I figured that it would probably be a good idea to embrace my own culture before learning about everyone else’s

I love living in Australia. It’s a beautiful country filled with incredibly kind people and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I’ve been calling Australia home for more than half my life and if there’s one thing I’ve learnt after all these years, it’s that no one looks down on Indian culture, except for Indians themselves.

Maybe this attitude is a by-product of leaving our own countries, fuelled by a desperate need to blend in and to be accepted by the people of a foreign land. Maybe it’s a side effect of the bombardment of social media that, let’s face it, dictates social trends for people all over the world. Or maybe, in light of globalisation, we are too busy learning about everyone else’s culture that we have completely forgotten to pay any attention to our own.

We are too busy telling everyone to call us Jenny instead of Janaki. We are too busy trying to imitate the Australian accent (which when mixed with our own just sounds like a garbled mess). We are too busy trying to adopt the lifestyle of our peers, foraying into worlds our ancestors would never have dreamt of.

Of course, everyone will agree that adapting to new surroundings is not only normal, but necessary. Adapting to change is good, but completely giving up on our cultural identity  is not. Learning about new cultures is enriching, but an utter disregard for our own is not.

I mean, we are totally up to date with Beyonce’s music career, but have no clue about the legends of our own classical music. We know how to tame our Indian curves to fit into clothes that are in vogue, but have no clue how to drape a sari on ourselves. We engage in cultural immersion exchanges to various parts of the globe, but have no understanding of the symbolism of our own traditions.

We proudly embrace the culture of our new land, but are apologetic about our own. We call people who are traditional, FOBs (Fresh Off the Boat) and if we ever do attend an Indian function we post pictures of ourselves in Indian clothes signing it off with a meek #foblife. Of course the FOB term is used in good fun, but the underlying point is that we think being traditional is preppy and uncool. If we do embrace traditions once in a while, we feel inclined to point out that this is, not in fact, how we normally look, but a “look” that we’ve gone for temporarily.

When it comes to culture, ignorance is not bliss. We are missing out on the grandeur of our own cultural heritage because of the simple fact that we haven’t put much thought into it. We do not understand the purpose of all the rituals our forefathers performed and misinterpret traditions, which usually results in dismissing them as pointless or regarding them as archaic. And so, we abandon the wealth of cultural knowledge that has been passed down carefully from generation to generation in paltry timeframes of 5, 10, 15 years. It is so easy to lose what our ancestors protected with their heart and soul, so easy to throw away precious heirlooms of wisdom.

If there’s anything we should feel apologetic about, it’s the fact that we are victims of the conformity bug and all that’s left of our culture to be passed on to future generations might well be confusion and ignorance. All cultures are equally beautiful. They all deserve to be preserved. If we all gave up on our own culture to ape everyone else’s, the world would be an incredibly boring place.  No matter how long we’ve lived in Australia, no matter how Australian we are at heart, we will always be asked “so are you originally from India or….?”. Our Indian ancestry is not a costume that we can peel of at will. So, let’s spend some time getting to know our own culture whilst also learning about the other amazing cultures of the world.

What do you think? Leave a comment down below!

I am a 20 year old University student living in Australia. As I have never lived in India, I am no expert in Indian culture. However, my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Happy reading! 

The Tale of the Girl and her Holy Basil

Aum…..Aum……Aum. The celestial sound of creation filled the air as she cleaned the area around her precious Tulasi plant. The drone of the tanpura, ever so calm and soothing was the only sound she would allow her beloved plant to be exposed to. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She loved the smell of morning dew, crisp and fresh. But the fragrance that emanated from her beloved Tulasi was no less.  It was her most favourite scent in the world.

She began chanting her mantras and performing puja with utmost devotion. Namastulasi Kalyani… she chanted as she drew a simple puli kolam in front of the Tulasi. She pushed some stray strands of hair away from her face and placed sandanam and kumkumam onto the maddam. Namo Vishnu Priye Shubhe, she sang as she placed some kumkumam onto a leaf. She picked up her kudam and gently watered the Tulasi…Namo Moksha Prade Devi, Namo Sampath Pradayini….Aum Shanthi Shanthi Shanthihi. 

Birds chirped inconspicuously in the background as she began circumambulating her beloved Tulasi. She used to run around her Tulasi as a five year old kid and stare enviously at its leaves. How jealous she was of those blessed leaves who got to be ever so close to her dearest Lord Krishna. If only she could become Krishna’s Tulasi maala for but one day! Now as a young woman, she prayed only that she should possess a character that was unblemished and that she should be as pure as her Tulasi maata.

She picked up the bell lying on her puja tray and rang it softly as she waved the camphor that was slowly burning away without a trace. Her puja was now complete and she walked to the verandah where her grandma was laying out chillies to dry.

Her grandma gave her a knowing smile and told her, “unakku manampol mangalyaam thaan”. “Manna…what patti?”. “Mannampol Mangalyaam- it means that you will be blessed with a good husband, of your choice.Gayathri shook her head in disbelief as she placed a few more chillies on the mat lying in front of her. “Aiyoh Paati! Trust you to find some correlation between a plant and matrimony”. ” My dear, this is said in the scriptures also. Worship of the Tulasi is done by chaste women and confers auspiciousness onto the household. But that is not the only reason why generations of Indian women like us have worshipped Tulasi. Because it contains mercury, Tulasi  has strong anti-bacterial properties and the air surrounding a Tulasi plant will always be bacteria free. Tulasi is also the only plant that releases an extra molecule of oxygen. While other plants release O2, Tulasi releases O3. That is why we keep the plant in an open courtyard in the middle of the house. Immersing Tulasi leaves in water and drinking it prevents respiratory tract problems.Make sure you drink some everyday.”

Gayathri nodded in response and thought about all that she had just heard. Interesting, she thought. “Funny how the little rituals we do daily and take for granted are deeply rooted in scientific knowledge. Patti, our ancestors really knew what they were doing!”.”Of course di, old is gold!” she said with a twinkle in her eye. The chillies were all on the mat now and they shared a hearty laugh as they went back into their home.

Do you worship Tulasi daily? Leave a comment down below!

Glossary: Tulasi (Basil plant), Tanpura ( musical instrument), mantra(prayers), puja(worship ritual), (sandanam/kumkumam( sandalwood/vermillion), maddam: structure in which plant is placed, kudam ( pot), maala (garland), maata( mother), patti (grandmother). Meaning of Tulasi sloka: Salutations to the benevolent Tulasi,salutations to the holy darling of Vishnu, Salutations to the Goddess who grants liberation, salutations to the one  who grants wealth.

I am a 20 year old University student living in Australia. As I have never lived in India, I am no expert in Indian culture. However, my love affair with this beautiful culture has been running strong for many years and I hope to share my passion with everyone this blog reaches:) Happy reading!