I’m not a religious person, but a deeply spiritual one. I do believe in a God, and because I was born a Hindu, I uneasily shift between 33 million names, because I studied in a convent for the first ten years of my life, my prayers are mostly in English. I remember having conversations with God as young as six seven years old. I believe in only thanking God not in asking for things or help, so minor in comparison to what others are going through in life. But I have faith, deep abiding faith, that remains unshaken by tragedies, personal and public.
As the girls grew, I realized we don’t go to temples regularly. In fact that external show of prayer was against my personal credo. Group rituals seemed foreign and social to me. But as a result, my girls had no relationship with God. And that seemed truly sad to me. The idea of God as a friend has provided respite and solace to me over the years and I hoped to provide the girls the same.
I did things like research and celebrate festivals. I accompanied friends to temples for religious occasions and followed the rituals. I enrolled the girls in classes and tried to sit through lectures and kathas. I downloaded rangolis and made the girls help me make traditional sweets. And I made a morning playlist of bhajans.
I put the usual aarti of course, Lata singing Om Jaya Jagdish, And as a nod to maharashtrian roots, Sukhkarta Dukhkarta. Some remembered popular bhajans like Raghupati Raghav, thumak Chalat Ram Chandra, Vaishnav Janato, Yashomati Maiyya. I had to add in some chants, Maha Mritunjaya, Gayatri, Hanuman Chalisa, Sahanaa Vavatu. And a few other Vedic chants and popular bhajans.
And every morning, I would start the playlist before waking the girls up, the music a background to the usual morning rush. At first it remained sort of white noise, as we shifted and settled, then shifted again the routines. Then I found myself humming along, and repeating the words, without really listening to them. The girls would groan and moan, as the playlist ran through, a solid 2 hours of non stop desi music. I remember it was the Mangalam chant that first caught my attention. Just the idea of blessing and thanking for each element in our lives, the sun, the wind, the trees, the light. The invocation at the end to let it all be good and blessed was truly uplifting.
Then suddenly the plaintive bhajans Vaishnav Janato and Raghupati Raghav struck me and I tried to explain to the kids the idea of castes and classes, the structure and exploitation, the deep wounds caused by this ancient system. Then the bhajans focusing and celebrating manifestations of God to empty our minds of our mundane life and fill them with the ecstasy of the divine- Thumak Chalat, Ayi Giri Nandini. The aartis, knowing what the grand Aartis look like in Haridwar, kanyakumari, Shiridi, Vaishnav Devi, the grandeur and the hypnotic collective singing my girls may never experience.
Every morning, for seven years, this playlist of 27 songs started our day. I’m not sure whether the girls will remember them, but it has become one symbol of parenting for me. A deeply held part of my life I shared with my girls. Because for me, that’s what being a parent means.