Preserving Indian Culture

E2AFC4E0-77B6-4F3D-A60C-DE7D0BBA92EDAs 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.

5 thoughts on “Preserving Indian Culture

  1. The paragraph you start with, “I’m not perfect by any means,” shows your mind and heart are on the right track, “to me”. Just do the best you can. The main thing I ever got from religion that I “try” to follow on a daily basis is the “Golden Rule”. Enough said.

    1. Thank you!

      Regarding the golden rule – I am so right there with you! I always tell the people closest to me that it is the self-implemented motto of my life… I always try to live my life by the golden rule as well! (to the best of my ability)

  2. Why preserve culture? Sati system was a part of our culture. So is patriarchy. But culture evolved, and will hopefully keep evolving. Why do expats live and reap the benefits of being in US, but adhere to their culture? Meanwhile as culture evolves, expats cling on to their “memory” of culture. Also, what does being “more Indian” mean anyway? Why can’t we all stick to the basics like – “be kind to everyone.” And shouldn’t doing social good should be more valued than reading and understanding old religious texts? There are good books on the struggle of expats. Now, as introspective as you are, it’d behoove you to look into those…

  3. I agree with not doubting anyone’s culture. However there’s a thin line between the culture and religion. India is not just about customs, religion or spirituality. There are a lot of other cultural aspects to it, like clothing, food, lifestyle, dance and drinking has also been part of the culture(from the northern states), even though religion doesn’t support it. It’s also constantly evolving and we should too. India is a very culturally diverse place. I don’t blame anyone because people in USA haven’t lived in recent India. Culture evolves with time and we should too!

    1. Thanks for your comment and I truly Agree completely – I think my point is that a lot of people assume we don’t know anything about anything (including dress dance food lifestyle) but addressing every topic would make the blog too long to read (and write) 😊

      But For example: “you must not know how to make indian food” or “you must not know what (insert food item here) is?” Or “you must not know how to do (insert indian activity here – garba? Kathak? Indian instruments? Hindustani music?) these are all comments that have been made to me as statements by people who couldn’t do them themselves but yet felt the need to comment because they knew I was an “abcd”.

      The list could go on – but I will stop there… customs wise as well people greatly assume we don’t know anything about them. And it would be great if people could just stop assuming before getting to know us. And then really… why make negative comments at all?

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