Today, we performed a major pooja (prayer) for Daddy as is per our tradition typically around 12 days after his cremation.
It was beautiful: lots of family and friends present, including my cousin Ramona and her parents being Skyped in from Chicago; clean white sheets covering our entire family room carpet; lots of flowers, food, and religious items present for the pooja; a punditji (Hindu priest) who emanated an energy that truly brought peace and comfort to those in his presence.
Per many people present, the pooja was done very well with all of the proper respects being given to my dad (some punditjis just don't do as good of a job). It seemed amazing to me as well.
But the reason I can't say objectively that it was well is because the entire pooja was done in Hindi, but very proper and old Hindi, and I could only understand small parts of it. I have a decent grasp on conversational Hindi, but I was fairly lost during much of it. However, just listening to the mantras elicited emotions that brought me calm, peace, and to tears.
Even though I couldn't understand the words, I FELT the meaning of the words deep down in my soul.
My parents never forced us to learn about our religion in any detailed manner, but they always taught us to respect our traditions.
A related story: over Thanksgiving, I went to the hospital almost every day to see my dad. The last night that I saw him before I left back to California, I had brought a bottle of mustard oil that Mummy had given me. I didn't understand the significance of it, but I knew it was important.
Mummy wasn't going to Ann Arbor that night, and she asked me to perform four circles with the bottle around my dad from his head to his feet (she did this every time she went to the hospital). When I pulled out the bottle, Daddy's face just lit up and you could see how happy he was that his son was doing this for him. He reached out to touch the bottle and then I performed what Mummy had asked me to do. I then hugged him and we kissed each other on the cheek.
I felt so good that I could bring joy to Daddy during this difficult time, and it made me feel even closer to him. As we, the 1st generation, give way to the 2nd and subsequent generations, I am saddened by the chances that these Hindu traditions will be forgotten; I realize I must do my best to help prevent that from occurring with my future children.
Now, I understand faith is very personal. But for me, these Hindu traditions, which are thousands of years old, are what continue to tie us to our Indian roots (apologies to my Indian, non-Hindu friends who have their own beautiful beliefs).
They are the foundation of a faith and belief that provided Daddy strength to fight 10 months against impossible odds. And a faith so powerful as to make someone who didn't understand most of the words, understand everything at the same time.