy of conversation at a shop anymore. A witty repartee or a clever remark from the shop owner …a couplet or two to answer a question from the panwallah , no longer interests the people. The customers look for business like efficiency and that’s all.
The point I am trying to reach is that while I find ( and feel happy to find) malls, multiplexes and known food chains wherever I go , I do feel a pang in my heart for the era that is lost. Its not only about eateries . I wonder who will remember the floral rakhis on rakshabandhan few years from now. These rakhis made from real flowers and customized as per the insistence of the sisters buying them, were visible at every florist shop of lucknow till 3-4 years back. I try telling myself that these things hardly matter. If we looked for those rakhis in our days the new generation has fancy gadgets and chocolates to find on this day .
But the sense of missing a part of my familiar world does not go easily . Everytime we have a family gathering my aunts and sisters end up talking about old family recipes and efforts made to make those perfect pickles, papad and other mouthwatering dishes meant for special occasions. I always loved the festival of janmashtami and the fast which comes with it . Being the foodie I am , the reason was the special dishes made up of dryfruits, coconut and other stuff. The vrat food which was “allowed” in a fast. The tradition is almost lost in my family. Even I do not care to make these delicacies in my home . The food we eat is mostly the same throughout the year . The joy of eating khichuri on a particular day and roasted green gram on other has given place to easier options. Of course, we have adopted many more dishes in our menu but the tradition of making a particular dish for a particular festival/day is not there anymore. May be the next generation will not miss these traditions- we have afterall not passed it on to them . For kids in my colony these “ minor” festivals are just school holidays and they feel happy about it by watching their favorite shows or playing computer games . It is in vain to feel sorry about old things which are going out of fashion. It is somewhat inevitable. Perhaps it is more important to hold on tightly with our values . I just hope that we are missing on just the most visible parts of legacy and not the most important ones. I mean as long as families enjoy happy times together , it hardly makes a difference whether it is in a family gathering eating traditional kheer or enjoying a TV show eating pizza.

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