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 Jasmine Love Story ( Sticking to Tradition: No Visa Required)

I have no idea what it is about youths in Australia, but no one who is of marriageable age gets married. Or in the rare event that they do, the wedding is held overseas. In the ten years that I have lived here, I have attended a grand total of two weddings, and one of them was my aunt’s. One fine day we received a wedding invitation via mail and I stared at it in surprise. After confirming that the wedding was actually being held in Australia and that we would, in fact, be able to attend, I waited for the wedding date eagerly.

Finally, the day of the wedding arrived and I stood in front of the mirror listening to amma’s commentary on the techniques she was using to drape my favourite manjal coloured saree on me. I lined my eyes with mai, and placed a tear shaped bindi between my brows. The only thing left to be done now, was my hair. I measured the strings of the kunjalam against my waist-long hair to determine which point of my braid it should go onto. Ten minutes later the braid was complete, kunjalam and all. I walked towards the car, but stopped abruptly to do a double take on my reflection in the window just outside the front door. I glanced sorrowfully at the sorry sight of my long, empty jadai. My jadai was missing an essential accessory: malligai pu.

Oh! How much I do love the strands of those little flowers, as white as snow and as soft as silk. The sweet-smelling fragrance that they exude is , oh,  so heavenly and uplifting. Their very sight enthrals and the faintest whiff of their scent is enough to bring forth the image of my ishta devata bedecked in layers of jasmine garlands. It is a delightful flower indeed.

So why didn’t I just buy some malli pu for my hair, you wonder? Well, because it’s practically impossible to find it in the part of Australia I live in. Very few stores sell them and we are charged ridiculous amounts for  10  cm strings of yellowing, dried out flowers. Since buying flowers was not a practical option, we decided to plant a jasmine tree at home. It’s been five years since we planted the tree and it only recently started producing a decent amount of flowers. Sigh. It’s just too difficult to get jasmine here, which is why I turn into a mad, jasmine-hungry girl as soon as I land in India. No kidding.

We were having an interesting conversation with an auto-driver in Chennai who was insisting that the national language of India was Tamil and all other languages were “waste languages” when I spotted the sight of a flower vendor on the side of the road. I forced the auto-driver to stop immediately and literally bought out the flower store. “Divya, how much malligai pu do you want to put in your hair? People are going to think you are a bride or something” amma said as she rolled her eyes. Appa started complaining that he was getting a headache from the overwhelming strength of the scent.  “Shhhhhh. Everyone, just look at the flowers and enjoy.” I replied as I pinned the strands of flowers onto my hair. I mean, who knows how long it would be before I got to wear them again?  Our auto- driver finally dropped us off at out destination: the home of a family friend. As soon as the aunty saw me, she gasped. “Happa! Evalo lakshanama iruka. Oru nala paiyana paathe katti veppom”.

Oops. Probably shouldn’t have worn so much malli pu.

Jasmine flowers are one of the ornaments of Indian women. They are also used in the worship of Gods and are deemed to be auspicious. Modern day research confirms that jasmine has a subtle effect on hormones and promotes beta rhythms in the brain, resulting in greater mental awareness. It has a calming effect on the autonomic nervous system and  results in increased self- confidence, which is why jasmine oil is used to aid patients struggling with anorexia. Chemical constituents in jasmine flowers promote a positive mood and help eliminate emotional barriers one may have. 

Do you love jasmine flowers too? Leave a comment down below!

Glossary: manjal (yellow), mai (kohl), kunjalam (hair ornament), malligai pu (jasmine flower), jadai (braid), ishta devata (favourite God form), “Happa! Evalo lakshanama iruka. Oru nala paiyana paathe katti veppom”( wow she is so traditional. We will find her a nice boy to marry).

 

Sticking to Tradition: No Visa Required

Namaste fellow tradition lovers!

Through my blogging initiative, I have come into contact with some pretty awesome people who hail from orthodox  families in India. Having had many conversations with them over the past few weeks, I realised pretty quickly that the idea of youths sticking to tradition (willingly)  in a Western country was so surprising to them. They did not think that such people existed, especially outside of India! I assured them that there are indeed some young tradition lovers out in the West 🙂 Our conversations got me thinking and I decided to make a new addition to my blog.

So…here it is. My first blog series! I will be writing a compilation of short stories under the heading “Sticking to Tradition: No Visa Required” to highlight unique experiences of Indians living abroad . I hope that you will enjoy this series and if there are any topics you would like me to cover, please leave a comment down below:)

A shout-out also, to my wonderful friends, the creative minds behind Ambireturns (ambireturns.wordpress.com), Iyerslife (meenuiyer1092.wordpress.com) and the IyerTips Facebook page. They have made it their life’s mission to share their treasure trove of knowledge of Tamizh/Iyer culture with me!

Happy reading,

Divya