My story is about the morals and beliefs that I’ve learned through the journey that I call life. Being a Gujarati Indian is a significant part of my identity and it is something I want others to learn about. I want all the Asians that are ashamed of their culture to think about how similar we are as you read about my life.
I am proud of my culture and where my roots lie. Hence, when people ask me what my ethnicity is, I proudly tell them: “I am Indian”. I am grateful to have the privilege to represent my country and educate myself on the history of India’s formation. However, my love for my culture isn’t something I am easily able to express in words. It comes in the form of pride, such as being able to say that I can speak a different language.
Growing up, I learned that my love for Hinduism wasn’t as intensely shared between other kids my age. When I would wear a japamala on my neck and my wrist, I would feel self-conscious after looking at the other kids in my class and realizing that I was the only Gujarati kid who wore a necklace like this. Hardly anyone my age is willing to express their feelings about their culture, let alone show their admiration of it. But for me, I am vocal about my appreciation for my culture because being Indian has taught me many of my morals and beliefs that I still follow to this day. For example, whenever I felt stressed and alone, I would chant mantras to calm myself down and try to overcome the challenge with a clearer mind.
In a part of Hinduism, it is said that being vegetarian purifies the soul and mind. I never took those words to heart, since I was raised a vegetarian. I am always used to the table being filled with tasty vegetarian dishes with the delicious scents of shak (vegetables), dhar (lentils), bhat (rice) and roti (a round whole-wheat flatbread) filling the air. My mom would pack these delectable dishes for lunch the next day and it would come to no surprise when other children would plug their noses when I opened my thermos. The Indian powders in my lunch, like masala (curry powder) and haladhara (turmeric), created strong scents that only I was used to. This never made me feel ashamed, however. Instead, it encouraged me to cook and learn all of the old, Gujarati recipes that my grandmother kept for me. The mocking of my food didn’t bring me down because I knew there were others like me who shared my love of Indian food and it motivated me to embrace my life as an Asian.
I deeply value my religion and culture and I am proud to have Hinduism as a part of my identity. In fact, my values and beliefs come from the lyrics behind the melodic and powerful rhythms through the theme of superficial love in Hindi Music. Without embracing my culture, I doubt that I’d be half the person that I am today. My strength of being curious and my passion for art allow me to explore and interpret my visual perspective of the bhagwans in the Ramayana and it lets other people see them through my own unique perspective.
However, being so involved with my culture makes me narrow-minded at times. I tended to gravitate to others who practice Hinduism rather than to look at people regardless of their culture. I found more comfort in surrounding myself with people who share the same interests and background as me, only because I thought that they were the only ones that I can relate to. But, the truth is far from that. There are others who appreciate aspects of my culture, from the amazing food to the unique music, regardless if they are Indian or not.
Acknowledging this helped me embrace my culture in a different way– by educating others on it.