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June 2008

By Rajesh Oza

Hallmark Holidays

Dear PMG:

Enough! I’ve been in the United States for just a couple of years now, and I feel like I’m inundated with these false holidays meant to help card companies and the florists. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are but two silly examples. Now this virus seems to be spreading to India. What right-thinking person would suggest that a day here and a day there are sufficient in honoring one’s parents? They gave us our lives, and yet here in America it seems that we are to think about them only on days specifically marked on calendars. And then if we don’t spend a few dollars on pre-printed emotions, we morph into Springtime Grinches.    Bah, humbug!

Dear Friend,

“The ideal is a synthesis of the different culture that have come to stay in India, that have influenced Indian life, and that, in their turn, have themselves been influenced by the spirit of the soil” (M. K. Gandhi).

We all have our pet peeves (hopefully that doesn’t mean that we’ll soon be celebrating “Happy Puppy Day” or “Happy Kitty Day”). It appears that wishing your parents a “Happy Mother’s Day” or “Happy Father’s Day” makes you a bit peevish. I can understand that you would like to keep the Indian tradition of honoring your parents (and grandparents) every day of the year, but I might suggest that you consider how to meld that tradition with the American culture. To be sure, we all have our cultural baggage that we carry with us. Some parts of the popular culture are more of a fad than a core part of the culture. But since it has been one hundred years since Mother’s Day was formed, one can safely say that it has become a cultural institution in America. As Gandhiji says, you might consider being a bit more open-minded to ideas that blow through your house; these ideas need not be the hallmark of your relationship to your parents, but I’m sure that they might just bring a smile to your Ma and Papa (or Amma and Appa).

By the way, the Indian culture also calls out specific days for putting an exclamation point on celebrations that should last throughout the year. For example, there is Gandhiji’s birthday. His spirit should pervade the calendar, but at least on October 2 each year we honor his contributions.

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