Man of the Hour
Interviewed on April 1, 2017
The legend vs. The successor
For this oral history, I decided to interview my grandpa, the grand master himself. My grandpa is truely a great individual representing our whole family and our whole legacy. I decided to interview my grandpa not only because he is the oldest person alive, but he has an extensive knowledge regarding the history of my family and the History of India. In this project my main theme is to follow the Hindu culture and to trace my culture all the way back to find the roots and its origins. In my approach, I started to research holidays, spiritual scriptures, novels, and any other significant document. My first hand source is my grandpa. For this interview, my grandpa has brought great information which being able to add to my project is a great deal.
Having my grandparents immigrated to the U.S from India and to travel all over the world, they have seen every parts of the world. They have also lived during the war periods. So being able to interview my grandpa is a great opportunity that I would not want to miss out. Through this interview, I am able to paint a picture of my family’s past and how the Hindu culture has affected my family physically and spiritually.
In this interview, I will be calling my grandpa, Bapa. The word bapa means grandfather in Gujarati, and so I will begin my consversation with bapa. This Interview lasted approximately around 45 minutes to 1 hour.
1. What was like to be culture integrated in the U.S, but when coming to the U.S feeling a whole wave of the westernization culture?
2. What languages did you speak at home and at work?
3. Are there any cultural stories that were passed down from your parents or any relatives to you?
4. What are some of you best culture holidays?
5. In India, what types of praying did you do and how often did you do them? What was it like to come here and change the style?
6. Do you still reflect the Hindu tradition today?
7. What special foods were made for any occasions which represented you family and the culture?
8.Your special hobby is to construct and design art. Having art as a special hobby, do you feel attached to close to home when you draw or construct any art?
9. What are some types of the Hindu culture do you feel connected to such as traditions, language, etc.?
10. Coming from a fairly large family, would you want your descendants to follow the culture and still practice the religion?
11. Immigrating from India to the U.S and coming from a religious family, has any traditions compromised with the religions that are practiced in the U.S such as christianity?
12. Finally, has the culture and being able to control your kids followed the traditions to their kids?
With these questions editied and corrected, I began my interview process with my grandpa on April, 1 2017 in Snellville, Georgia.
Rishi: Hello Bapa! How are you? How is your health? I have not seen you in a while.
Bapa: Kamche(how are you) Fine, Fine I am good the weather is getting better so that is good. It is still raining and kind of cloudy but it is getting hotter which is good thing for my breathing. How is college?
Rishi: College is well. Tough, but I have work very hard this whole year and we only have few more weeks of school left which is good.
Bapa: Your mother told me about this English project you were doing about me. You better talk good about me.
Rishi: Always, bapa can we get started with this interview, so we can have more time to talk after?
Bapa: Sure why not and you better stay at my house tonight, so we can eat some good chicken curry.
Rishi: Yay!! I will stay tonight! I have some questions here related to the culture and your history, but if you feel the need need to change anyhting let me know. Okay.
Rishi: First question is, “What was is like to be culture integrated in the U.S, but when coming to the U.S feeling a whole wave of the westernization culture?”
Bapa: Well, coming to U.S at first was a big deal. Everyone in India wanted to come to “America.” They said “America is great no problem, no work, have fun.” We know that is not the case, but the reason I came to America is for my children and my grandchildrens. The culture in India was totally different. Everyone respected one religion and there was no third part to interrupt our prayers or rituals. When we gained our indepedenace, we felt that we the citizens of India came close together and felt much more secure, but the time we won and settled and disputes it was time for me to come. Coming to America for me was diffcitult in the sense of getting a job due to my health conditions and not having support. I can speak fluent English and had no other barriers, but finding a job was an issue. One thing there is in the India culture, that once your turn a certain age the children take car of you. So, what I started doing is to bring my culture back by praying and doing puja(rituals) everyday to make the family have peace and security. U.S never changed me because I am still Bapa and I still pray everyday with pride. As we know, America is the land of many opportunites.
Rishi: That was great bapa! That is good having gone through so much but not changing your lifestyle. We have so many relatives that have changed their culture and have been so different around us because we follow our religion. The Next question is, “What languages did you speak at home and at work?”
Bapa: In India, our schools were trandforming from Hindi to English becasue after the rule of the Britesh many of the indutires were changing the main language to English. In many homes, many of the families speak Hindi. We spoke Hindi with our families to represent unity and how we connected our stories, and our prayers. At work we would conversate English adn Hindi to produce a westernization culture. Gujarati was the main language in Gujarat. We spoke it in our homes and everywhere we would go to shop. If you spoke Hindi, the individuals would know that you are not fro Gujarat.
Rishi: Great! That is why your English is very fluent and perfect. Next questions, Are there any cultural stories that were passed down from your parents or any relatives to you?
Bapa: Yes, many stories have been passed down I told you so many of them when you were small. You must have not remember anything. My mom used to tell me stories from the Gita. Gita is the text we use to express our belief in Hinduism. This text brings in love, happiness, and prosperity. My mom used to tell me small stories before I went to bed, and that is what I did to you when you use to sleepover at my house. The Gita is also great at reciting meditations. I used to tell stories from the Gita to your mom every night when she was going to school.
Rishi: No way! That is so cool! Tell me some tonight before we go to bed. Alright, well lets continue to the next question. What are some of you best culture holidays?
Bapa: What is yours? I know mine is Diwali. Diwal is the festival of lights and in my opinion it is the best holiday of the year. It is my Indian “Christmas”. In India, we used to celebrate christmas and Diwali would be the pre-holiday to Christmas. Diwali in India is so much fun becasue there is so much food and there are so many people that it gives me an ecstatic. You know I love people and love being aroung people. India was great because we would pray daily the whole week of Diwali. We would have so many festivals during the week that by the end of the day and the week we would be so tired.
Rishi: Diwali is like my chicken curry having many flavors inside. I always love Diwali because it is like Christmas and New Year put together. Moving along, when you said you like different prayers, in India, what types of praying did you do and how often did you do them? What was it like to come here and change the style?
Bapa: Well, I need some food and drinks if we are going to keep this interview going.
Bapa: Just kidding! Prayers for me is very spirtual and its a sense of healing. Everytime I wake up and take a shower, I think about the day and how I am going to accomplish my tasks. Before I continue my day, I start by praying to the Gita and Lord Ganesh. I start with singing mantras. Next, I continue praying the sculptures. I believe that singing mantras and praying to Lord Ganesh will give me the best connection between Lord Ganesh and me. Devoting your time to pray is a great deal of satisfaction and it makes the devotee feel much more accomplished. For example, I started to memorize the Hanuman Chalisa which is a mantra that I used in India. It is used by Lord Hanuman and it keeps us secure from the devil and outer sins. Now I have memorized it, so I recite it every time which ends my puja. You know my health. Our house has a temple upstair, but I am not able to climb the stairs, so I just pray towards the sun.
Rishi: I do the same thing, Bapa. Even in college, everyday I have a little temple in my dorm. After I take a shower, I pray for five minutes before I continue my day. Just like you, I listen to Hanuman Chalisa. After listening Hanuman Chalisa, I always feel like that I am relaxed and focused.
Rishi: Lets take a quick break and continue this Interview in five minutes.
During the break we talk about school, weather(his favorite topic), and our summer plans.
Rishi: Food! I am hungry lets talk about some food!
Bapa: Are you hungry?
Rishi: No, but I do want some Indian food. They do not have Indian food in college. I have a question for you bapa, “What special foods were made for any occasions which represented you family and the culture?”
Bapa: You should know this ba(grandma) and your mom makes every different types of food for every different holiday. On Diwali, we eat many mithai(sweets), samosas, kachoori, and Mathiya. Mathiya is very popular in India. It is a fried chip in which we put spices on top such as different types of masalas(dressings). Mithai, sweet in India, is my favorite. These are sweets that are hand-made and are desgined in many different colors and shapes. The Diwali culture is great and has developed throughout many year. Diwali is the time where all the evil is set aside and is where all the family comes together and enjoy time together. This holiday I love to see many Hindu decorate their home like we do. We hang up lights and make so much food that it lasts us up to a month.
Rishi: Yes, me to I love Diwali!
Rishi: My dad loves Mithai. My mom always gets mad because we do not have sweets in our house, but when we there is a holiday like Diwali there are many sweets and my dad would eat them constantly. However, I do love Mathiyas. Mathiyas are really good because they have a crispy feel but they a spicy masala powder on top which makes it taste like a “Dorito” chip. Having food being part of your cultural influence. Do you think anything else would have transformed your culture and the way your perceive it?
Rishi: We can see that you love to draw because you always draw picture of many things signifying many emmotion. Is your hobby of designing and creating art have a special significance in the Hindu culture? In addition, do you feel attached closer to “home” when you draw or design different types of art?
Bapa: I have so many hobbies, but art really entertains me. Art to me is a sign of relief. I love drawing because makes me think about things that I would never come across. I have so much stress and you know that ranging from family issues, health condition, and just the physical stress due to my age that I feel like drawing is a special thing that I can just relax. In India, I painted many different types of pictures, murals, and designs to show to my school. In India, we used to draw mostly Gods and Godess. My favorite painting is to draw Lord Ganesh. I love drawing this lord because the lord signify unity, strength, and happiness. I feel like arts and sculptures that are drawn and built are gone through a specific prayer in which the pictures are brought to life. This makes the picture “live.” Drawing pictures is a hobby and it has nothing to do with home. Home to me is a place is where I am safe and I am able to work, sleep, and relax. Although India is my hometown, I have adapted to the American living style which has caused me not to transform my home.
Rishi: What are some types of the Hindu culture do you feel connected to such as traditions, language, etc.?
Bapa: Hinduism is a religion in which many things come together. To answer your question I feel like there is no right or wrong answer. For me, religion is where each devotee devotes their time each day to reflect on god and say their prayers. Many traditions are held throughout the year in which many people attend and celebrate. I feel like to be best connected with the tradition and the lord is to be honest and to pray everyday by not committing a sin. Your mama(uncle) and your mom taught you and your cousins to pray everyday which is a bright idea to connect with god. Your ba(grandma) prays everyday but also fasts to give her time and effort to connect with god. There are many ways in Hinduism that you can connect and be happy with.
Rishi: Coming from a fairly large family, would you want your descendants to follow the culture and still practice the religion?
Bapa: In India, many families were large and had many relatives to pracitce the religion with. They also had religious communities in which many people gathered to practice and perform and religious rituals. In my years in India, my familly was not that big. I had six siblings and had my parents. My dad was often at work and did not have time to stay with us. My grandparents were really religious and were supporting each holiday to the day. That influence carried over to my mother in which she met my dad and followed the tradition to me. Being in India for most of my life makes a big difference. The lifestyle, the food, and the culture is just ordered. Many times now is most people that are young that are in India travel to the U.S. and forget about the culture because they get caught up in this westernization of culture. Most people do not understand the meaning of culture and just practice the days that are known to be religious worldwide. With my culture influence from my parents, I have passed many teachings to my children including your mom(daughter) and your uncle(son). For instance, not to eat any meat other than chicken or turkey is one of the main rules we in our family follow. We follow this because you know that beef is considered sacred to us becuase it is a part of a cow and in the Hindu religion cows are sacred.. Most people now forgot the idea of religion and do not reliaze thar religion is much more than following it, but its rather understanding the religion.
Rishi:Immigrating from India to the U.S and coming from a religious family, has any traditions compromised with the religions that are practiced in the U.S such as christianity?
Bapa: In a sense, Hinduism is a polytheistic religion, and the religion has influences from Buddhism, Islam, and even Christanity. Even though they are monotheistic religion, Hinduism has croo-cultured with ideas in which many of the temples use. In India, many Indians in the south of Gujarat were in fact Christians. They were conquered by the British and they are called “South Indians.” These individuals are Christians and are followed by Christanity. This is why we celebrate Christmas. Even though we have no cultural significance with Jesus Christ, we do understand the philiosphical history and since we were conquered by the British we have the sense of influence in our Religion. Coming in to the U.S with a know religion was not difficult. When we came to Atlanata, there was a vast population who were Hindu and practiced the same religion as us. There were many temples and cultural centers in which we could worship in. So, to answer your questions in my expierence coming to U.S did not make me change my religion. However, having some slight change such as attending monthly prayers in temples except daily prayers, we changed it o have shrines in our homees in which we can pray everyday.
Rishi: Finally, has the culture and being able to control your kids followed the traditions to their kids?
Bapa: This questions you should ask ba(grandma) and your mom.
(Ba comes over and starts laughing and say they are our kidss but they are your resposnibilty)
Bapa: Well, Rishi look you can teach your kids everything, but it is up to them to follow the religion. Once I die, there is no one going to keep up with whos following what. It should be in your gut to follow the religion that has been passed down to you. My kids luckily are given a good opportunity to marry a good wife or husband your dad in which they also care about the religion. Most people now a days do not teach their son the main language, so there forms of communicating have no chance. Although many families are not sticking together and following the same rules, I feel like our family has carried the tradition of Hinduism and have been influenced so greatly that we can not be influenced by anything else.
Rishi: Thank you so much for this Interview bapa. You did really make this a great time between me and you. I understand what I said here in will help me so much in my project because I can relate to what Hinduism and how our family is brought up as.
Bapa: You are welcome beta(son). Now lets go eat an enjoy our day before you have to go back to college and I will not see you in couple of weeks.
Rishi: Okay bapa cha lo( meaning “lets go” in Gujarati).
End of Interview
In this inteview between my grandpa and I, I understand many things about rituals, holidays and the general perspective form a first person account. Having traveled to India multiple times, I can relate how India is and what types of people there are. After this interview, I can connect better between my parents and even my grandparents because we always have something to talk about now. My parents have really worked hard to influnce me and my brother. They have raised me by teaching the necessary findings of Hinduism but also have to speack the native language, Gujarati.
This project has pushed me into learning the roots and the unrevealed history about my religion. Religion is a great topic to my parents and family because my parents grew up in a town where religion influenced unity, prosperity, and happiness. Working on this oral history showed me that writing is not just about completion, but is to achieve a mystery. For instance, I had no idea what my grandpa had been through when coming to the U.S and still prospering in a third world country. Moreover, religion has in fact influenced my parents political view and the economice success. This oral history I intervied my grandpa with the belief of me asking him questions based on his struggle and how he has overcome those struggles.
So, finally I would like to give huge thanks to my whole family for supporting me in anyway and especially my grandparetns for always being there for me whether it be in person or in my mind. They have worked so hard for me to attend the University of Georgia and especially my parents have worked so hard for me to have a better education and to grow up the right way with the right idea in my mind about religion, but also the mindset of working and the idea of reality. I have worked so hard with my parents to understand my religion, and I have followed their footsteps in the right direction. My main goal in life is to make my whole family happy and to be together. My parents gave up so much for me and my brother, and it is my turn to show them what I have learned and what I am going to accomplish. Concluding this interview, I wanted to say I am thankful and honored to have a family that always supports me in any shape or form even in tough times. I love my culture, my family, and most importantly my parents believing in me.