The thing with tradition is that it is a pretty fluid thing. If you decide to skip the oil bath on Diwali morning and raise your children setting up the barbeque stand instead, that becomes a tradition in 50 or 60 years to come. What we do today, over time, becomes tradition in future. As such, each of us, in this long lineage of a community, play a role in creating the traditions of the future.
As such, when we decide to discard an existing tradition and replace it with something else, we are essentially shaping the environment, practices and values that our future generations will inherit. In this aspect, it is important to question ourselves if the much touted freedom of doing what we like doing will, when it becomes ‘tradition’, benefit our future generations or will be to their detriment.
Tradition is a good topic for discussion as it can create so much discord among families and even within the community. When one dishonours tradition for practical reasons, one must bear in mind that it is unlikely that the future generation will honour it. An example is cooking and serving of traditional food, for example, arisulu or chinapakulu. For practical reasons, a household may replace these rice-based vegetarian-based traditional food with manufactured sweets/chocolates or even modern biscuits which are wheat, butter and egg based. Children raised in a household that does this will essentially grow up without tasting or appreciating the traditional sweets/desserts and can in no way relate to preparing the rice flour and the jaggery and sitting by the fire moulding and deep frying these for their families. Infact, what these children will grow up to honour will be the tradition of preparing jam tarts and London almond cookies when it comes to celebrating traditional festivals.
While arisulu or chinapakulu may seem like trivial examples, it points to the underlying reasons for many a disgruntled older people who feel that the younger households no longer show any enthusiasm or interest in preserving tradition and culture. Not sowing enough enthusiasm and practice in doing something is effectively a way of ending it, and if we have played a part in doing that, we cannot blame the young for discarding it altogether. Food may not be a very pertinent matter for us, but other choices such as staying with aging parents after marriage, teaching Telugu at home for children, respecting an older sibling to preserve hierarchy in the family, respecting elders in the community, marriage before living-in etc – are all traditions, that once not observed, can not be reversed as new traditions would have set in.
So yes, traditions change, and we determine what changes and what does not. However every change will impact our lives and the lives of our future generations, so while today we enjoy the freedom to do things our way, we have to bear in mind that the consequences are for us and our young to bear.