As said by Marcus Garvey, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture, is like a tree without its roots.” About 2 decades ago, I stepped foot into the United States with my family as a 6-month old baby. Little did I know the difference between where I was at that time. Today, I am 19 years old. So much has changed within the past nineteen years. I grew up here, in Louisville, for my whole life and I know the difference between India and America. When we first moved to the US, we knew very little in regards to the culture or traditions here. We were not only new to the country, but we were also new to the atmosphere and the environment.
Just like many families, we turned and sought to find our comfort zone here. We met a lot of Indian families where we felt a sense of familiarity. When we came to the US, we didn’t just bring ourselves. We brought our traditions, experiences, and culture with us too. We were able to speak our language and keep our Indian culture alive by interacting with other Indian families. It has been 19 years since my family came to the US, yet, we still are sustaining our Indian culture. Like many other parents, how the culture gets passed down to their children, my parents did the same. So today, while being a college student, I am a growing bud on this cultural tree. I incorporate my Indian culture into my day to day life, one way or another. Whether it is eating Indian food, or praying, my culture follows me everywhere I go. That’s how my parents raised me.
These past few months are a prime example of how my family has been sustaining our roots. In the Hindu religion, we had the occurrence of Dussera and Diwali. Each family celebrates these festivals differently. But, there are some things that are similar across regional areas. As I have learned from my parents, Dussera is the celebration of when good defeated evil. In the Hindu scriptures, Lord Rama, the human reincarnation of Vishnu, the God of Preservation, defeated Ravana, the King of Demons. The day he killed Ravana is the day my family, along with many others, celebrate Dussera. In my house, we celebrated Dussera by performing a puja, or a prayer, and made special food to eat. We also gathered in the temple to celebrate with other families and shared our sense of belonging. If we were in India, we would spend festivals like Dussera with our whole family. But because our family isn’t here, we celebrate with our friends whom we consider as family, now. That is something that has changed ever since we moved here. We find more ways to bring the Indian community together by hosting programs to celebrate festivals. Two weeks ago, the Telugu community celebrated Dussera together by hosting a cultural program. There was an afternoon full of performances by the local Indian community.
Another huge festival Hindus celebrate is Diwali. Just like Dussera, Diwali is celebrated for different reasons by different families. My family celebrates Diwali as the day to recognize the light within ourselves. Hence, why Diwali is known as the Festival of Lights, or the victory of light over dark. My family celebrated Diwali by doing puja and we lit lights around the house. We ended by visiting the Temple and lighting fireworks.
Festivals, like Diwali and Dussera, help Indian families, like mine, sustain our Indian roots and maintain a sense of belonging even while living in the United States. For my family, sustaining this culture, language, and religion is really important. So, we strive to keep it alive through generations and generations regardless of where we live or who we are around. So, with what I have shared with you today, I urge you to do something that keeps your culture alive because when you sustain those roots, you are most true to yourself.