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A Non-Holiday Tradition

January is over and along with it, those remnant feelings from the holidays of celebration, ritual and tradition. From September to December and through the celebratory season, we make a conscious effort to bring family together, honor age-old practices and create warmth in the home. Robbie and I went to church and temple more, played holiday music, decorated the house and ate our favorite holiday foods.

Holidays 2012

We enjoyed special family traditions too, without which, the holidays just wouldn’t be the same – nachos with my cousins after a weekend of Diwali goodies, chit-chatting with my sister-in-law while wrapping gifts until the wee hours, huevos rancheros on Christmas morning. Observing tradition during the holidays is fun and easy; that is what the holidays call on us to do. By the same token, the holiday season certainly makes January feel bland.

At least that is how I was feeling a couple of weeks ago, unceremoniously packing away Christmas décor with the tv on in the background. And then I heard the new Vonage commercial – the one with the Indian lady who switched to Vonage so she could speak to her mother miles away – the one where she breaks out into an old classic Hindi film song Abhi Na Jao Chhod Kar – this song:

Hearing the song, I grew nostalgic. All of a sudden, I was back in my parents’ kitchen where I’d heard them sing this song together for as long as I can remember. I missed them. I missed home and that feeling of happiness and warmth that my parents created in our house day-in and day-out . . . even when there were no holidays . . . even in January.

I searched for the song on my morning commute, downloaded it to my phone, and listened to it everywhere – at my desk, on my walk to court, on my train ride back home. It made me so happy. It reminded me of Saturday mornings growing up, when my parents would tune into Narendra Sheth’s Indian music radio program, Geetmala; of hearing my parents excitedly call to each other whenever they heard an old favorite, singing together through various household chores; of working on school projects at the kitchen table, all the while listening to my mom sing; and of family car rides, singing together and learning songs that are engrained in my parents’ past. I began to realize to that music – Indian music – everywhere all the time – was a non-holiday tradition that my parents created without even realizing it. And as a tradition, it grew to define entire parts of my life, like childhood and home.

For the past couple of weeks, I have been listening to more of my parents’ old favorite songs, dreaming of creating the same feeling of “home” for Aashi that my parents created for me, yet wondering how it will ever be possible. Unlike the holidays, when the celebratory hype pulls you in and reminds you, “‘tis the season,” there are few reminders during the rest of the year to practice the other traditions that you grew up with. And because I might forget, or go days without singing to her or playing music for her, I worry that Aashi will never capture what I loved so much about my home. I worry that she will have a different sense of home than I do, one that isn’t as musical or as warm as what my parents created for me. Then again, who is to say that she would share the same sense of home, even if I was able to recreate it? Even siblings from the same home hold on to different pieces of the same past. I know that ultimately, it is up to Aashi – not me – to determine what “home” means to her. In the meantime, I am determined to incorporate part of my parents’ world in our world here – to bring more music into our lives, more regularly. (And while I do not plan on switching to Vonage, I am thankful that it tuned me into what I had been missing – and explained why perhaps January in Chicago always felt a bit emptier than January in Michigan ever did.)

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mona Mehta #

    beautifully written and great food for thought, keya. made me miss home too!

    January 31, 2013
    • Thanks, Mona. I figured most Detroiters would appreciate the Geetmala reference 🙂

      February 8, 2013
  2. Aashi's Papa #

    My two cents:
    Whether you realize it or not, well before Vonage entered your life, you put music into Aashi’s life every day – I know this without question because when you went to New Orleans for the weekend, that first day the house was quieter than it had been in a long time. It was still home, but not. Make sense? So I had to sing – and Aashi knew it just wasn’t the same – not without Mama*. *(Unless of course it’s bahay kubo at bedtime!)

    January 31, 2013
  3. Listening to old Hindi and Bengali songs make me nostalgic too! Very well written!

    January 31, 2013
    • Thank you! I’m probably the last person to find out about Saavn, but a friend just told me about it – it’s a free app. that lets you search for and save Indian music to your mobile device. My entire commute these days involves creating playlists for our house. You can also set your language preference between Hindi, Gujarati, Bengali, Tamil, etc., so your search results will bring you songs in your selected language. Then again, you may already know about this 🙂

      February 8, 2013

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