Even though many people are not aware of what culture andethnicity really means, almost everyone make claims about it in their everydaylife like- I am white, I am of French decent. I am Japanese. I am black, I amChines, I am Korean, I am American, etc. These statements are common examplesof how many people view their race and identity. Some people feel that theybelong to a race, while others simply feel they do not have any.
Culture is acomplex term which can only be learned through common daily experience,conflicting and contradictory, relational because it involves interactions withothers, and per formative, as our interactions are performances within a publicdomain, is something that people never seem to think about, until we are put ina situation, in which we then become aware that we are different. Our knowledgeof culture, ethnicity and identity is subconsciously internalized on a daily basisthrough constant social interactions. Although the concepts of race andethnicity are socially constructed, they are real in their consequences. Theimpacts that the culture, race, ethnicity have on the social world can benoticed from my very own experiences from institutions, to peer groups, tomedia representations, and lastly, to how I’ve come to view my own sense ofidentity. I come fromthe land of ethnicity and diversity, India.
With a population of about 1billion, India is a colorful canvas portraying a unique assimilation of ethnicgroups displaying varied cultures and religions. In fact, this uniqueness inthe ethnicity of the country is the factor that makes it different from othernations. Moreover, the vastness of India’s nationalism, accounting to aplethora of cultural extravaganza, religions, etc. is the reason that thecountry is seen more as a seat for a major world civilization than a merenation-state.
Since ancienttimes, the spiritual land of India has displayed varied hues of culture,religion, race, language, and so on. This variety in race, culture, religion,etc. accounts for the existence of different ethnic groups who, although, livewithin the sanctums of one single nation, profess different social habits and characteristics.
Regional territories in India play an important role in differentiating theseethnic groups, with their own social and cultural identities. The religionsthat are prevalent in the country are Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism,Buddhism, and Jainism, with the freedom for citizens to practice any religionthey want to. With the governance of 35 different states and union territoriesin the country, there has originated a sense of regionalism amongst the variousparts, with different states displaying different cultures, which althougheventually fuse through a common bond to showcase a national cultural identity.The Constitution of India has recognized 22 different languages that areprevalent in the country, out of which, Hindi is the official language and isspoken in most of the urban cities of India.
Other than these 22 languages,there are hundreds of dialects that add to the multilingual nature of thecountry. From the verybeginning, I was aware of the diversity around me. I am a Hindu by birth, so wepractice Hinduism, but there were many people in our neighbor who belonged tovaried religion, race and cast. One of my closest friends was a Muslim, ourfamily friends were Sikhs and many of my friends were Christian. I belonged tothe Himalayan side of the country that is the Northern part of India, but therewere many students in my class who belonged to different other regions of thecountry and belonged to varied cultures. This variation can be seen in everyaspect of our daily lives.
From staple food to clothing, language andlifestyle, everything adds up to the beauty of this variety. I remember thatduring our lunch-time, one of our my friends who was South-Indian, used tobring her staple food(idli and dosa) in her lunch and we used to love her foodmore than ours. With a vast variety of culture and communities, India hasfestivals more than any other country could have. We used to celebrate almostevery festival of any community with joy and harmony. There was alwaysnational holidays on festivals of major communities like- Holi and Diwali(Hindus), Eid (Muslims), Christmas (Christians), Lohri, Guruparv(Sikh),and manymore. We used to celebrate these festivals in our community by sharing ourspecial festival dishes with our neighbors irrespective of their caste andculture. My mother used to prepare special sweets on Diwali(one of the majorHindu festivals), and put them in beautifully decorated boxes.
Me and mybrother used to distribute those boxes in our neighborhood. This was the firstlesson that we learned right from our home that though we are divided bydifferent culture, race, caste, etc, yet this diversity unites in the mostbeautiful and cordial manner. People who belong to different communities inIndia have their different family Gods according to their cultural beliefs orancestry, but altogether, everyone has great regard for every God. I belonged to a Convent School, so we had prayersessions in our school’s church on every Sunday. Me and my friends used to goto our school’s church to light the candles and attend the prayer sessions.Though we belong to different religions, yet somehow we regarded Christ as likeour second God and had true faith in him like our other Gods. To me this is thetrue beauty of varied culture in India, people are somehow connected by thethread of a common faith, love.
This is the only thing that unites us. Peopleof other nations often taunt on the fact that Indians have too many Gods, orfestivals, but I believe that it is only the soul reason that being the mostdiverse in nature, we are the most beautifully united. Every God has differentstory connected with him or her but the basic root story of all of them( be itof any religion is- Truth triumphs over evil). Every religion teaches uspositive aspects of life. Every holy book preach the same irrespective of itsvaried script. In a nutshell, to describe the beauty of my ethnic background Iwould share an instance as example.
The best example of my experience of unityin diversity was, there was a Guru Dwara (Holy place of worship of Sikhs, acommunity in India) in our city where a langar(food served in Guru Dwara toeveryone) used to held every day (on afternoons). The best thing about thisLangar is that the people working in Guru Dwara prepare food and serve it toeveryone who comes there irrespective of the fact that he’s rich or poor,Hindu, Muslim or of any other caste or community, or any other basis ofdifferentiation. The food was served to everyone with the same feeling of loveand respect.
This made me believe that how we all are same despite of all thedifference and it proves the fact that God resides nowhere, but in our hearts,we just need to open it to everyone.