23 April, 2014

The TamBrahm Series (Part 11) - The Kaappu and Thottil (Cradle) ceremonies

(Image courtesy : penciljammers.com via Google)



Remember the newborn we welcomed in the earlier post ?  For those of you who haven't read Part 10, here's the link.

Well, among the first (of many) customs in a TamBrahm family is the Kaapu ceremony.  Though I haven’t been enlightened by the elders in the family as to the pertinence of this function, I would think it is something that is done to ward off evil eyes or some such thing because the very name Kaapu suggests “protection” – protection from evil eyes, that is.  Better to be specific because “protection” can mean a lot of things nowadays.

As all TamBrahm ceremonies do, this function too involves colourful Kancheevaram saris, blingy blings everywhere possible and of course, good food (for everybody else except the new mother who is on a strict no-nonsense diet, remember ?). 

Since the new mom and the newborn baby have set camp at the maternal grandparents’ place, it is the paternal grandparents’ turn to make a trip over.  As with all TamBrahm functions, the entire family is usually present for the Kaapu ceremony too.  It is during this function that the newborn is adorned (for lack of a better word – because I can’t say asked to wear and I can’t say made to wear) with three different kinds of kaapu.  There will be a pair of gold bangles (yes – for both boys and girls), for, you see, there is this natural affinity between the TamBrahm community and gold.  That now, is an everlasting relationship.  Always has been, still is and always will be. It is mushy enough and a bond strong enough for someone to write a Mills and Boon - on the everlasting love relationship between a TamBrahm and Gold !  

Hinduism has festivals like Karwa Chauth in the North of India and Nombu in the South of India – where women pray for togetherness and for the husband-wife bond to stay strong.  Gold, on the other hand, doesn’t have to go through any such rituals or hardships.  It is like one of those VIPs that people pay to encounter and it’s bond is rather secure without any fasting or tying strings around trees like Vat Savitris.

Getting back to the newborn baby, there is usually a pair of silver anklets too (the thin variety, fortunately not the kinds Kannagi used to wear) and apparently the most important one is the third pair – the Muppiri Kaapu.  Now the automatic question that arises is “why is this the most important, of the three ?”  To be honest, I haven’t been able to get an answer from the elders in the family.  These rituals are pretty much like the others, handed down from generation to generation and no one has quite bothered getting answers or clarifications.  So this question of mine remains unanswered till date.  The only thing I can possibly think of is that since Muppiri Kaapu is made of three metals, it probably works on the same theory as the modern day magnetic bands do.  Or, maybe these three metals that go into the Muppiri Kaapu are said to have higher protective powers to ward off the evil eye (since that is the whole purpose of the kaapu function).  If anyone reading this post has an answer to the above question, please do post it in the comments section. 

No TamBrahm function is complete without a particular food item being a specialty for that function.  For Karadayan Nombu, there are the adais, for Thiruvadirai, there is the Kali and the Kootu.  Similarly, for the Kaapu function, we TamBrahms have what is called the KaapuArishi.  (Ari means rice).  This KaapArishi is made by the maternal grandmother and the paternal grandmother (the success of every TamBrahm function is this innate competition, you see) and then, quite obviously, there would be divided opinions on whose kaapu arishi was better.  The Chief Guest in question a.k.a the newborn baby would be blissfully unaware of all these formalities being carried out in its name.  Good on you, baby, good on you.  Babies do the best thing one can do during these functions – sleep !!

Now I’ve always maintained that there is some age old connection between the kaapu ceremony and donations that need to be sent a dentist’s way.  Does that sound confusing ?  Well, this kaapu arishi concoction (it is basically a very hard chikki variety or say a Rice Brittle) is designed, in my humble opinion, to test dental strength.  Needless to say, people like me need to stay away from things like kaapu arishi because I am, even at normal times, a dentist’s recurring deposit.  If someone were to offer me kaapu arishi and more importantly, if I were to eat it, I would probably spend the next few months getting multiple dental implants !!  Such is the power of the kaapu arishi !!!

Another mainstay of the kaapu function is the presence of something rather odd.  A kitchen implement.  It is pretty much like a mortar and pestle but not the short squat variety.  This is a flat stone which is paired with an elongated stone and these implements were usually used for grinding spices (in the days when kitchen blenders were not around).  Now this mortar and pestle is considered to be a baby during the kaapu function.  This is where, in my honest opinion, sensitivities start to get eroded and women lose all sense and sensibility.

The usual posse of senior mamis usually tell one of the younger ladies to anoint the mortar and pestle with sandalwood paste, vermilion and they are supposed to bathe the stone in milk, which is considered akin to feeding a baby.  This is another one of those instances during TamBrahm functions where insensitivity rears its head and refuses to listen to logic or reason.   I clearly remember many an occasion when the said lady in question has been clearly hesitant to take up this task or has looked rather mortified.   The senior mamis usually have this habit of proclaiming (loudly, of course) that  this particular ritual will help the lady in question bear children. 

As I’ve said earlier, in an ultra traditional TamBrahm family, couples are expected to produce babies after marriage ASAP.  While this may work for some, there is an equally distinct possibility that it does not work for some others.  In such instances, to publicly call upon a lady, catch her unawares and ask her to go through a ritual which people deem will help her have a child, in my books, borders on cruelty and reeks of insensitivity.  Not once do people stop to think of whether the said lady/couple has/have been struggling with infertility issues, have been undergoing treatment unsuccessfully for the same or whether it is simply a question of respecting their choice, as a couple, not to have children.  Infertility treatments take their toll, on both the husband and the wife and the last thing a lady needs, is to have that rubbed in.

The inherent “looking down upon” or looks of sympathy that are dished out towards women who have not had children biologically their own, is quite astounding.  Even in today’s world, where people consider themselves well educated and well informed, there still remains a huge majority in the female populace who consider it their god given right to look down upon women who cannot bear children.  Functions like the stone bathing ritual during the kaapu just serve to rub the whole thing in.  Maybe it is not intended that way but the end result is pretty much that.  What I personally feel is that a whole great deal more of sensitivity needs to be applied in such situations.  It is just a simple question of asking the ladies beforehand, whether they would be comfortable being called upon to conduct the said ritual.  Yet again, there also needs to be a great degree of open mindedness to accept a negative answer.  There is no need to get all personal about it.  It is just a question of respecting the other lady’s feelings and wishes.  This is something I’ve always felt very strongly about, especially when hapless ladies are called upon in public, thereby taking away from them, the option of saying “no thanks”. 

Once the mortar and pestle have been “bathed and fed”, the mami brigade calls upon three or four small children and they are asked to go around the mortar and pestle with a bunch of leaves (I think they hold twigs from the neem tree), brushing the leaves on the stones.  The kids go around the stone and the mamis go into a trance of sorts, complete with the incantations and chants like high priestesses of some secret order.  They say something ... I am usually too baffled when this happens, to try and figure out what they say or why.  As regards the custom of having kids brush the stone with neem leaves, yet again, I haven’t been able to find an answer.  I have asked many elderly mamis but no one, genuinely no one, seems to know.  Yet again, if someone reading this does, please post it as a comment.

Once the kaapu function is deemed wover (finished), it is time for tiffin !!  No TamBrahm function can be complete without good food – that’s a given.  Tiffin is usually accomplished with a great deal of brouhaha (good food brings out the best and the worst in a TamBrahm, honestly !), people gear up for the next ceremony in line – The Thottil (cradle) function. 

This ceremony is when the newborn is introduced to the wonders of the cradle, which is supposed to rock them into peaceful sleep.  Never did happen with Macadamia.  It had quite the opposite effect, truth be told !  There are babies that sleep through the entire thottil function peacefully and behave as though the thottil is indeed the panacea to all the sleep evils but nah – not mine.  She had already made her mark in the family with the reputation of being a light sleeper and had also established that once awake, she would be as noisy as she could be.  Tremendous lung power that tyke had, so much so that there have been days when I’ve sat up bolt straight as though touched by a cattle prod, simply by the sheer lung power she used to exhibit, once awake.

So there, we had a Macadamia who I’d just managed to rock to sleep and right then descended on me the whole mami brigade who thought they were there to play “passing the parcel”.  The “parcel” in question was the vociferous Macadamia.   Need I say more ?  In just a matter of seconds, all hell broke loose and there she was, a little bundle of ferocity, expressing her displeasure vocally at having been woken up rather unceremoniously for a ceremony, nevertheless.

There was a sudden flurry of activity among the mamis who hurried the little bundle along and finally it landed in the arms of my mom, Macadamia’s maternal grandmother.  She was about to lay Macadamia down on the cradle when one of the mamis said something about the direction not being right.  I was, in the meanwhile, thanking the good lord that there are just four directions to follow.  The TamBrahm mamis manage to create a huge mathematical confusion out of four directions, imagine what they would do if there were, say, ten directions to contend with.  If that were the case, by the time the mamis arrived upon a consensus as to the best direction to lay the baby in a cradle, the baby would probably be a toddler !!

Now the cradle itself had been decorated and now looked like a circus carousel with this giant orb like thing revolving at the top.  I guess the idea of something shiny revolving at the top was to lull or hypnotize the baby into quietude.  They did not know Macadamia as well as I’d gotten to know her in a week’s time.  If there was one thing I knew for sure, it was this – that thing was sure to send her senses into an overdrive and the resultant din was something I didn’t even want to imagine.  I try very hard not to say "I told you so" but in this case, that is the only phrase that would fit the bill.  "Did I not say she would not take well to that disco ball or whatever that was ?".  

She did not !

Then there is this practice during the cradle ceremony.  Even if the baby is sleeping peacefully, which, I guess, is the very purpose of a cradle, the mamis would take turns singing their lungs out.  Why they do that is beyond me because all it invariably serves to do is to wake the sleeping baby up.  Now those first few moments when the baby’s auditory system is on an overload from the mami brigade singing Carnatic music is an absolute treat to watch. 

It starts off with what I call “the twitch”.  The baby starts to twitch its toes and occasionally startles in its sleep.  Not surprising, with the kind of nightmares that din must be creating in its little head.  It probably imagines that it is right in the middle of one of Percy Jackson’s adventures, battling some sea monster that is incredibly noisy.   The baby startles time and again and at some point of time, those yet unfocused little eyes fly open and then shut together, crimped close as tightly as possible.  People – now is the time to get those earplugs out !!  The mamis still continue their musical extravaganza and the little one decides, about now, that it is time they had some competition.  It turns into a competition of sorts.  The little one can’t stand the noise and starts screaming and bawling.  The mamis, never ones to give up, look just as determined as Zubin Mehta conducting an orchestra and decide to move things up a notch by going the Ragam Thaanam Pallavi way.  For the bystanders, this is pure joy beyond description !

That’s where this post ends ….. deafening, ear splitting noise created by a bunch of mamis hollering as though they are at a Thyagaraja Aradhanai festival where they have to compete to hear their own voices on the one hand and a little newborn baby pushing its lungs to the maximum, on the other. 

Since our little addition to the TamBrahm family has now been introduced to the ritual mania in a TamBrahm household, do stay and walk along on this journey as we take the newborn through the twists and turns of many more such ceremonies, rituals and customs to come.

The saga continues …. do stay tuned.



22 April, 2014

The TamBrahm Series (Part 10) - The Newborn Arrives ....

(Image courtesy : penciljammers.com via Google)

For the sake of continuity, here's the link to Part 9 of The TamBrahm Series

The arrival of a baby is one of those events that pretty much affect people the world over, the same way.  The jaw dropping wonder, those little tiny fingers and toes that makes the heart do flip flops on its own and the typical drunk look or the slightly irritated look that newborn babies often have, which are sure to make their families derive and reach their own conclusions as to whether the baby is debating about Einstein’s Theory of Relativity or Newton’s Law of Gravity or is simply trying to decide between crying out of hunger, crying out of cold or crying just for the sake of crying. 

Behold the newly minted parents, people !   That glazed look, that slack jawed grin and that feeling of responsibility that just hit them a few milliseconds back with the force of a ten ton truck !!!  Yes !  They’re still pretty much in shock that they have this little being, a whole new life to care for and raise - a very humbling feeling, in my honest opinion.  Coming back to the moot point, TamBrahm families are pretty much the same in reacting to newborn babies – believe that, people. 

In a ultra traditional TamBrahm family, once the newborn has made its arrival into this world, the maternal grandparents or relatives from the mother’s family (of course – it always is that way !) make their way to the residence of the father’s family, their arms laden with sugar and bananas.  Who in the world thought of that combination, I wonder.  Given the fact that Type 2 Diabetes is hugely making its presence felt among people of Indian origin, I think it is about time people give this particular tradition a serious think.  A couple of kgs of sugar and a riot of bananas to feed the whole building ??  Given the rate at which the population is increasing and given the sugar-banana tradition, put together a few TamBrahm families sporting brand new newborns and we could have a BanaTina festival, right there, right then.  The Tomatina festival in Spain would have to beat a rather hasty retreat.  In fact, it could be incentive enough for Bollywood and Tollywood to come together and produce a movie on the lines of a BanaTina festival.  Who knows ?  The TamBrahm BanaTina's could well set a trend !!

The newly minted mother, in the meanwhile, would be in the process of rediscovering the meaning of the word “zen”.   She will also discover pretty soon (if she hasn’t, already) that people around her have suddenly started to view her as a walking talking Aarey Milk Colony (a company that has herds of buffaloes which produce milk (surprise !!) and the company markets the same rather successfully.  Ergo …. the name Aarey, for those of you not familiar with the Indian context, is synonymous with milk)  She is expected to turn into some sort of milk vending machine, just like that.  Snap your fingers and see the milk flow kinds.  No people, no.  What the mamis with the blings fail to realize right then is that for us TamBrahm mothers too, breast milk is controlled by the hormones in the body.  Oh !  Surpriiiissseeeee !!!  For the senior TamBrahm mamis however, all these hormones wormones do not make any sense.   

I remember feeling the full force of the mami brigade when I’d just had Macadamia.  A whole posse of blingy bling mamis would float in and out and there would be statements flying across and around like “oh ! the baby was asleep”  “her nose looks like her great grandmother’s nose” “her ears look like her great grandfather’s ears” and then like hungry eagles eyeing hapless prey on the ground, they would zoom in on what they think is a very pertinent issue at that point of time “have you started breastfeeding ?” .   Now why the whole world needs to know the answer to a question like that has always been beyond me …. even more so when one is a newly minted mom, for whom just about everything is confusing and  bewildering right then. 

One is led to believe that breast milk is something like the River Ganga flowing out on demand.  It is not, people !!  Even all those mantrams and prayers said during the seemantham to augment lactation need for the human brain to send the right hormones to get the whole lactation process started.  What no one helpfully points out to the new mom then is the fact that it is quite normal for the whole  process to take a couple of days (sometimes longer sometimes not so long).  I remember thinking, much to my dismay then, that it was me something was wrong with, the way people were reacting to the fact that Macadamia needed to be formula fed for the first couple of days until I could start nursing her.  Even statements like “the baby is hungry but you have no milk to feed her” used to be quite commonly and insensitively thrown my way.  My dear know it all mamis of the bling bling fame, it is not the fault of the new mother and it does not help trying to be "helpful" that way.   It does not do anything in alleviating fears or concerns that new mothers might have (and trust me, at that point of time, they have loads of them).  It just makes them worse, it just makes them feel bad about themselves and about not being able to “provide” for their baby. 

What would indeed help loads at times like these is someone reassuring and encouraging, someone who tries to put a new mother’s fears at rest and tries to ease her concerns by giving sensible answers to questions rather than mouthing sentences that have simply been handed down generation to generation.  My grandmother's grandmother said that to my grandmother and my grandmother said that to my mother who, in turn, said it to me and so I'm saying it to you !!!  Huh ???!!!  What weird logic is that ?  

It would help and calm a new mother’s fears to know from someone who has already been through this experience that it is perfectly normal for it to take a couple of days or more for the body to start lactating.  It would help a new mother to know that there could indeed be latching problems and issues and that these need patience and that one needs to persevere and that it is as much a learning process for the newborn baby to learn to feed as it is for the new mother to feed her baby.   It does not help to have people fling statements like “Oh ! you don’t know how to feed your baby”  or “ Oh ! There must be something wrong with your boob/s then”.  These are convenient but end of the day, they do not help one bit. 

If the new parents happen to have an over zealous paediatrician, their joys would simply be compounded overnight – literally.  Now, the usual practice in India when it comes to choosing a doctor, is pretty much going by your neighbour’s hearsay.  The same pretty much applies to the TamBrahm community too.  Which is precisely how I ended up with an obstetrician whose idea of a labour / delivery room was a converted bathroom in a residential building in Bombay.  One look at the OR in that nursing home was enough to make me decide that come hell or high water, I was going to push that baby out.  There was no way in heaven, given even the minutest of choices, that I was going to end up in THAT Operating Room !!  Some incentive that, huh !  Actually, one look at that OR would work really well in putting women off a C-Section.  It looked like one of those torture chambers from a set that had belonged to one of the movies from The Nightmare on Elm Street series.  I remember thinking very clearly and praying that the operating lights wouldn’t detach themselves from the ceiling and land on someone being operated upon.  I can imagine the said obstetrician looking all officious and saying “Oh !  we brought the lights down because I needed more light to operate” !!  Yes, people, it was that dicey !  If you’re wondering as to why I did not change doctors then, it was because I was due anyday soon and like I mentioned earlier, I was about as dainty as a beached whale.  Trundling along to “find” another obstetrician right then seemed more difficult than possibly a ride on the Battlestar Galactica in Universal Studios. 

The situation thus, is rather dexterously poised with the newborn, struggling to adjust to this noisy, bright world into which it has (quite literally) been pushed, the new mother who is going through a whole new learning curve and suddenly discovers that being able to sleep four hours straight was a luxury, the new father who is beginning to look more flummoxed, confused and sleep deprived with eyes wider and more baffled than deer caught in headlights. 

Another rather famous piece of advice that was given to me when Macadamia was born was "don't use diapers" - as in don't use disposable diapers.  Oh well !  Those little triangle pieces of cloth are next to nothing, truth be told.  God alone knows what possessed me to accede to that particular suggestion from the helpful angels around me but fact remains that I did.  No wonder then that I spent the first couple of months looking like a raccoon that had been electrocuted into dumb silence.  I guess that happens when one is terribly sleep deprived and surrounded by all sorts of Einsteins and Blaise Pascals.   

Now, if a new mom has been deemed as "not lactating enough" to fill her newborn's tummy (it was later that I realized that my newborn then used to keep crying because she was colicky and not because she was hungry all the time, as I'd been rather helpfully led to believe), all sorts of magic potions and concoctions make their way into the new mother's life.  Had someone turned this into a movie, it would have easily put Harry Potter's potions to shame.  One such magic potion given to my mom by some helpful soul involved a whole head of garlic (not a pod, people - a whole head of garlic), peeled and crushed, boiled in milk.  Rather helpfully, she asked my mom to then strain the milk, add some sugar so that it tasted good (yeah, sure !) and of course, I was asked to drink it all.  It helped wonderfully - as an emetic !!  Just the strong smell of that concoction turned my insides out and I spent the rest of the night retching and throwing up all the non existent food in my stomach.  When the helpful soul heard of this, she did remark "Oh Good !  It would have removed all impurities from the system" !  Excuse me ???!!!!  What impurities ?  It removed a good couple of layers from my intestinal tract !!  

Speaking of the intestinal tract brings me to the topic of food.  Now, in a TamBrahm household, new mothers have this "special diet" to follow.  They have to avoid root vegetables of any sort because that makes the baby colicky.  They have to avoid yoghurt because that too, apparently does something to the newborn - I didn't bother ask.  They have to avoid oil and spice because I'm sure that does something to the newborns too.  Basically, they have a select, gourmet choice of 4-5 vegetables.  It is indeed an experience of the highest order in sadism and masochism.  Truth be told, for a foodie like me, this diet for 42 days hurt way more than 10 hours of labour did.

I was fed (I know I am making myself sound like one of those cows from Kobe,Japan which are fed on the best of things so that they make the best beef steaks on someone's plate) a pure diet of okra or methi leaves or cabbage. One of those three vegetables would be cooked in ghee (which was never one of my favourites to begin with) and loads of cumin seeds (which aid digestion) and loads of methi seeds (which aid lactation, so it is said).  This was my diet for about 41 days, by the end of which, I was pretty sure my taste buds had died.  On the 42nd day, when I was given a tablespoon of some tomato dish with coconut, trust me, I almost turned delirious - deliriously happy that my taste buds were still alive and kicking.  Stubbornly spunky souls, those tastebuds !!
   
The new family is indeed complete, for now.  We shall join them in part 11 of The TamBrahm Saga, when the family starts to decide upon a name for the baby.  We shall also join them as they celebrate the newborn’s arrival at home with a naming ceremony and the kaapu ceremony.

Stay tuned, folks !



08 April, 2014

The TamBrahm Series (Part 9) - Events after the Valaikaapu / Seemantham

(Image courtesy : suga-namasivayam.blogspot.com via Google)
Continuing with The TamBrahm Series, this post is about the customs, traditions, fanfare and the social attitudes that women tend to exhibit towards pregnancy, in "educating" the mother-to-be on what to expect and quite successfully scaring the living daylights out of her.  This is Part 9 of the TamBrahm Series.  Am also posting the links to the earlier 8 posts in the TamBrahm series.
The TamBrahm Series (Part 1) Jaadagam Eduthacha - Horoscope matching and bride viewing.  Click here to view the post.
The TamBrahm Series (Part 2) Nischayathaartham - The Engagement Ceremony.  Click here to view the post.
The TamBrahm Series (Part 3) The Wedding Part 1.  Click here to view the post.
The TamBrahm Series (Part 4) The Wedding Part 2.  Click here to view the post.
The TamBrahm Series (Part 5) Kalyana Saddhi (The wedding feast) and Nalangu (games after the wedding).  Click here to view the post.
The TamBrahm Series (Part 6) Shanti Muhurtham a.k.a The Wedding Night a.k.a Suhaag Raat.  Click here to view the post.
The TamBrahm Series (Part 7) Valaikaapu and Seemantham Part 1.  Click here to view the post.
The TamBrahm Series (Part 8) Valaikaapu and Seemantham Part 2.  Click here to view the post.

Once all the fanfare of the Valaikaapu and Seemantham have settled, I mean once the dust has settled, it is time for the parents and the in-laws to decide upon when the expectant mother can go over to her parents’ house.  I mean, she can go over anytime she chooses to but given the TamBrahms’ penchant for muhurthams, there simply has to be one for this situation too.  After all, she is going over to her parents’ house and she will be staying there for a month or so after her delivery.  More importantly, she is carrying the next generation of the family.  So, finding a muhurtham is an absolute essential.
The family priest is consulted and he, in turn, consults the religious calendar and somehow, a consensus is arrived upon.  I’m making the word consensus sound like some sort of magic because people, trust me, it is.  The word “consensus” is just about as rare between a set of TamBrahm parents and in-laws as would be torrential rain in the deserts of Arabia.  It simply does not happen.  They just have to differ – it is a compulsion of some sort – they have to differ.  Period !!  I’ve always wondered why there is as much of a fuss as there actually is, over this “going to her parents’ place” thing.  There are many instances where the parents live in the adjacent building but that does not, in any way, diminish anything.  People still behave as though the expectant mother is embarking on a journey to Timbaktu, for her delivery.
When the expectant mother leaves her in-laws home for her parents’ home for her first delivery, there is this weird custom of sticking twigs of the curry leaf plant or the neem tree (I can’t seem to remember which one but there definitely are twigs in the picture) in her clothes – not in her, mind you, in her clothes.  Yet again, this is one of the customs which don’t seem to have any logical cause-effect relationship.  Or even if there is one, it is not something people seem aware of.  It has become more a case of “twigs were stuck into my clothes so I’ll stick some into yours” kind of a thing. 
I remember many of those twigs being stuck in many different parts of my clothing until I resembled a plant which started growing with the full gusto of a teen hitting a growth spurt and somewhere along the way, suddenly decided that it did not want to grow any more.  Just like that !  Had some Red Indian tribes seen me then, I would have been elected their chieftain, unopposed.  Simply put, I was a sight !  Just when I thought that was the end of my “make up” session, someone handed me an iron knife.  I kid you not !!  There I was, with a forehead that looked like Morse Code because of the number of dots and dashes of Kumkum on it, with twigs sticking out of many different areas in my clothes, brandishing a large iron knife.  Truth be told, I must have looked like an exemplary cross between an Red Indian Chieftain from some far away tribe and Phoolan Devi !!  Had it been put to the vote, we would have had a hung Parliament, for sure.
I simply did not know what to do with that iron knife and neither did any other person around.  All they knew was that an iron knife was to be given to the expectant mother.  What she was supposed to do with it or more importantly, what she was not supposed to do with it, no one helpfully knew.  I mean, a woman in her eighth month of pregnancy would not really need a large iron knife even for self-defence because even if she had a large knife, defending herself or attacking someone in that condition, would have been a mighty effort.  So yes, that is another one of those traditions, the answer to which no one knows !!
Once at her parents’ place, the expectant mother will have a steady stream of relatives and other mamis from all over the neighbourhood, stopping by to visit her.  Now when they come over to visit a pregnant lady, they always bring goodies with them.  Usually it is some home made savouries and sweets.  The timing could not have been worse, I say.  That late in pregnancy, women usually cut down on food intake because of the acid reflux situation.  If Lady Luck has been rather unkind, they would also have to watch their diet because of gestational diabetes or some such transitory phenomenon.  Now, this lady who has been asked to cut down on salty stuff (because she cannot risk sending her BP shooting up), oily, spicy stuff (because of acid reflux) or sweets (probably gestational diabetes), will have a large variety of goodies on which she can feast her eyes and only her eyes.  It is small wonder then that many women, late in pregnancy, are known to go looking for walls …. To bang their heads on !!
When these helpful mamis come visiting, they also bring along a wealth of experience to share with the expectant mother – whether she likes it or not, whether she wants it or not.  I, for instance, was told my many a mami that labour is so difficult and so painful that it is as good as a rebirth for the woman going through it.  In this instance, me !!  While I’m sure it is said with all good intentions, it does not help at all, at that stage of pregnancy.  As it is, the expectant mothers are quite apprehensive because they simply do not know what to expect.  To top this, to fill their heads with horror stories is not really a good idea.  The fear factor climbs exponentially and since ladies at that stage of pregnancy are not able to sleep much anyway, they have a whole lot of time at their disposal to imagine and conjure up all sorts of situations, most of them involving horrible or terrible pain.  No, it does not help !  What would help, under these circumstances, is having a sane voice of reason, one that does not hide the fact that there is a whole armload of pain waiting but one that also says, in the same breath, that it is very much doable. 
When one is a novice, there is always a fair amount of trepidation, of fear because one is basically stepping into the unknown.  In the case of couples expecting their first baby, this anxiety hits exponential levels because as the due date looms larger, appears closer, it always gives things a “larger-than-life” feeling.  That is when it hits people square in the head, that is when the penny drops, sinks even.  They are bringing a new life into the world and their responsibility as parents does not end with that.  On the contrary, that is when it begins.  The very thought of being responsible for another little human being, his/her well-being, of raising another member of society is quite a huge responsibility and the thought is a very humbling one, to put it mildly. 
Not to sound sexist here, but women experience more anxiety towards the end because if there is one thing any living being wants to avoid, it is pain.  Having their heads filled with innumerable tales of how extremely painful and distressing labour is, does not help.  Yes, expectant mothers (even ones expecting their first baby) do know, people, that labour is painful.  The least other ladies can do is present facts (if they are asked for or called for) without making the whole thing sound like one of those Saas Bahu serials, which are so utterly long drawn out, overly dramatic and excessively painful.
I still remember how many mamis had sworn then that they almost died of the pain, they saw stars in the daylight, they “went to heaven and came back” (now why anyone would want to do that, is beyond me !) and what have you.  Even worse is when the whole thing turns into a lamenting saga on “this is why women should not be born as women”!  Huh ???!!!!  What’s that even supposed to mean ?  Anyway, no disrespect meant, but when one of these sagas would begin, I had trained my brain to switch off.  There were but a few ladies who sounded extremely practical about the whole thing.  What society needs is more ladies like them around.  We need people that actually infuse confidence in expectant mothers, ones that state things for what they are or what to expect rather than overly dramatize the whole issue.
On that rather rebellious note, let’s leave the expectant mother at her parents’ house, for now, where she waits.   We’ll leave the expectant parents as they wait for the magic to happen, wait for the moment when they will touch their newborn baby for the first time, gaze into the baby’s eyes for the first time, when they will stare at those little tiny fingers and toes and feel that little being tugging at their heartstrings with a force they’ve never experienced before, when they will be completely bowled over by the sheer force of nature in all its glory and they will experience love for a little human being as an emotion in its purest form.