Where Will Our Traditions Go?

So here’s a question that has been on my mind for a while: who is going to perform the Hindu/Sikh/etc. weddings after all of the pandits (or corresponding religious leaders) in our area retire? The group I’ve grown up with has had this discussion before. Most of the people who perform weddings now have moved to America from India. And no one I know who is in my generation is practicing to become a pandit.

What happens to all of our cultural traditions in the future? Will there be someone who can help continue them?

I’ve been making sure that my parents and my husband’s parents talk to my kid in our respective languages so she learns that part of our culture. Unfortunately, it’s a second language for me as well and I tend to go to my first language when I speak to her. On occasion, when I do remember, I do speak to her in Gujarati. But it won’t be the way my parents spoke it to me. Language is still something easier to pass on than a few other aspects.

I grew up going to pujas, temples, parties that celebrated different festivals in India. When I got married, we had an event where our families and friends sang traditional songs in our respective languages. Will our generation be able to continue this? Who will be responsible so that our children learn all of this stuff? How do make sure that we don’t lose this part of us?

It’s a little bit scary. Is it okay that our traditions progress as the way we grow up changes? Did this happen to our parents or since they all were born in the same country, the traditions were able to be passed down much easier? I wonder if this really only affects us now because we are growing up here in America and raising our children here.

I want my child to know her cultures. I want her to be able to really understand where she comes from. I’m just not sure how I can make sure that happen in the future.

My Child Is 3 Different Religions. Is That Even Possible?

Religion has been a hot topic in the world, well, pretty much since the beginning of man. Just recently, I talked to someone who was having trouble with her parents because she was dating someone of a different religion. I wanted to talk about this a little bit.

Traditionally, in Indian culture, a child takes his or her father’s religion as their own. Of course, this probably wasn’t an issue when everyone was still marrying inside their own religion. But now, in today’s world, we have a lot more mixed marriages. So how do you raise your child?

My father is Hindu and my mother is Jain. I know these aren’t religions that are extremely different from each other but they aren’t the same religion either. I knew that, according to tradition, I was considered Hindu. But I’ve always told people that I was half Hindu and half Jain. I’ve always considered being Jain a part of who I am even though I don’t practice either religion too strictly. I grew up in a household where my mom wasn’t really religious and my dad was. The beauty of my dad’s religious beliefs though is that he didn’t discriminate by religion. To him, God is God however and wherever you choose to practice that belief. He will just as easily go sit in a church, a gurudwara (Sikh temple), a mosque, as he will any mandir (Hindu temple). He actually has copies of and has read all of the religious books corresponding with each religion.

When we were growing up, my parents put us in a Christian elementary school and then a Catholic high school. They wanted us in private school and the only ones around us were religion-based. Their ultimate goal was for us to get a good education and, as long as we were getting that, they were fine with us learning about other religions in the process.

My husband is Sikh. The Sikh marriage ceremony differs from the Hindu one. I have seen a lot of people choose do two weddings, one in their religion and one in their spouse’s religion. While this works for some people, I could not imagine getting ready twice and sitting through two wedding ceremonies. So we decided to do the one that worked for us. My whole family loved the Sikh ceremony. It’s one of the most peaceful, beautiful ceremonies I’ve ever seen. And I have no regrets about celebrating our love and commitment that way because regardless of which religion we celebrated in, we meant those promises to each other.

Now we have a child who is half Sikh, 1/4 Hindu, and 1/4 Jain. So now what? So far, we have taken her to the gurudwara to get a blessing and soon, we will be taking her to a mandir as well. Does it matter than she is this mix of religions? How does it affect my child to grow up in a world where there are people fighting and using religion as an excuse to do so?

It doesn’t matter to us what religion she chooses to define her (if she even chooses one and not all three) as long as she respects the good values they all teach. We want to teach her to be proud of who she is and understand her culture (her Punjabi, Gujarati, and American background). In the end, we want to teach her how to be a good person. That’s all that matters.

Is Marriage the Ultimate Goal?

I keep hearing that there are girls on their 20s to their early 30s who keep getting pressured to get married.  It’s amazing to me that anyone would pressure such a big decision like marriage onto someone.  

I’ve had discussions with women about this.  I really believe that your 20s is the time to really discover who you are.  You have the freedom to do whatever you want if you’re willing to stand up for yourself against those who are pressuring you.  

I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with getting married in your 20s. Many of my friends have done it and have had successful marriages.  I just think knowing yourself and what you want is really important.  If you don’t know yourself,  how do you know who will complement you? 

The other thing I think is why is there such a rush to get married?  Marriage doesn’t solve your problems.  If you find the right person and that is what you want,  then go for it.  But if you’re looking to solve the problem if having someone wanting you or feeling lonely or feeling like you should be married because that’s the thing to do,  then maybe more thought needs to go into the decision.  

Until you are truly happy with yourself,  how can you be happy with someone else?  No one has magic powers to make you happy.  And it’s not their job.  It’s your job to make yourself happy. 

So what do you do until you find that person? 

Live.  Have fun.  Travel the world.  Follow your passions.  I’m not saying that you can’t do this once you get married.  Hopefully,  you marry someone who can do all this with you.  But why wait for them to do it all?  

Marriage isn’t a goal.  It’s just something we do when the person and the circumstances are right.   It’s not something we have to stop living our own lives for.  

Have fun,  not stress,  in marriage.  

 

Emotional Abuse….Let’s Talk About It

Emotional abuse. Does that phrase even have meaning in the Indian culture? 

Emotional abuse is a form of assault that is deliberate and manipulative and used as a method of control.” We know what this one means. It means that someone is abusive through their words or how they say something. 

I got the following list from this link: http://www.goodtherapy.org/therapy-for-emotional-abuse.html

“A few indicators of emotional abuse might include the following:

  • The behavior in question doesn’t stop or even pause when the recipient begins crying or asks for time to cool down. In fact, abuse may escalate as the abused person becomes more and more vulnerable, demeaned, afraid, and upset
  • The behavior is frequent – several times a week or month, as opposed to very rare (once every few years, for instance.)
  • Vulgar language, completely baseless accusations
  • Insulting or demeaning words in front of other people
  • “Arguments” are very one-sided; one person does all the talking, never listening, and is not kind to the other.
  • Threats of violence
  • Blatant cruelty
  • The abuser does not apologize
  • The abuser will not recognize the validity of anything his or her victim says”

I want to talk about this last one. This is the one that really affected my life. Obviously, there are many forms of emotional abuse as mentioned above but I think this last one is one that is so subtle sometimes that it’s not recognized as emotional abuse as often as it should be. 

Have you ever said something to someone about how you’re feeling only to have them tell you that it’s your fault for feeling that way? Or they will tell you that what you’re feeling is wrong and you should feel this way instead?

Our feelings are our own. No one has the right to tell us that what we are feeling is wrong. No one has the right to make us feel bad about what we feel. No one has the right to make themselves more important than your feelings. 

I’ve noticed two types of people (I’m sure there are more but these are the two that I have come across). The first type believes that what they think or say or feel is right and there really isn’t any other way. There is only a right way and a wrong way. The second type understands that there are many types of people in the world and every single one of them is going to have their own thoughts and own opinions and sometimes, we have to be able to see something from someone else’s point of view. 

I’ve found the first type of person to be the type that tends to disregard something someone else says if it doesn’t agree with their own view. This is the person that will ignore the feelings of someone else if it doesn’t align with what they think. 

Invalidation of feelings leads to other issues. You start questioning yourself and your thoughts. You start thinking that maybe your feelings are wrong and that you should be reacting a different way. You lose trust in yourself and who you are as a person. You become a victim. 

That sounds like emotional abuse to me. 

I think this is an issue in the Indian culture that has been left unaddressed so far. We are just starting to understand that there are ideas beyond duty and responsibility. We’ve stumbled on freedom and happiness. I think it’ll be a while before we fully get to giving the problems of emotional abuse the attention they deserve. 

If you or someone you know is dealing with emotional abuse, please ask someone for help. Most people are ready to help you. Most people will help you get into a better situation than the one you are in. Just take the first step and ask. 

Mama’s Boys

Yes, you know you know them. Yes, you know you might be one of them. 

Let’s get something straight right off the bat. When I say mama’s boy, I don’t mean someone who cares for his parents. I don’t mean someone who wants to spend time with his parents. I’m not even talking about someone who really goes out of his way to make sure that his parents are taken care of. My family has a pretty tight bond and knowing that these are the people who will always be there for you is a great feeling. 

I’m talking about that guy who really can’t function without his mother. And no, I don’t mean when he is 2 years old. I mean when he is 32 years old. I’m talking about the guy who can’t make a decision about his own life without consulting his parents. It’s one thing to have their blessing or advice. It’s another thing to ask your mom for everything you need on a daily basis. 

And this seems so much more prevalent (well, maybe, at least to me) in the Indian community. You get that guy that wants to date you. Well, until he finds out that his parents are never going to like you because of a multitude of reasons: different caste, family background, different religion, age difference, not pretty enough, not thin enough, etc, etc, etc. Then, what? Will he fight for you or will he let you go? Will he have the strength to really stand up to his parents if he knows they are wrong in their decision or will he let them make the last call? 

Again, this is based on the idea that the girl chosen is someone good. It’s based on the fact that there is real love between the couple. I know this is another discussion but just to assert my thoughts on this, I think honesty will come from your friends and siblings. If they like who you are with and will stand by you, then maybe it’s time to stand up to your parents. 

Anyways, back to the idea of the mama’s boy. This is the guy who will still run to his mother if he needs something instead of his wife, even though his wife can probably take care of whatever it is. 

My mom has a theory about these guys. As the women in our culture get more and more educated, they are opting not to marry guys that aren’t independent minded. The problem is that they haven’t had a need to change. If someone took care of me all the time, why would I want to grow up? The women, though, have decided that instead of depending on someone to take care of them, they will go out and make a career for themselves and give themselves options. And they won’t settle for someone just to be married. So where does that leave these guys? 

I’d like to believe it’s changing. I see more and more guys who really have started becoming more independent in their thoughts and actions. There are always going to be those that will marry someone just to fill a void. I know guys who have done that. But, I believe there are now guys who have started really understanding what a relationship is. The relationship isn’t just a duty but something that both partners have to work on. 

I have hope for the mama’s boys. I hope that they will learn that the world is changing and what used to work for centuries won’t work as much anymore. And, in the meantime, to those women who have children, please remember to raise them as the man you have or would have liked to have married. 

We Are the Masters of Distraction

Yesterday, I went to a board meeting for a charity that I have been involved with and watched these amazing people in the generation above me spend their time and passion to furthering a great educational cause. These people are the examples of what I want my future to be like, especially when I retire. They are using their time on this earth to really make a difference in the world. I started thinking that they are doing a great job at getting involved and distracting themselves from what could be a really boring daily life routine otherwise. Then, it occurred to me that we, Indians, are really the masters of distraction. We have extremely busy social lives, we work abnormally hard, we do as much as we can in the short amount of time we have on earth (that is, if you don’t believe in reincarnation and that we will come back and do it all over again). We know how to fill up our day so we just go, go, go. But sometimes, this isn’t a good thing.

I wanted to talk about the other side of how we use distraction in our daily life. There are so many times that we use all of the things we do to hide the emotional side of our lives. We go to these events and hang out with just about anyone to really turn off the insight we have into our own feelings. We figure if we don’t think about it, it doesn’t exist.

A few years ago, I went through a pretty bad depression. I was lucky enough to have friends and family that made me realize that I needed help. If that had not happened, I would have either continued being depressed or used other events in my life to distract me from having to deal with it. I don’t know if that would have helped or prolonged it. I do know that I am glad that I learned how to deal with all of my issues head on.

Facing depression isn’t easy. Being Indian, we come from a culture where emotions aren’t a recognizable reason for doing something. If you think about it, we haven’t had to struggle as our parents have, we have led pretty stable lives with a lot of opportunity, we have had the choices in life to really do what we want. What reasons could we have for possibly have for depression?

Depression isn’t something that you can always control. External factors also can trigger it. If you go through several big losses in your life, I’d be surprised if you didn’t have some sort of strong emotional reaction to them. Just moving on is ideal but in my opinion, it doesn’t seem realistic.

I think it’s time for our culture to realize that emotions don’t just happen in movies. Emotions happen and sometimes, they happen a lot harder than anyone realizes. The only way to get past it is to take the first step into awareness. Only then, you can get help. I have seen people in our generation and even the generation above us be sad but not understand why. Sometimes, the lack of awareness for these types of emotions is astounding.

So, if you have experienced something like this to any extent in your life, know that it’s normal and it’s okay. We all go through it but as any “good” Indian society member would do, we just don’t talk about it. We need to get it out there and realize that this is a very real thing and the only way to deal with it is not by just distracting yourself but by acknowledging it and then, learning what to do to make it better. Your emotional well-being is important to your health and your happiness.

So why do we have such a hard time taking our emotions seriously?

Just Because I’m American Doesn’t Mean I’m Not Indian

You would think the typical problem for someone first generation born in America would be racism against the fact that you are Indian even though you’re as American as the next person. I do know that this is the case for a lot of people throughout the country. It’s a sad fact and hopefully, we are getting to a point where people are enlightened enough that this isn’t an issue anymore.

My problem is a little different from the typical racism. I want to talk about the stereotypes I dealt with growing up. From other Indian people.

There was an Indian movie that came out in the 90s called Pardes. It basically told a story about a girl from India who was marrying a boy who grew up in the US. This boy was a horrible human being. He drank, he smoked, he had girlfriends prior to marriage. All of this was a direct result from the fact that he had grown up in America.

Seriously??

I’m not going to comment on the fact about whether all of these things are right or wrong. Instead I’m going to focus on the fact that all the “bad” stuff happened because a person wasn’t raised in India. And if you think this is just something that was portrayed in a movie, let me tell you that it actually happens.

When I was 19, I brought a guy around to our family parties. This was someone my parents had met and liked and they were fine with him coming with us. All of a sudden, as of that day, I was a bad influence on the other children within our group. Because I had a boyfriend. And this was the type of guy who the same people would have been trying to set me up with maybe 2-3 years down the line. Same nationality, same religion, good family, etc. I couldn’t understand it. I was a super nerd in school. I didn’t drink, I didn’t really have many boyfriends, I had been teaching dance to their children, I had good grades, and was attending college on a scholarship. Yet, all of that history wasn’t enough. I was now this American girl who was going to take everyone else’s children down the wrong path. I was lucky that my parents stood by me and stood up for me. Now, as I watch all of these people’s children get married to people that are not the same heritage as we are, I wonder if they realize how unfairly they judged me back then.

There was a friend I had whose mom did not like me because she felt threatened or something by the relationship I had with “her little boy”. We were just friends but for whatever reason, I wasn’t a good person. One day, she saw me wearing a sari. She asked me who tied the sari for me (it takes a lot of practice). I told her I did it myself and I’ve known how to do it for the last 7 years. My friend later told me that his own sister-in-law from India can’t tie her own sari. Why did this woman assume that I was so American just because I was born here that I didn’t know anything about my own culture?

Most of the people I have been friends with here can speak more languages than just English. Most of them can understand at least 3 languages. I have friends who have been born and raised here in America and friends who have been born in India and came over after spending their childhood there. My own husband came to this country at the age of 11. Yet, there’s not really a significant difference between us. We are both proud of our culture and we share it. We also adopt parts of the American culture that are more progressive and really have been creating a new culture in which future generations will be a part of.

So, Indian people who think that they are better than I am just because I was born here and not there, get over it. We are all the same. The sooner you start thinking that way, the more we will all get along.