Speaking Up & Teej

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?

11 thoughts on “Speaking Up & Teej

  1. well, being born and raised in Nepal – i could see some cultural significance of Teej but at the same time, dietitian in me wants all the husbands to go to the gym, quit smoking, and make a habit of eating more fruits and vegetables! Also, since I am not married, it does not appeal (or will appeal) to me the same way as it does to my mom. Another thing I have noticed is that since I am surrounded mostly by non-nepali people, it does not even feel like Teej so it doesnt mean much to me.

    • Richa P says:

      I know what you mean. I grew up in the states and I don’t remember participating in any Teej festivals. My mom would do her puja and fasting but she never made me do it. The Nepali community usually had a gathering but I never went because I just didn’t understand why I had to do it. I am married now and have not done any fasting but I think that is mostly due to the fact that my husband is not Nepali. If he was, perhaps I would be pressured, who knows.

    • Nepalichori says:

      Dixya, I was on a similar boat to you. Having being surrounded by non-nepalis it was something I hardly even thought about and was just a fond memory of my childhood but it was only when I was in Nepal, I started thinking about this. And on the process of writing this blog another question about ‘what will the Nepali society think’, generational old ‘samaj le k bhancha’ arose between me and Richa.

  2. As I am from Newar community, we don’t celebrate Teej. I never celebrated teej while I was in Nepal but after moving to Australia, the festival seemed a reason to celebrate. I don’t fast or do any traditional things. For us here in Sydney, it is just a day where we dress up, meet friends and family and enjoy. Some of my friends do fast but not the strict way like in Nepal.

    I totally disagree if one has to fast against their will especially if they are not well or their body doesn’t cope.

  3. I celebrated my second Teej this year. The first time I celebrated it, I was in a foreign land and it was just an excuse to wear traditional dress. So this year I was fasting because I’ve been fascinated by this tradition since my young age, I was fasting without any particular reason but just for the fun of it. When my friends and young relatives asked me are you really fasting? I blushed a little and took it as a day to detox by eating only water and fresh fruits. Then a puja was organized by my Fupu which I participated in. At the end of the Puja, the Guruji told the Teej story and after that went on explaining to us, please do not think that drinking water and starving yourself like Goddess Parvati did will better the lives of your husbands. This is Kaliyug and the age/times of ghoor tapasya is long gone. Being a pandit, I cannot advise you ladies to eat grains but please drink adequate water and take fruits, milk and yoghurt. Also this brata is a prayer for the well being of your married life which includes the long life of your husband and yourself. This day is also for ladies to gather like you all have done today and share women stuff that your husband and in-laws are unwilling to understand. So enjoy this holy day and take time to pray to God for the well being of your married life and celebrate womanhood but please do not starve yourself.

    I was so impressed by this Guruji! Although I knew what I was fasting for, there were many women from the area who were not educated/moderately educated or were fasting for the sake of it. So it was a great piece of advice from a revered Guruji whom they would definitely listen to and think about what he had just said. Had I said the same thing to those woman, they would listen for a while but deep down think that these modern girls have a different thought process than us, but coming it from the Guruji was a great source for them.

    So to summarize it, it was a day of great success. I felt fresh eating only fruits and yoghurt. Also I had a lot of fun dressing up with my sister. But the icing on the cake was Guruji’s advice 🙂

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