As we celebrate Diwali and even over the past few months, various Indian holidays… a few things have been coming to mind. Especially since a lot of times many Indians (peers as well as parents) constantly question my understanding of what’s going on, often times assuming I don’t know anything… and many times assuming that it must have been hard for my parents to maintain the Indian culture. However when I look around me… I find myself to be very Indian… sometimes more “Indian” than some Indians around me. That’s when I realized… that either my idea of “preserving culture” is wrong… or theirs is.
So then I have to ask… what does preserving culture actually mean? What is Indian culture anyway?
(The following may be offensive to Indians unless they sit and think about what I’m asking before reacting. But after being on the receiving end of several offensive generalizations I feel like I have to respond on behalf of myself and my fellow ABCDs.)
Does preserving culture mean knowing how to celebrate each and every major or minor holiday and festival that comes along? Does it mean speaking the mother-tounge perfectly? Just because a person grew up in India… does that automatically mean they’re “cultured” and any POI/ABCD is automatically not?
Let me ask this next. When it’s not Ganesh Chaturthi, or Diwali… or even a birthday… how many “cultured” folk actually go to a temple just because? Not to ask for anything but just because they are grateful for whatever God has blessed them with. How many understand the concept of leading a God-centric, or if not religious, then a spiritually-centric life as opposed to a self-centric life?
Religiously speaking – How many have actually studied or at least read the Gita or upanishads or vedas?
Lifewise speaking – How many have actually refrained from smoking, drugs, alcohol, or premarital or promiscuous behaviors mommy and daddy tell you not to engage in?
How many have sat with their parents and uncles and aunties and participated in full blown discussion from a young age when guests were over instead of just sitting up in their bedroom… or choosing to just go out and stay out with friends?
Ch16 v. 21 of Gita states “Tri-vidham narakasyedham dvaaram naashanam aatmanah
kaamah krodhastatha lobhas thasmaad etat trayam tyajet“
So how many behave selflessly… act for the greater good? Refrain from greed, lust, jealousy, and other vices?
How many are faithful (physically or emotionally) to their marriage? Are you doing anything that would make your spouse or partner uncomfortable?
How many people think about how they behave or what they say to their spouse… And how those things may affect the relationship or their spouses feelings?
“dharmam chara” – How many people at least attempt to follow the ‘right thing to do’ as opposed to the ‘easy thing to do’?
I could keep asking a lot of questions but that’s not the point.
I’m not perfect by any means. I’m not super Indian by any means though I try. I’ve made many, and I mean innumerable, mistakes. And honestly, I didn’t grow up in India so yes – there is a lot I also don’t know… and a lot of Indian culture (life wise) learned by living in India… is something I won’t ever have. But I’ve always tried to live and improve my life by self study and introspection. How many people truly understand the meaning of the Sanskrit word “swa-adhya” (self-study). Of thinking, understanding, and accepting their mistakes and learning from them?
Many people state that I’m very opinionated – and it’s true… it’s because I sit down and think about the concepts and meanings behind things in life. I don’t just mindlessly act without knowing why or why not I’m doing something. And therefore – I have an answer to my own question and I know (right or wrong) what preserving culture means to me.
I think whether someone is preserving a culture or not depends on how they choose to live their every day life. On a daily basis – Not only when festivals roll around.
So before pointing fingers at me or insulting my parents attempts to actually preserve Indian culture by raising me to behave a certain way on a daily basis – pay attention to your own daily behavior. Or your kid’s.
Cause honestly there’s an actual way and a superficial way to preserve your culture.