Festivals

Growing up in India, I didn’t celebrate many festivals. Sounds odd, but my family was not much into festivals and rituals. When I was in college, we’d celebrate festivals like Holi and Diwali with friends, but not the puja and rituals.

When I came to Milwaukee in 1970, there was a bigger gaping hole in celebrating festivals as there were very few Indians. Even though we had not celebrated many festivals in India, but I had family and friends so it didn’t matter as much. But now I felt a big void. There was no community and no one to celebrate with. India cultural society did organize Diwali. So there was some community but it didn’t feel the same as India. However, slowly more Indians came and there were many more celebrations. I learnt different rituals. We made our own traditions and formed our own community.

Now I have been here for over 40 years and there are many Indians. We have a Hindu temple. We have a lot of festival celebrations with rituals and all. I celebrate Lohri, Makarsankranti, shivratri, Rama navami and so many more. The sense of community is very strong and we have finally made our life here.

One of the delightful part of the festivals is social media. I am on Facebook and have a whatsapp group. I get greetings for so many festivals. While I realize that it is not personal, but it does create a nice atmosphere of joy. Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day etc are all over, but social media creates a virtual world of Indian festivals. For Lohri, there will be videos showing dancing around the bonfire, for sankranti different people will send greetings with traditional sweets. And, the nice part is that I get messages from people from different cultures in India. Lohri from Punjabis, Makarsankranti from maharastrians, uttarayan from Gujratis, Pongal from South Indian. We Indians in America are celebrating this occasion together. Most Indians live far apart, so there isn’t the camaraderie of neighborhood celebrations or celebrations in the local community. Social media has become the community that I didn’t have.I missed this in my childhood and now I get it through social media.

 

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Meditation

Meditation is so ubiquitous now. There are books, videos, youtube etc etc.. There are so many types of meditation like mindfulness, zen, Vedantic, japa to name a few.  Of course, all the techniques talk about the benefits such as stress reduction, concentration and so on. There have been scientific studies showing the health benefits and the effect on the brain. It has shown that just like good nutrition and exercise, this practice can have a profound effect on your well being. So over the years, I have tried meditating sporadically using different methods. Can’t say I have seen any noticeable benefits. Of course, sporadically doesn’t work for anything.  Yet at some level in my mind, I have always wanted to meditate and reap the benefits that are promised.

When Deepak Chopra’s meditation online seminars showed up in my Facebook page, I ignored the post, because I wasn’t sure I wanted to listen to someone who has commercialized Vedantic teachings. I wondered is it good that so many people have learnt about Vedanta or is it somehow belittling the ancient scriptures?  I really don’t know.  Although,  I have read some of his books and found them well written.  I was able to understand the essence of the scriptures at a pragmatic level.

He was presenting the seminars with Oprah Winfrey and I admire her, so I decided to give it a try.  If I don’t like them, I can always stop.  I told myself. On the other hand, it will be a learning experience

An Indian Immigrant

Coming to America as a single Indian women in 1970 was supposed to be a short term fun adventure. In my subconscious mind, I expected to go back home, get married and settle in India. Instead, I have lived here for more than 40 years.  I have tried to hold on to my Indian roots through religion, food, music and dance, Hindi movies etc..  However slowly, American culture has seeped into my psyche, so sometimes I feel like an American, yet at some level I am an Indian. Juxtaposition of the two cultures and norms has been an interesting long term adventure.