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The Hidden Impact Of Money We Receive As ‘Aashirwad’ From Elders

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“Ye lo beta, aashirwaad” (Take this, it’s my blessing), with this sentence a white or a bright coloured envelope comes your way. Not only does the envelope boasts of its colours, but also its fancy accessories – a golden string, and a stamp of one rupee beaming on top. Some are printed; some are painted, and the special ones are environment-friendly. After all, it’s the age of herbal and organic. But what is inside them is all the same – crisp bank notes.

In December 2014, my paternal family got together in our grandparents’ home in Allahabad. All four generations came together from different parts of the world, after a good 15 years. That house became the most beautiful home I knew at that point, with family, food, fun and laughter. After a wonderful three days came the time when we all had flights, trains and cars to catch and head to different cities. And then the usual marathon began – women running and fumbling with their purses. The ₹500 and ₹2000 notes came in their crispiest attire that day. One rupee, in its shiny armour, became the VIP as, without it, the bigger notes stood no chanThe Hidden Impact Of Money We Receive As ‘Aashirwad’ From Eldersce.

“Ek rupaye ka sikka khatam, ab kaha se lau?”(I’ve run out of ₹ 1 coins, what do I do now?), said one.“Arey envelops mein laga toh hai ek rupayya.  Aur kya?” (Oh, it’s attached to the envelope, what is the problem?), reminded the other. I wonder if these ‘envelopes attached with one rupee’ should be charged with high GST, due to the value they add to these occasions?

Once the envelopes were sorted, came the thaal (plate) with roli and chaawal to brighten our forehead along with the mithai (sweets)– to mark the auspicious day. Finally, the handing of ‘hard cash’ to ‘warm our pockets’ took place.

That led to the exchange of the usual lines, amongst the recipient and awardee:

“Nahi, main ye nahi lungi, Bua/Chachi/Kaki/Mami/Bhabhi. Bilkul nahi.” (No I cannot take it, auntie. Absolutely not)

“Arey beta, aisa nahi kehtey. Ye bado ka aashirwaad hai.” (No no, please don’t say that. This is like blessings from elders)

More often than not, bado ka aashirwaad, (blessings of the elders) is way bada (big). This is where the problem is. Will a ₹100 note not depict the same amount of love? Has the cash business not gone way out of hand?

I have been meaning to write this for a long time and have finally gotten to it. The concept of ‘aashirwaad’, or ‘vyavahar’ has always boggled me. I have seen this tradition since childhood, and honestly, it did not bother me then. Truth be told, it is a simple barter system. My aunts or any visiting party would give an envelope each to my sister and me. Immediately, my mother would deliver the same to their kids. But, as I grew up, so did my questioning power. I wondered – how were blessings offered in terms of money? Yes, I agree that they give us money so that we can buy things of our liking. But is that all about it? Really? It has implications on the bigger picture, and it’s hard for me to ignore.

Everyone’s economical status is not the same, and so is the acceptance to say or depict so. When one family gives a bhaari tofa (a big gift) to another, it automatically creates pressure on the other party to honour the precedent, with the same or higher number. Saying things like, “Hum de rahe hai, unse thodi expect kar rahe hai kuch” (We have just given a gift, we don’t expect anything in return) won’t help. Where is the blessing part here? On the contrary, it’s a penalty. The penalty for not being of equal stature. It is not the delivery of cash that raises my concern, but the amount of cash.

For instance, at my husband’s place, at the occasion of Eid, everyone looks forward to Eidi, and why not? It’s a festival to rejoice and appears only after one year. What I love the most about Eidi is that there is a fixed amount. “Sab bachon ko 50, aur har bade ko 100” (₹50 for children, and ₹100 for the elders). That’s the unsaid rule. My father-in-law has nine siblings, including him, and everyone does not have the same social standing. It does not matter whether you have more or less when the bar is set low, everyone can match – without the guilt, embarrassment, and the hassle of “kaise manage karein?” (How will we manage?). Fixing an amount makes it easier on you, and the people near you.

Another anecdote which has to be shared has a social message which itches my soul. My parents had invited my in-laws to their place for dinner. It was a wonderful meeting with a quaint dinner and lovely conversation, until the last minute. Without my consent, my parents gifted silver coins to each member in my in-laws’ side of the family. After looking at my grumpy face when they left, my mother spoke, “Kya chahti ho beta, maan-samman na kare? (Should we not show respect?)” I wanted to give her my usual speech on how I feel on this subject (not that she doesn’t know), but then my father backed her up. I did not speak much then, but I will now. “Maan-Samman len-den se hi hota hai? (Can you only show respect by giving and receiving gifts?)” Just a great dinner and quality time with family won’t do?

I don’t know about maan-samman (respect), but it does give rise to bhed-bhav (discrimination). I am badi bhabhi (eldest) to two devranis (sister-in-laws). With the grace of God, my parents are adorned with abundance but so is not the case with my sister’s in law. By paying respect (vyavahar) to my in-laws generously, my parents may have unintentionally raised the expectations from their other two bahus (daughter-in-laws). No, I am not saying my in-laws are expecting anything from them, but that may, or rather will be the case for another household. This is how parents of a daughter make a wrong move for someone else’s daughters. Think about it. This is a very feasible scenario.

I have younger siblings, nieces and nephews, but I have never followed this tradition. Don’t I love them? Of course, I do. I occasionally buy a present for them as well. A nice pair of t-shirts or a pretty set of earrings does spread the love. But, in my case, it’s not a compulsion to shower them with copiousness every time I see them. I firmly believe in condemning this practice and I will pass it on to my children as well.

My mother often complains, that in life, I always choose the unusual. Maybe she is right. But you know what? When I choose the unusual, the unusual chooses me too. Because for me, that unusual is ‘the usual’. It’s all about perspective. I have never been disciplined about accepting traditions, just because they are done in a certain manner. I have always questioned, pondered, convinced my soul, and only then accepted the answer. I am defiant, and I am not going to budge from that.

Let’s make family time about family only. No cash attached, whatsoever. In case you are obliged to bind money with love, then follow the mantra – less is more. The lesser you provide puts less pressure on the other party and it makes more room for love and enjoyment. Vyavahar dijiye nahi, vyavahar badaliye. Don’t give big gifts, but change your perception.

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