Identity is a feeling of one’s self of belonging to a group or community. In the broader sense, our identity is influenced in some ways, by our place of birth, upbringing, culture and religion that we belong to, the family values which were instilled in us, ideals, arts, music, expressions and social and interpersonal relationships.
I am an Indian American and my parents are from India. I was born and raised in New Jersey and currently live in Texas. We follow Hinduism. Although I have lived in America all my life, I strongly identify with my Indian heritage. My parents and grandparents have taught me to embrace certain aspects of our culture and family values. When I visit my cousins in India and compare myself to them, I can say that my family has adapted to the new way of life. I go to the local temple at least once a month. My family and I celebrate the main festivals throughout the year. In Hinduism, there are a lot of auspicious days and festivals which come every month, but we only celebrate the main events. We follow Hinduism, but not strictly to the core. After Christianity and Islam, Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world. In Hinduism, the god Brahma is the creator of the universe, Vishnu is the preserver of it and Shiva is the god of destruction. Worshippers often repeat the names of their favorite gods and mantras while praying. Water, fruit, flowers and incense are offered to the god during puja(prayers). Hindu priests perform pujas in the temple. Hindus consider the cow as a sacred animal.Order now
Indian festivals are very colorful and fun. Each festival has its own significance. During festivals, the house is cleaned/painted and everyone gets a oil massage and head bath. Diwali is my favorite festival. It is celebrated for two days. On the second day, we perform the Lakshmi puja, eat a variety of sweets, decorate the house with lights and fire crackers in the evening. We exchange sweets with friends and neighbors. Diwali is beginning of the new year for most people. It is a tradition to buy gold jewelry for Diwali. Holi is known as the festival of colors and love. It is based on Indian mythology of good triumphing over evil. It comes in spring and is a exciting and fun-filled festival. It is celebrated as the festival of love. People chase each other, throwing handfuls of colored powders at one another, while getting drenched in water. Holi is an ancient celebration and it is celebrated by lovers coloring their faces with the same colors.
Raksha Bandhan is another major tradition. On this day, sisters tie a rakhi around the wrists of their brothers. The rakhi provides protection for them and they, in turn, get a gift from their brother. The sister wishes her brother a long and good life while he makes a vow to protect her for life. Raksha Bandhan means the job to protect and care for your sibling. This festival strengthens the relationship between siblings and families. Nowadays, families are becoming more nuclear and urbanized, as well as not marrying in traditional ways. The festival has now become much more symbolic, but continues to be popular. Raksha Bandhan has different names throughout the country and is celebrated in different ways.
Although I practice Hinduism, I am very eager to learn about other cultures and religions. I attended a Christian school when I was young and learned couple of things about Christianity. Sometimes, I would volunteer at a church. My grandmother lives with us and she cooks delicious food. She is a neat freak. She is always smiling and friendly to everyone. Whenever I talk to her, I learn new words and vocabulary of my mother tongue, Telugu. I can understand Telugu well, but have trouble speaking it. I always try to help her, even when she doesn’t need it. Talking to her on a daily basis, helps me improve my Telugu speaking skills. I also teach her a little bit of English, whenever I have free time. Although she only speaks Telugu, she knows basic English words like hello, how are you, bye, ok and thank you. She prays at least once a day and teaches me more about Hinduism. My brother sometimes volunteers at a local church and at a food pantry.
I have several friends of different nationalities and cultures. I enjoy their uniqueness and always try to understand what their perspective of life and culture is. I feel that although, we are all different, we still have common core values, in regards to family and society. We all approach life in our own way based on our upbringing and past experiences. This is what makes us unique in our own way of dealing with life. Even though we grew up together, I can see many differences between my brother and I with regards to how he approaches his life. One of the differences is that, he loves eating out, whereas I prefer home cooked meals. He prefers to fool around with everybody, whereas I need my personal space. He loves to play video games, whereas I prefer to go to the gym. Even though, we have our differences, we still love each other.
There are always unique perceptions about each culture. This unique culture comes about by how the people of a culture value certain things. Asians are usually considered as hard-working and value education. They are considered to be more family oriented and still continue to follow their traditions, even when they move to a new country. Our identity is partly based on our history and mostly changed, by where we live and the life experiences/expectations of the society we were raised in. I am proud to be both Indian and American and I enjoy learning about both cultures. Although I am familiar with all my traditions, I have my own way of following them. I mostly enjoy watching Hollywood movies and listening to rap music. Based on my observations of family and friends, I see that their behavior towards other people changes with their status, but they still have their core beliefs with them.
My family and I, celebrate holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. We had a great Thanksgiving last year, when we went to Charlotte for a family gathering. After six years, we all met and I saw my cousins. They are all teenagers and have grown up. We all bonded very well. We all wanted to spend more time together, but as always good things do not last forever. After everybody left, I missed them and felt lonely. My cousins and I are planning on having a reunion, at least once a year. This reunion was very special for me because I hadn’t seen some of my cousins for the past five years.
At one point, when we are all little, we all lived in New Jersey and used to meet very often. We have dispersed in the last couple years and this reunion brought us together, with all the fond memories of our childhood. We are making it a tradition, to celebrate Christmas with our friends and exchange gifts. It is our effort to donate to charity. We are also trying to get more people involved to donate to charity for Christmas, by buying toys for the less fortunate and needy families. I am planning to volunteer at food pantries.
Identity is the self-image that one portrays to others. Culture is the self-perception about ones self. Culture determines the person who you are today based on the morals that were incorporated into you by your elders. This includes learning good from bad, your background, upbringing, your religion and interaction with others. A person with a positive cultural identity will also have a positive attitude towards society and strong national pride. Music and festivals are a common route for various cultures and people to mingle, which in turn, creates strong friendships. This in turn, brings people together and develops national pride and patriotism.