The inspiration for this topic came from a character in the novel A Peoples’ History Of Heaven by Mathangi Subramanian. The character is a professional rangoli artist. In my childhood, I distinctly remember rangoli being drawn every morning outside our homes and the logic for it. The images were always drawn with rice flour and the belief and also the fact was that ants would come to eat the flour. Why feed the ants? So that they did not come inside the homes to look for food and also the traditional belief that we are obliged to feed all creatures big and small in whatever way that we can. That tradition of rangoli disappeared from our lives over the years due to urbanisation and moving into flats / apartments but, feeding creatures continues to be practiced quite widely. In my own home, we had the tradition of feeding crows, doves, sparrows and squirrels till urbanisation took its toll but, my children feed stray dogs and cats in our neighbourhood every day and also during the day time when at least one particular tabby cat comes meowing for food a few times.
Many other traditions have disappeared from families due to the pressures of modern life and one that I miss most is the original use for our festivals for the families to come together for a few days of feasting and fellowship. On the other hand, some traditions like respect for elders and taking their blessings continues to exist though even that seems to be disappearing with replacement with modern Hellos and other forms of greetings.
Most families and other groups have traditions that they follow without having any idea as to how they started or the logic for them and I share below two stories to illustrate such traditions.
1. We visited our newly married daughter, who was preparing her first Thanksgiving dinner. I noticed the turkey thawing in the kitchen sink with a dish drainer inverted over the bird. I asked why a drainer covered the turkey.
Our daughter turned to my wife and said, “Mom, you always did it that way.”
“Yes,” my wife replied, “but you don’t have a cat!”
2. When the spiritual teacher and his disciples began their evening meditation, the cat who lived in the monastery made such noise that it distracted them. So the teacher ordered that the cat be tied up during the evening practice. Years later, when the teacher died, the cat continued to be tied up during the meditation session. And when the cat eventually died, another cat was brought to the monastery and tied up. Centuries later, learned descendants of the spiritual teacher wrote scholarly treatises about the religious significance of tying up a cat for meditation practice.
I came up with the idea for this week’s 2 on 1 Friday blog posts where Shackman and I write on the same subject. Please do go over to his blog to see what he has to say about the topic but, before you do, please enjoy this song,