Indo-Trini to Trini-Canadian
Written by: Anita Rudal
Immigrating to Canada makes keeping traditions alive very difficult, especially if you don’t have a big social circle of the same culture and religion. I arrived here in my late teens, my parents hoping that I would make it to University in a couple of years. However, with limited resources and finances, I had to make that my primary purpose in life. Working as many days as I could fit in my schedule when I wasn’t in school didn't leave much time for temple service on Sundays. My immediate family found themselves in a similar state.
I kept my faith strong as my Ajee instilled in me, her words and devotion to her religion guiding me through every step.
Fast forward to being married to a son of a Pastor from the other hemisphere and living two years of Covid isolation, I am craving a pooja in my home. For those who are spiritual, you know this feeling no matter what your religion. However, with small unvaccinated kids in the home I will wait a little bit longer. Diwali is almost here and I want my kids to know the spiritual happiness and childhood joys of Diwali in Trinidad while in Canada. Celebrating with a spouse who grew up in a family and community that is not religiously diverse and trying to convey the importance of the preparation and processes involved makes it feel like I am literally celebrating alone.
If you’re thinking, “she needs to do more of the traditions and get them involved,” I do.
The entire family observes fasting from meat for 2 weeks without hesitation. The week before, I do my groceries for all my meals and sweets prepartion. I take the kids along and we buy a few more deyas to add to our collection, oil and wick as needed. A couple days before I begin the sweet making with whatever I am up to making that year. I make a full Diwali spread except for the sohari leaf.
Diwali day I wake up and bathe, pray and listen to my traditional Diwali bhajans while making my meal for the day and ending my cooking with parsad. After all this preparation it’s time to welcome God into my home. Why do I always get sad? I think about going to the Nagar with my Ajee and Ajaa, going to all the Diwali “light up,” watching the dances, the crowning of the Diwali Queen and the happiness it brought to my entire family.
I want my kids to get excited when it’s time to lay out the deyas, parcel parsad, come to the altar and pray as a family and then enjoy the night with star lights and firecrackers.
What do I get instead? Four Canadians (three kids and my husband) glaring at me to give them step by step instructions as if this was their first time all over again. It literally brings tears to my eyes every Diwali. The sporadic religious event is not enough to build traditions. The lack of a spiritual guru that is consistent hasn’t improved the situation.
Life in Canada has so many demands—especially from a woman that some things just fall through the cracks.
What I am grateful for is that my husband is open minded and does the little things like watching the Ramayana series with me. My kids are eager to say their prayers and light a deya before bedtime. They are aware of the Gods and Goddesses and their role in the Universe, they understand the need to be thankful and the need to be good people in life.
It’s not hopeless, we are a young family. Living as a Canadian is a new reality with a chance at new traditions using what I learnt from Ajee and Aja as a strong foundation. Just as our forefathers struggled to keep their Indian tradition alive as they morphed into Trinidadians we too must keep our traditions alive as we bring forth the first generation of Trini Canadians.