Who taught you about the epics, about how to make a mango pickle in summer, and about how to appreciate classical music and other cultural activities? Those who spent their childhood with their grandparents know the answer to these questions. Close your eyes and go back to those wonderful stories your grandmother told you to keep you sitting quietly while she oiled and plaited your hair. Think about those brisk walks you took with your grandfather and heard him talk about teaching your father or mother to swim. Grandparents are so important to making sure that the next generation understands our cultural heritage!
Handing Down Our Cultural Heritage
- Traditional dress:
No matter how fashionable and modern your grandmother is, when there’s a festival, she will always bring out her chiffons and silks! She also has the traditional handcrafted jewelry that was handed to her as a bride, which she has kept earmarked for your own son’s bride. These aspects of our cultural heritage are things only a grandmother can do.
- Traditional habits:
We still offer our prayers after a bath. And we still touch our parents’ feet and ask them for their blessings, no matter how modern we get. These traditions stay strong because our grandparents are around to make sure that our cultural heritage is passed on.
- Traditional rituals:
We celebrate our festivals in the same manner they used to be celebrated a hundred years ago. Holi still means a festival of colour, Eidisstill associated with iftaar, and Christmas is celebrated with a midnight Mass – the way it has always been. These traditions have become part of our cultural identity.
- Traditional language:
There is a reason why Indian languages have “aap”, “tum”, and “tu”. Learning how to formulate your thoughts in your mother tongue, learning how to address the elders, understanding the nuances and poetry of a language – all these actions keep certain parts of our ethos and cultural values alive. They also help a child learn social skills – and these will always be relevant!
Cultural activities for Kids and Grandparents
- Traditional food:
While we can find most cuisines in a restaurant, everyone likes comfort food like varanbhaat of the Maharashtrians, homemade murabba, or even kheer. And you learn to cook these comfort foods from your mother, and from her mother. After all, all these dishesare best enjoyed when they have been made with love at home! Foods, cooking games, and recipes get passed down from one generation to the next as part of our cultural heritage.
- Traditional stories:
No matter how interesting a movie can be, nothing can beat cuddling up with your family and listening to the old stories. These tales get handed down from one generation to the next, with each adding their own unique references and cultural values to make our epics come alive.
- Traditional rhymes:
No matter how easily a child can rattle off nursery rhymes, we all grow up knowing the rhymes of our mother tongue, the children’s songs our parents taught us, and patriotic songs for kids. We also know lullabies sung to us even before we knew what the words meant! I am sure every mother suddenly finds herself humming the old songs when she has a baby to rock to sleep – and these songs are important parts of ourcultural heritage, too.
- Traditional games:
Despite the advent of the Wii and the Xbox, there is something very memorable about spending a summer afternoon doing traditional cultural activitieswith your family. It’s great fun to play cards, puzzle games, and other family games with your grandfather and cousins. Or perhaps try a game of antakshari – it doesn’t matter how tuneless you are!
Grandparents Raising Cultural Awareness
With the advent of fast-paced city life, it is good to slow down to an era long gone and appreciate your cultural heritage. And grandparents hold the key to this, no matter how well they have adapted to the pace of modern life. They remember you as a child, and they can tell your children what you were like at the same age. They remember how you hated vegetables as a kid, and how your mother told you stories to keep your mind occupied while you finished up dinner. The different names we have for everyone in our family are part of our cultural identity, too. That is why our Dada-Dadi and Nana-Nani are the same but different.
Have you spent a part of your childhood with them? Do your children? Please share your experiences with your grandparents here!