My parents came to the US in December 1982, and in January 1984, I was born. By no means were they settled and completely ready for a baby, but they wanted one and knew the rest would fall into place. And so it did!
Vishnu and I, on the other hand, thought long and hard about exactly when we wanted to have a baby. We went for it when we decided we were ready. Thankfully, things fell into place, and now we have Mr. Kaiden!
In terms of surrounding my sister and I with elements of the Indian culture, my parents definitely had the upper hand. First of all, they’re both the same kind of Indian, which believe it or not, makes things a lot easier. They also lived within a few miles of quite of few family members. And finally, my grandparents lived with us (on and off) throughout my childhood. All of these things led both me and my sister to speak Gujarati, watch Bollywood movies and perform dances, learn Bharatnatayam, and have tons of Indian friends.
Kaiden, on the other hand, has a Gujarati mom and a Malayalee dad…who doesn’t speak Malayalum. He lives near his masi and masa, who speak to him in English. We don’t really watch Bollywood movies. And the list goes on!
This isn’t to say we can’t or won’t try instilling and keeping the Indian culture alive for Kaiden. In fact, even though he’s still pretty young, I’ve added a few things to our daily routine to help create that sense of culture.
- First and foremost, I’m trying to speak to K in Gujarati a little more. Even if it’s a word or two here and there. I used to feel guilty thinking he may speak a little Gujarati and not Malayalum, but I now realize how silly that is. It’s like us not wanting him to learn a different language in school because we don’t speak it ourselves. If the bottom line is rooting him in the Indian culture, it shouldn’t matter that he knows one language and not the other.
- Before bed every night, I sing the Hanuman Chalisa to Kaiden. I learned this particular prayer when I was very young, and it’s always been a source of comfort for me. Each line is so full of meaning. I’m so thankful my parents and grandparents made us sit with them every night to recite it and hoping K feels the same one day. If nothing else, I hope it gives me the same degree of comfort it gives me. I have a few other prayers I loved as child that I also sing to him before bed. I know how to put on a show apparently!
- We’re lucky we have a small temple within walking distance of our apartment. It’s simple and very quiet (unlike a lot of Indian temples!). But that’s precisely what draws me to it. Growing up, I didn’t love going to the temple because it just felt like one big crowded party where everyone was there to socialize. This temple, however, is quite the opposite. To be honest, we haven’t gone as regularly (1x/week) as I would like, but I’m hoping to change that ASAP. And I totally understand that going to the temple doesn’t just transfer culture, but I’m hoping it does open up a conversation with Kaiden where he feels comfortable to ask questions and explore (you know, when he starts talking!).
- We haven’t done much of this yet, but I really want to teach Kaiden about our culture through our beautiful holidays – Diwali, Holi, Onam, Navaratri, etc. Not only do these celebrations instill values, but they’re grounded in stories, fun, and family. What better way to learn about being Indian!?
- What better way to share culture than by making the food?! I may not be the best Indian cook, but my khichidi and chana are on point! But in all seriousness, I want Kaiden to love Indian food because it tells a story about where he’s from. And what a lucky guy – he’s 50% Gujarati and 50% Malayalee – SO MUCH GOOD FOOD and grandmas who cook it well!
- There are so many cool companies focused on sharing bits and pieces of the Indian culture. For example, Jai Jai Hooray, Desi Babies, and Modi Toys just to name a few! These kinds of companies didn’t exist when my parents were raising us (the internet wasn’t really a big thing!), and they honestly didn’t need the help, but I think it’s awesome they exist now…because we need help! I highly recommend checking out these sites to see what they offer!
And that, my friends, is a glimpse into how I try to ensure Kaiden knows where he’s from and what it’s all about. It’s not perfect by any means, but hey, at least I’m trying! And the great part about my list of 5 things is they can apply to any culture. Language, prayer, companies promoting the culture, etc. exist for everyone, I’m sure! You just have to find a way and try. 🙂