Customs, Tradition … and Customizing Tradition

I’ve just returned from an overseas trip (to India) where I attended two traditional weddings.

Each of these lively occasions left me musing over customs and traditions—and just how much they influence and shape our lives. It also triggered a memory for me that’s both delightful and nostalgic.

The custom for brides in our Goan culture, is to have a ‘roce’ which is a sort of traditional ceremony a day or two before the wedding. (The bridegroom may also have a similar ‘roce’ separately with his friends and family.)

This century old custom evolved from the days when women folk used to prepare the bride for her wedding, with a skin cleansing using egg, turmeric and often gram flour followed by a wash with coconut milk.

Over the years though, this sacred custom has evolved into something a little more frivolous—and a lot more fun! The coconut milk is now a diluted version of its predecessor. The bride-to-be is made to sit on a plastic stool beside a bucket containing this milky liquid. A little mug bobbing on its surface is an invitation to the guests gathered, to slop a measure of this on the bride’s head as they joke and tease her good naturedly. The liquid runs down her body in cold rivulets while she soaks in all the playful fun.

What is even more fun for the bride’s friends, is the thrill of cracking a raw egg delightfully over the girl’s head. While this might sound like torture, most brides giggle and savour every bit of the attention they are getting.

As for myself, when I was getting ready for my own wedding  some years ago I decided that this particular tradition was not really my cup of tea. I could only imagine the horrendous task of getting rid of the cloying smell of raw egg that clings to hair roots, even though it may well serve as an excellent hair conditioner. I had no intention of putting myself through this needless experience which seemed to me, such an awful waste of time, money and unwanted cleaning up. So I happily made it clear that I would not be having a ‘roce’ before my wedding.

Unfortunately, one of my favourite uncles whom I had asked to ‘give me away’ at the altar, was aghast that I was having none of the joie de vivre that usually precedes weddings. (My dad had passed away a few years earlier, so he could not give me away in customary fashion.)

‘If you’re not going to have a ‘roce,’ my uncle threatened with mock severity, ‘I’ll make sure I crack an egg on your head. He was spending a week or so at our place, so he had plenty of opportunity to try and get me to change my mind.

This uncle of mine was the kindest uncle you could ever have, yet he was perfectly capable of carrying out this threat just to make a point over something he felt strongly about. And I was tickled by his passion, even as the imp within me prodded me to have some fun at his expense.

‘Okay,’ I agreed cheerfully enough, conveying through my body language that I was not really taking him seriously. But unbeknownst to him, I was plotting my own little plan.

I secretly boiled all the eggs we had in the fridge when he wasn’t around. Then the next morning as we settled down to breakfast, I steered the conversation towards the ‘roce’, very casually. That triggered his memory, making him remember his threat of the previous evening. He rushed to the fridge, grabbed hold of an egg and made a beeline towards me. I feigned alarm and attempted to dodge him.

He was pretty pleased with himself when he managed to corner me, egg in hand poised strategically over my head. But a second later when his hand came down to crack the egg gleefully on my head, nothing happened! The egg refused to release the runny contents he was expecting and it wasn’t long before my uncle realized he had been tricked!! The look on his face was priceless but he was a good sport and managed to laugh at my deviousness!

He did get the last laugh a couple of days later when he snuck up on me with a raw egg and delightfully carried out his threat as I sat at the computer, engrossed and totally unsuspecting. It was my turn to chuckle at his deviousness, even though it wasn’t that much fun cleaning up the mess.

Years later, this incident is still a treasured memory for me. I guess while I may not personally buy into customs and tradition, I get a special thrill in seizing any opportunity to customize life as it presents itself, into my own cherished moments.

© 2018 G.A.I.L

3 thoughts on “Customs, Tradition … and Customizing Tradition”

  1. Fascinating. The thing traditions seem to have in common is a purpose, whether that’s for luck or to ward off evil – and even though today we see most of this as superstition it’s wonderful to keep them going as it somehow puts us in touch with our ancestors.

    Liked by 1 person

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