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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Those three days - Where is all this headed?

For previous posts by Sundar hawking a serious topic with some humor, see:

1. The Unified Theetu theory: Definition, rules and boundary conditions
2. A brief history of "theetu"

This last post on the topic is about why people follow these customs, perception of people who follow/don't follow them, in the eyes of others.

When little Sundaram was all but a boy of 3-4, he would rather be naked and sit next to his mom in a corner of the room for three days a month and still enjoy the "freedom" of running around the rest of the house than be confined to only one side of the room at any given point. After a little scolding from older folks, he just figured out that if he had two chaddis, one of which resided with his mom and another which was outside the "theetu" boundary and he changed as fast as S.Ve. Sekar changed shirts in the stage play, his total exposure time would be drastically reduced and he still got the best of both worlds. As an added bonus, this made him understand the concept of electovalent vs. covalent bonding in ninth grade very quickly.

The scheme came to a quick end when great grandma declared that as per the spec. documents, section 7.2.1.1.1 which would be

7 kids
2 greater than 3 years old
1 clothes
1 boundary
1 cross contamination

any kid touching mom during theetu, is theetu by induction, naked or otherwise unless he has a shower! You can change underwear fast enough, but squeezing in a quick shower, now that was not possible. Not happy with the rules which didn't have any written proof or basis, the little boy picked what was his first of many fights on unwritten rules that did not make anyone happy.

My mother used to tell me horror stories of how she was treated badly when she was just a teenager. Most of these stories involved older widowed womenfolk in the house taking it out on the younger girls in the name of "thooram vilagaradhu", "aacharam" etc. etc. and the middle aged women not backing the young ones and siding with the oldies for fear or retaliation. I am sure the men played a part in this by looking the other way. Decided that when it was time for my sister to go sit in a corner, I would fight for her.

A decade went by and in what would have made Abhimanyu proud, I fought the entire family tooth and nail so that my sister would not go sit in a corner when it was her turn. Initially my sister was proud of me, but after seeing the way everyone ganged up on me, she thought it was better to end the fight by going to the corner. After that, whose fight do you fight?

Told myself that someday when I got married, will make sure that my wife will never go and sit in any corner. When San and I got married, she came here within days after our marriage and the first time we had to decide on the rules, told her that my preference was that she do not go overboard with theetu. She had the right to choose whatever restrictions she wanted to follow as long as it did not affect us both. In other words, I wasn't going to take any extra showers because I gave her a hug after coming back from work. She was very happy. San would not touch the prayer shelf in the kitchen, would not touch items in the kitchen that were associated with any prayer, would not go to temples during those days and that was it. If she was tired, I would take over the cooking or we would just go to Bhavikas, not that we needed a reason to go to Bhavikas. I was also happy with that arrangement.

There was no one from either side of the family visiting us till just before Jr. was born. In those 4 years, there was only a self imposed "theetu-lite" in the house. Then Jr. came and we did not have to worry about any rules for almost another 6 months.

We did declare to the parents and in-laws that our house will have only these conditions. One funny conversation that happened with an elder relative when they came to our house:

ER: this carpet, is it cloth?
Me: it is synthetic, but has natural fiber mix in it.
ER: Hmmmm. . how do you clean it.. can it get wet
Me: they have this amazing concept called steam cleaning. They wet the whole carpet with steam and vacuum it, makes it come out like brand new. The carpet stays wet for a day but after it dries you can really see the difference.
ER: Appo "theetu" aache!
Me :!!!!!!!

Small problems like this did arise every now and then and one tries to use his limited knowledge of science and technology to come up with clever workarounds, like they came up with the vinyl covered pillows!

These days, the number of restrictions has taken a slight increase. As we grow older and have kids running around the house, we tend to gravitate more towards religion, belief and faith. Part of this is because we believe that if we raised our kids the way were raised, they will turn out okay. This of course is because we have usually turned out okay in our own eyes. There is always a hope that we would transfer at least what we perceived as the good part of how we were raised on to our kids.

Take me for example. A couple of weeks ago, the girls were so impressed when they saw me recite pages and pages of scriptures from memory. They wanted to know how to do that and said "it is too hard and impossible for me to do this daddy". They also wanted to impress daddy by doing what he does. So we started working on some slokams, by breaking them into small pieces and then putting them together into one long piece. They can both recite many slokams fluently with the original sanskrit pronunciations.

There were two reasons for my doing that. The first one being my own perception that my good memory having something to do with all those hours spent on my grandpa's lap every morning and evening as he recited scriptures. Maybe the ability to hear and remember and recite was what gave me ability to be a "star Maggu" in school and college and eventually helps me everyday in my job. Then again, my memory could simply have been inherited from my father who is a walking phone book. In either case, the logic was that the kids could have inherited a good memory from me by chance or they will improve their memory by reciting slokams.

The second reason was to teach them how to learn that complex things can be broken down into simple pieces and that practice makes perfect. The whole thing was an opportunity for me to teach them how to learn all those things and of course realize that they can do things they thought were impossible, if they listened to their daddy.

That last sentence is the bane of our existence. We so believe that what we pass to our kids will make them like us and that is the best we can do. We teach them to choose wisely and train them to choose like us.

I write this post with hope that eventually when the girls get older, they will make a choice that makes sense for that time and place and environment. There is a very good likelyhood that they will follow some lighter form of "theetu-lite". So far they do not know or even realize that something like this is being observed and that is the basis for the guess.

It is very difficult for every generation to accept drastic changes that the next generation makes. Gradual changes seem to have open or even reluctant acceptance. Hopefully the girls will not be judged for the choices they make. To a large part that depends on how the older people in the family (we are growing older and that means it includes us and our generation) will accept their choices for what they are.

Cleanliness and godliness are both relative terms and there is always a balance between the two that every generation arrives at. Wish the girls will choose things that they are comfortable with, for their own reasons.

One thing is for sure. Just like my decision to defend my sister and wife at some point with their choice, my support will be there for Jr. and the little one, when they make choices and want someone to help them defend their choice. Hopefully that situation will not arise.

Here is to hope!



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9 Comments:

I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 7:24 AM, Blogger dipali wrote...

Sundar: Totally awesome series of posts. What an awesome son, brother, husband and father you are! Kudos to you.

 
I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 9:33 AM, Blogger Sundar Narayanan wrote...

dipali

I see myself as a colossal failure.. failed my mom
failed my sis
failing my wife

possibly will fail my daughters.

my last chance at redemption is my daughters...

hence all these hopeful posts

truth is far from perception.

you should give me kudos if any of my previous measures actually worked. they did not.

:(

 
I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 10:05 AM, Blogger Ugich Konitari wrote...

You know, regardless of levels of theetification in various types of society originating in India, I want to congratulate you for actually thinking of this topic, and blogging about it. Theetu has now almost disappeared in our society, and I hope that when your daughters grow up, they are able to enjoy a untheetified life....

 
I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 2:39 PM, Blogger Balaji S Rajan wrote...

Sundar,

I have pondered in the past especially in my younger days. I felt it was very primitive seeing the girls in my house sitting in a corner. This made me to think, and when I grew I became rebellious. We evolve in many things. I feel the same way. It has all changed long back. World is changing. If it is still being followed by some, then we can easily judge their other custom. We are now living in a time, where we try to reason out everything. I do not find anything wrong which were carried out in those years. Look at the technology. I never had opportunity to see my picture on a Laptop, posted by Dad at a prime age. Computers were unheard and so other stuff. But the world has changed drastically. The life pattern has changed. People outlook has changed. Living conditions have changed. In those days women folks, especially in South Indian culture, were working so hard. There were no mixers, wet grinders and washing machines,dish washers. All the household chores were done by women at home, and the men carried on the way to make money. Women were kept in dark and they were so weak during those three days. May be the tradition was started by men. Men having been so dominant in those days, would have thought to give her rest and due to hygienic worries should have felt to keep her away. Science had not developed very well. As awareness improved, people started to think more. As the participation of Women in many areas started widening even the so called 'Men' started thinking and accepted to treat them normally. It is a shame that our previous generations did not question their elders. At the same time we need to be proud that atleast they are not objecting to our views. As technology has developed, Women are no more in dark. It is not considered as a Taboo. As long as people know about their own hygiene, and could maintain it, my sincere feeling is they should be allowed to do everything normally.

In those days, even the Sanitary napkin advertisements were not welcomed in our places. Things are changing. Technology and Science is helping for good.

I think a bit more rational and would say that nobody should feel anything for the nature, and should not feel guilty to visit temples or worship during that time.

The only advantage of the "Theetu" practice was that, it helped our ladies to lie, and avoid attending auspicious functions, and marriages which they disliked by saying that they were not in the house (Those three days).

 
I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 6:30 PM, Blogger dipali wrote...

Sundar-it's not easy to change centuries of conditioning. But you tried, and you are so aware of all these issues. You still deserve the kudos for your good attempts over the years!

 
I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 12:12 AM, Blogger the mad momma wrote...

Sundar - am so umm... proud? thrilled? glad? touched? that you took the time out to write for this.

very often a woman's battle is fought by her alone. to have a man (particularly YOUR man ) stand up for you makes the world a better place.

your daughters are lucky to have you as their father and i hope to be as strong a mother to my kids.

God bless!

 
I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 6:25 PM, Blogger Sundar Narayanan wrote...

dipali, thanks.

Ugich, may your wish come true.

Balaji Sir, you definitely raise a good point with the fact that these were probably imposed by men.. but then again, we will not get out of these unless men undo this.

MM, thanks. once again, writing is easy. it is very painful to see someone made to feel that they are somehow at fault for something natural.

thanks to all of you who commented, emailed me or talked to me on the phone to share your thoughts on these three posts.

 
I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 2:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote...

hey Sundar,

I am not a tam bram but born and raised in Chennai with tam brams. I have seen this 'theetu' thing during my growing years. I remember my friend was made to dress and eat seperately during her 'theetu' timesand I wondered wat kind of custom this is as it was never practised in my home. No one even knew when those days came and went. Along with 'theetu' she said something about 'patthu', 'madi' and all that. It was so tough eating at her place where there were some rules about touching your plate and not touching anythinglese or some funda like that. Why are those things observed? Is there a scientific reason for such rules?

Neha

 
I am not responsible for comments posted by others... At 8:19 AM, Blogger Sundar Hawking wrote...

ya its good man

 

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