Navigating festival visits- The New Indian Express

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Express News Service

BENGALURU: Deepavali is over. Whether one celebrates it for Lakshmi pooja, or as a new year for some in west India, or as Kali Pooja in Bengal, or any number of the other reasons why the festival is such a big deal, and even if you do not celebrate it at all, it is one big desi holiday. The long holiday weekends, whether it is for Deepavali, or for Thanksgiving and Christmas in the United States, Eid in Bangladesh or Pakistan or other spaces, or Pongal in Tamil Nadu, and even the generically named Bank Holiday weekend in some nations, are special. Inevitably, these weekends are about families getting together.

In ordinary times, the bus stations and railway stations throng with huge crowds of people looking for passage back home to parents and relatives, far from the big cities in the hinterlands. Photographs of Bangadeshi trains overflowing with such huge crowds that barely an inch of their metal surfaces are legendary, as are the huge traffic jams leading out of Bengaluru with miles and miles of vehicles full of people looking to head out of the city.

For people in relationships, these holidays are about one decision: Whose family would they spend the holiday with, or would they spend the holiday by themselves?
It is perhaps the single most important question that people, especially the young and those in new relationships, have to struggle with as they plan on how they would make this decision so that nobody is unhappy. Till the time relationships are made official, perhaps everyone goes to their respective natal homes while secretly yearning for each other, or maybe they make up official trips or other excuses so they can still stay with each other, travel out in secret, making sure their holiday pictures don’t get out into social media where their families might notice. 

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Once the relationships are announced and approved, it gets trickier. Whose home do you go and when? Do you take turns – each person’s home for a year and once on their own? Or, do you try and share the holidays – Deepavali at one’s would mean Pongal at the other’s, and Christmas and New Year on their own? 

Holiday travels can be hard because we tend to read so much into these decisions: Who is loved more? Who is seen as more fun? Is our joy and happiness a priority, or are we expected to be dutiful and proper? The joy of the holiday season is often scarred with how we make these decisions. Being able to make these decisions with kindness and mutual respect would be great, but the hard reality is that we often find ourselves allying not with our new relationships, but with the families we came from and that is the source of the trouble.

The holidays are amazing opportunities to love and be loved, but only if we remember that rather than treat it as only a ritual homecoming. (The author is a counsellor with InnerSight)

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