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Edited by: Kavya Mittal

After a long year of waiting, the month of Dussehra has come again and for our family, it is time to prepare for the festival of Golu. I eagerly help set up the metal steps, draped artfully with white and green cloth in the middle of our living room. When the time comes, I am the first to pull out the enormous boxes of dolls and start unwrapping them from their newspaper cushions. And as each one emerges, carefully placed on the steps in order, we recount their stories — both that of the character’s mythology, and that of the doll’s history in our house. A least a hundred more dolls and their stories will join the steps before the display is complete. 

Golu is filled with enjoyable moments for everyone in the household. As a young child, I admired the dolls, and loved to hear my mother tell their stories. Time passed, and I came to love telling those stories myself to the people who came to visit. And I know that when I grow older, I will enjoy finding my own collection of dolls and figurines, and passing on their stories too. In this way, Golu is rather uncomplicated in my mind.

But many other traditions in our household leave me conflicted. I know that my beliefs and my faith do not match that of my parents. It is something that is ignored most of the time, by virtue of mutual silence. But when this difference, so deep and harsh for all of us, rears its head, it feels inescapable — a chasm that no amount of understanding can bridge. I struggled against it as I found myself pressed into things I didn’t understand, things I didn’t believe. 

I thought it would be easy to go along. After all, these little practices are of no great inconvenience most of the time. If a few slight annoyances are the cost of giving my parents some peace of mind, then surely it is worth it, right? But every time, a nagging voice would start up in my head, saying “It isn’t real, you know it isn’t real.” You see, I know how genuine every gesture is for my parents. I know it means something to them. That religious faith carries more than authority — it carries a philosophy and understanding, a kind of love and a kind of strength. For me to do those same things with none of the weight it carried felt disingenuous. Disrespectful. 

But at the same time, I find myself wanting to preserve those traditions. They carry the weight of hundreds of years of diligence. Religion is gods, but it’s also people and stories. It’s history, and the teachings and learnings of hundreds of years. But more than that, it was the fact that the festivals, the practices, the small daily rituals — they are entrenched in my memories and my life. I love standing in the kitchen and making Diwali sweets by hand, because I get to spend that time with my mother. I love reciting long verses and shlokas in the evening, because I get to say them with my father. I loved making the long trip to Tirupati, because I got to climb every step of the mountain with my sister. 

Caught in this dilemma, the only things that helped were perspective and time. I know now that I will try to carry on our traditions. Perhaps not all — but at the very least the ones that had a place in my childhood. I do not have to believe to know the history behind those rituals. I do not have to believe to understand the power and stability of faith. I do not have to believe to remember the mythology and pass it on, because I know that little fights and disagreements are far less important than the stories and memories that make up who we are.

Being stuck in this kind of struggle is never nice. In a world as complicated as this, with people as complicated as us, we can all get caught between two sides of ourselves. But there is a resolution where we do not have to lose either — we just have to find it.

Hello! I am a first-year student at Ashoka University, planning to major in Physics and minor in Psychology. I enjoy music, writing and (occasionally) crochet. Huge fan of sci-fi and Doctor who.
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