Traditions – important and not so

A heritage building in Bhutan

The past is romantic. It always is.

It makes you long, yearn for something which may not come easily in the future now. In many cases probably never.

The Marine Drive would no longer be as quiet and peaceful with less crowd as earlier, the double decker buses would soon stop plying and with them will go forever, the thrill of sitting on the front seat on the upper deck with your mouth open and feeling it dry as the strong breeze blew in when the bus gathered speed. And probably it may never rain as it used to rain earlier – heavy and relentless.

That is what makes nostalgia so pleasurable – that joy of having experienced something that was not likely to repeat easily in the future.

If everything is destined to change, why should one hold on to tradition then? Why not let it be left to lie peacefully, like graves in a cemetery, to be visited once in a while to pay our respects?

With time everything changes, and yet there must be something timeless that must continue, that we pass onto the one cell that we create to form a new life. That is all we do, for the cell then multiplies to create a whole new life.

The need for peace is timeless and so is the need for harmony and love and belonging and meaning and probably a few more. They were there in Biblical times and earlier and will continue till long – unless the perceived robotic future takes over. Over the ages, these needs were actioned through practices and customs and rituals and symbols which we fondly refer to as tradition. And our longing for tradition is nothing but the longing for these timeless needs that define us as humans.

When you thus touch the feet of your elder, you cater to the need for respect and knowledge, when you wear a talisman, you subscribe to hope that comes from a power beyond you and when you do charity when no one is watching you strengthen your belief in an equal society.

Traditions are our anchors for universal and timeless values. What is important is not the gesture thus, but the value we are trying to preserve and nurture. However, over time, people get so attached to the symbols and the rituals that their connection with the values is lost and one fights, without meaning for preserving those rituals, often at the suspension of the underlying value.

The quest for tradition thus has to be the quest for the underlying values and meaning not just an un-understood attachment for symbols and rituals. It will then be easy to accept new symbols and rituals as long as they speak the language of love and hope and respect and belonging. And it will be easy to accept the ways of the young – who have no need for nostalgia and tradition since they haven’t yet discovered loss.

When you drop a tradition, be careful not to drop the underlying value, because that may be a greater loss – like an animal species slowly getting extinct one animal at a time. For example, today it is becoming fashionable to say ‘don’t give me gyan’. Gyan or knowledge in simple terms, was once a much sought after element and people would travel long distances to acquire it. When you trivialise a word like that, you trivialise the underlying meaning. It should thus not come as a surprise that everyone is busy in activity – the practical aspect of doing – without often realizing the underlying purpose. Because we don’t want to listen to ‘gyan’.

How many such words we must have dropped or changed meaning and how much wisdom and experience we might have lost in the process?

It is thus important that not only we preserve tradition, but understand their connection to core human values and ensure they are preserved and cherished. That, without we realizing, would be a great service to humankind.



Arteastic thanks Riaz Mulla for writing this piece for their blog.

Riaz has been with Tech Mahindra for over two decades and worked across multiple roles in Business and Learning. In his current role he is responsible for developing Leadership Talent for the $5 billion organization.

His avid interest is in discovering self and through that everything else. He is a certified NLP and Gestalt Practitioner and deploys these techniques to help clients overcome limiting beliefs, identify their core purpose and improve their communication and thus life.

He loves to write and is one of the contributing authors to the Noir anthology Mumbai Noir and is working on his first novel to be published in 2020. He occasionally dabbles in poetry.

Find him on LinkedIn or twitter handle @riazwrites and follow his writings at riazwrites

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