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Modern traditions November 28, 2015

Posted by globejam in Uncategorized.

moderntitleAll around us and all through the year, we see a lot of traditional practices being followed. For Deepavali, we light lamps and burst crackers, for Bogi, we burn stuff, for a death we take out processions, for the tamil month of Aadi we hire loudspeakers and let Seergazhi and L R Eashwari belt out songs, and for New Year we drink and make merry.

The list of such practices is a long one. Though many of us believe that these are traditions that have been practiced for millennia, I am sure many of the detrimental aspects of these traditions are recent additions.

After all, were there carcinogenic fireworks 200 years ago? Did we have polluting tyres to burn 100 years ago? Were there peace-shattering loudspeakers readily available even 50 years ago? I think not. As with most things in India, traditions have adapted to the times and circumstances.

Asking people to revert to the cleaner versions is a non-starter. Every year, just before deepavali, facebook is full of pictures of children holding placards that read “Have a silent Deepavali. Say no to crackers”, with little effect.

So, for a change, instead of naively writing about how we can try and modify the behaviour of people, I would like to imagine a world where a set of earth-friendly new traditions take root.

In that spirit, here are a five new traditions that I would like to see.

1. Death and birth

When a person dies, the family and friends (and paid mourners) of the deceased take out a procession from the house to the crematorium with great fanfare, make a lot of noise, throw flowers along the way, disrupt traffic and generally make life difficult for others.

As a new tradition, when a child is born, why not have a procession from the hospital to the home where friends and family of the new parents walk in a single file on the pavement, carry brooms and garbage bins and silently clean the roads along the way?

2. Deepavali

On the day after, the roads are full of red and white shredded paper like so much blood and bone, plastic and cardboard boxes (from the packing) are piled up at corners and the air thick with acrid smoke.

As a new tradition, on the day after Deepavali, families could join together and clean their streets, so they quickly revert to their pre-deepavali splendour. In addition, they could refrain from using their cars and bikes for as many days as their families were involved in bursting crackers. That way, they can compensate for the pollution created.

3. Bogi.

The burning of old stuff is a symbolic way of doing away with the old and ringing in the new. That is why people traditionally burnt old stuff on Bogi, the day before Pongal -the harvest festival that stands for hope and all things new.

Given that many of the products and clothes people burn/discard these days are eminently usable by the less fortunate, why not create a new tradition of refurbishing products (instead of burning them) and donating them to those who may use the products for the purpose they were made, thereby extending their useful life.

4. The noisy month of Aadi

The Tamil month Aadi (the 4th month of the tamil calendar) is considered an inauspicious time for “good” events such as betrothals and weddings. However, it is a period when temple festivals are conducted with gusto and loudspeakers blare out religious fare from sunrise to well beyond sunset.

As a new tradition, why not have the next month (avani) as a silent month, when we will all refrain from using horns and loud speakers. Maybe even have deep discount sales on autorickshaw silencers! Ah! A month of peace and quiet will be nice. We may even hear the birds for a change.

5. Christmas and new year

At the end of the year, the retail industry goes into overdrive to feed our consumerist frenzy. We struggle to identify meaningful gifts for ourselves and our loved ones and eventually buy something (however useful or not) because ’tis the season and it demands it.

Instead, (or in addition to) how about going to orphanages, destitute homes and government schools where the poorer children are and help them make wishlists and fulfill those? That way we will surely end up buying gifts that are needed and are much appreciated.

Let the new traditions begin!



1. Gita - November 28, 2015

Good ideas on new traditions!! Now to popularise them!! If it is going to do good, it will be difficult to get people to accept them.

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