Ancestry...it runs Deep and Matters
“If I want to grow and blossom as any tree would, I have to start by knowing my roots and understand how I came to be the tree I am. Learn your ancestry.”
Jeffrey G. Duarte
My grandparents were very much a part of my childhood. I had spent several years with them and slipped into a routine that till today is strongly present. Education and learning to stand on one's own feet in the Kapoor home was important. Growing up with equal rights and opportunities was natural for us.
Biji (my grandmother) as she was fondly known, strongly encouraged her children especially her daughters and granddaughters to think outside the box, while Papaji (my grandfather) instilled the importance of education and following/doing one’s dharma and duty with sincerity and integrity. He believed in right ethics be it in work or life.
Living with them was both a learning and fun experience. Papaji would tutor me during the day and in the evening, I would join him for long walks while he would test my general knowledge! Biji on the other hand would impart her wisdom and life skills by weaving philosophy into storytelling.
Biji with her big laugh was good at whatever she did. Whether it was gardening, cooking, reciting the shlokas (she knew them by heart) and performing the sacred Havan. People from the community would seek her advice and help. In what ever town Papaji was posted to, Biji would be the voice of wisdom and reason.
She rallied to uplift and create a platform for women. She believed that it was important and necessary to question and experience life as oppose to just accepting it. She encouraged others and us to be financially independent.
Because of her vast and in-depth knowledge of the Vedas, Biji would be called upon to perform Havan at community gatherings or individual homes(a role reserved for Brahmin pandits only).
Birthday celebrations at the Kapoor household were simple; a Havan followed by ‘halva’ to sweeten the mouth (an offering of semolina cooked in ghee/sugar/water sprinkled with nuts) and this tradition is still carried on in our homes.
Leela Vati Kapoor was a woman who spoke her mind, ahead of her generation and was considered a rebel with a cause. You see my grandparents belonged to a community called The Arya Samaj.
Founded in April 1875 by Swami Dayanand Saraswati, he wanted to revive the Vedic way of life and the need to create a just society for all despite colour, cast or creed.
The word Arya means noble, one who is devoted to Truth and Samaj means community. The cause of this movement is to spread knowledge of the Vedas, to rise above the ongoing corruption injustices and ignorance that prevailed in society.
The Vedas and the 10 principles were the community's source of guidance. It strongly opposed the caste system and the practice of untouchability. The main purpose was to improve the physical, spiritual and social standings for all. Rooted in the belief that there is only one god...... by the name of OM .
Women enjoyed equal rights and standing in society during the Vedic age but this slowly was being degraded and worsened during post Vedic and Mughal era. Under the British Raj, valuable aspects of the Indian culture, history and religion were being erased and the entire social structure was collapsing. Exploitation of the caste system by the British was apparent and the status of Indian women had been reduced significantly.
Arya Samaj sought change from the growing social-economic injustices and futile religious practices, encouraging education ad equal opportunity for both women and men. It opposes child marriages, the purdah system and the practice of sati.
Learning about their values and origin was the missing piece I needed to complete me. I am proud and honoured that Biji's rebellious spirit is alive and Papji's integrity and the pursuit for truth runs deep in my veins.