By: Rhijuta D
This week, we have a two part series on the festival of Teej. Please share your thoughts as this is a festival that has varying opinions. Don’t forget to subscribe so you can get these discussion right in your inbox.
Last week, I sent my piece to my friend and my editor about Teej and Nepal, how the nostalgia I used to have of the festivities was now masked by the new middle class having elaborate parties and also being unclear on why women fast on this day. While writing the entry itself, I had done my most not to get carried away by my emotions and not sound too negative. The Teej piece was just about my feelings when I was in Nepal around that time and because I do not celebrate, I stood out. During the process of finishing off the article, I had talked to my friends and few other people to get their opinions, some liked the festival for the sarees and the potays (beaded necklaces), some women wanted to fast for their husband, and some felt forced too. Some women also said it was because they were Hindu so they would not question it as it is part of the tradition. I had concluded that entry by saying that maybe I am not Nepali enough to blindly accept this tradition, the same tradition I had fond memories of as a child and the same traditions I had not questioned when growing up outside of Nepal.
On the day of the Teej itself, I read some of my friends’ updates and saw countless photos social media. This made me feel like maybe I am the only one being cynical about the festival. One of my friend’s said it was a festival recognizing women’s empowerment. Maybe I had failed to see this and maybe it was (or was it also looking at Teej with a very rose tinted glass?). I also read the newspapers and it was all so encouraging and happy, men saying how they don’t want their wives to fast but their wives insisted, so who are they to stop them? Perhaps because I am not married, I haven’t felt the urge to fast for my husband’s life span. However, I did read one article that said maybe the wives should encourage their men to go to the gym and cut down on greasy food, smoking and alcohol if they want their men to live longer. Amen to that writer.
Overall I felt guilty that maybe I wasn’t in the place to question Hindu traditions when I haven’t even read Bhagwad Gita (FYI it is on my reading list).
So instead of posting that piece, I am writing this. My editor friend said the blog was good but maybe I should not include my name because it’s slightly controversial and not balanced. We want people to think differently but we do not want them to be offended by what we write. In our blogs, we haven’t quite pushed the boundary so maybe this could be it but it could also mean that some of my good friends may find that it’s so against their beliefs that I get shunned as the weird one.
There was a bit of to and fro between me and my friend about what I should change in the blog and I was unsure to whether we should even post it. This whole situation got me thinking about how sometimes we are too scared to say how we feel because it’s so against how everyone thinks. Just having these conversations about whether we should include my name and how we should write a pretext saying not everyone may like it speaks volume about the society we come from. We are so worried about expressing our opinions because it differs from the majority.
But why was I so scared of sounding different? Me and my friend, we both grew up with western cultures (outside our immediate home) but we don’t have any difficulties putting our opinions forward and we are used to having discussions on various topics with friends in bars, pubs and coffee shops. When we were in college / uni, most of our time was probably spent on debating various issues and non-issues. But then again, we know we are also the black sheep of our families, going against the norm and in the past, when we have sat down with our parents to discuss something, we have been told, ‘testai huncha Nepal ma’, ‘your grandparents would not approve’, ‘don’t make us upset, we are not discussing this further’ too many times. Or maybe one day I would like to marry my Nepali man and not be the buhari (daughter in law) that does not believe in Teej.
*Share your thoughts on Teej. What does it mean to you? Do you celebrate, how do you celebrate?