Reflections on culture

My mind is literally brimming over with thoughts. I need to capture it even as a mix of emotions are swirling through my mind.

In a month long attempt to help children discover their Indian roots, we. began a project of exploring Indian cuisine as seen through the eyes and palates of children. It led to moms unearthing ancient brass and earthen cooking utensils , some of which I had never seen and some that brought in an emotional rush of memories too deep for thought.

It then went on to children participating in a tolerance march to show their respect for the diversity of their country and coming together to make the tricolor as they sang the Indian anthem with fervor.

The next evening saw a colorful pageant of Indian states and Union territories where young and old participated as they celebrated their heritage.

I learned so much about culture over the last month through these interactions. Firstly, that we attach significance to certain items and they colour the way we see things. The preparation of food has evolved but the traditional utensils are still a part of homes and people’s lives. They were perhaps handed down to us by mothers or grandmothers and have been carefully preserved if not used regularly. When given the opportunity to share it with others, they emerged from homes in all their splendor. we are proud of the way we prepare our own food. We like our distinctiveness. We enjoy our differences but can certainly see our similarities. Every few kilometres of travel in India changes not only the cuisine but the dialect, religion and language of people

Secondly I learned. that culture is preserved when adults participate alongside their children in handing down not only stories but songs, dances, traditions, costume, jewelry and. gestures. Through myriad ways knowingly or unknowingly our participation ensures that values and meaning are transferred from one generation to another. Without the wholesome participation of adults, the transfer is not complete. An elderly grandparent who attended the event held on to my hands as his voice shook with gratitude. It meant so much to him to see that the traditions and culture were being passed on. His eyes and voice told me how important it is to us as humans that the work of our hands is passed on to others. The meaning we have created as humans must enhance. and not just preserve the culture as we know it.

Finally, I saw the joy and happiness of staff and students as they participated in each other’s culture. They learned in the space of an hour what a whole year could not have given them in the classroom. They saw adults embracing culture joyously. They saw sharing and festivity. They saw great collaboration.

I know now how culture is transferred. I know now that we must enhance and not just preserve. I know that it adds meaning to all our lives and that only in practicing our beliefs with passion and honesty does it touch the lives of others.

India is a great melting pot of cultures and its heritage lies deep within our souls. We , the people make our own culture. If we understand that we can enrich it and make it more meaningful for our children

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