My son was suffering from certain allergies recently and we could not zero in on the cause. Giving him steroids was the only solution and it was something we didn’t really want to do. The doc suggested a strict diet with no processed food , diary and a list of forbidden foods along with the medication. It was not so easy, following the diet for a 4 year old foodie . But he was very cooperative , must be because he suffered enough during the sick periods .
Sometimes we would visit some family or relatives who would try giving him some processed food or stuff that was forbidden. My son would mostly say No to those , but would sometimes fall into temptation . Then he would get sick within a couple of hours and steroids would follow.
Once we were at my in laws place, they brought some nivedyam from the temple. This was a mixture of a lot of things including jaggery , ghee , some fruits etc. Jaggery was a strict NO for him , coz it is now being processed in our place using caustic soda and other chemicals. My son didn’t want to eat it either , but my inlaws forced him saying its God ‘s food. I wanted to protest coz I knew what little P would go through if he got , but still kept mum coz even the youngsters including my BIL was supporting the argument.
I was brought up in a family who visited temples not quite regularly. My sister and I used to light the deepam (lamp) everyday and chant the hymns which we were taught. Somewhere within we believed that doing good is the way to be . Not that I was an angel . But we believed the principle that “Do good and God will shower his blessings”.
I got married to a family who believed that temples are the way to life. In fact the whole town believed that way. Women rarely went to work . Their routine meant wake up, bathe , dress in the best clothes , visit temples and blindly followed a zillion rituals. If someone told my MIL that she has to jump 5 times facing the east on a Wednesday morning , she would do that. But when she starts forcing me to do it , the equation changes.
I also found a few atheists / non believers in this religious family. Slowly I realized that , these odd customs make you lose your faith. It increases your faith if you do not think or if you are not logical. I agree , I may do a lot of things that are not logical. But when you force someone to do something that is not logical they lose the trust.
I dread going to my inlaws when I have my period. Life is hell there then.
It is the same for festival days and religious days. I cannot pray when I go to the temple with them. I am conscious and I find that I keep checking for customs and traditions to make sure I do not break them. Otherwise , when I go to a temple , I pray in peace. I find a connect with God then. When customs and traditions take priority , they disturb the connect.
Also , when I go with my son, I have to keep checking to ensure that he doesn’t touch any of the priests. I find it ridiculous now. A small innocent child who is running around touches you while playing, and he pollutes you? There was this priest who have told him , Son be careful if you touch me I have to go take a bath. When they give him the holy water , theertham , they are so careful that they do not touch him . Not all priests are like this though, there was an educated Brahmin in my hometown who never cared about such traditions. He was the chief priest in one of the famous temples , he would bless the children on their heads and never believed that by touching them he was polluted for the rest of the day.
For me its about doing good. For me its about treating people equal irrespective of caste or creed. The same MIL who follows all such customs treats my muslim maid with so much disrespect coz she is not a hindu. To me , showing respect and helping the needy is the way to life rather than visiting 101 temples. I can accept when my mil’s generation does it but when the 20 and 30 year olds do it , then it disturbs me. But again , as I do not like them inflicting their ideas on me how can I force my thoughts on them ? So let it be.