January 19 – getting my tradition on

179/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. My family background is quite diverse. My dad’s side of the family is smaller and although they are from the Punjab region of India and Sikhs in their beliefs, the physical proximity of my dad’s village is closer to the Himachal Pradesh area of India (foothills of the Himalayas) which is predominantly Hindu and many of their beliefs have been filtered down and embraced in my dad’s family even though they are Sikh. I am more than a bit of a skeptic when it comes to religion and religious traditions – yes, heresy in some people’s minds – and have a difficult time believing in and observing some of the ceremonial customs that I must participate in. Upon various trips to India, I have had to walk barefoot through mud to a temple to make offerings, I had to take a 3 day pilgrimage up a mountain with my mother and uncle to the Chintpurni temple, I had to have my head sheared (I refused but did compromise), I had to bathe in water that I knew would never pass a sanitation test here in Canada, I had to sit in the back of a crowded truck full of people with no personal space whatsoever on a week long tour of temples, I had to dance with Hijra/Khusras – the list goes on. However, even though I fight the cultural obligations around religion and ethnic tradition that I must partake in, I realize that they have meaning to my family and thus, I honour them by (albeit reluctantly) doing what is expected of me. The more I reflect on it, the more I know that the Indian traditions and beliefs of especially my dad’s family have had a positive impact on the man that I have become and I can appreciate (whether I agree with them or not) what believing in and respecting does for self, family and community. Thank you to my dad’s family for instilling in me the values of Mother India!

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