you just brought out the next phase of my thoughts here.
incidentally the jews have a 'bar mitzvah' for the coming of age and initiation into jewry for the boys. and to be fair enough, there is, 'bat mitzvah' for the girls.
like us, their initiation these days, is an occassion for money spent.
in the early to mid 1900s, when there was more leftist idealism in the common jew (atleast i believe so), most parents eschewed this practise. their children, much later in life, reasserted this jewishness, by holding their own bar mitzvahs.
anand, that is one option that we have. that way, conducting the poonal now, in the hope that something of this ritual rubs off into the child, for later germination, is but a forlorn hope, and not wedded to the reality or real purpose of the ritual. no?
re your economic arguement might hold some water. but would not educating a poor brahmin child, in the name of all the money spent on a poonal, make more economic sense.
having said all the above, i agree, that poonal is a private function exclusively to be decided for the sons by the parents. especially these days of single son family, it is an occassion for get togethers, as even weddings (& funerals) appear to come far apart.
if the parents want to splurge their newly earned wealth on something extravagant, let it be so. but atleast have some heart for the less fortunate. make an announcement to contribute for some charity and exhort that the gifts be cash only, to be donated towards some public good.
best of both the worlds.
also, now a days, with girls only families, should we not have something equivalent for girls. definitely not the 'coming of age puppinatha neerattu vizha'. that one is an abomination, and is increasely given up by enlightened folks from other tamil groups as well.
something more enlightening. perhaps high school graduation?