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Even though many people are not aware of what culture and
ethnicity really means, almost everyone make claims about it in their everyday
life like- I am white, I am of French decent. I am Japanese. I am black, I am
Chines, I am Korean, I am American, etc. These statements are common examples
of how many people view their race and identity. Some people feel that they
belong to a race, while others simply feel they do not have any. Culture is a
complex term which can only be learned through common daily experience,
conflicting and contradictory, relational because it involves interactions with
others, and per formative, as our interactions are performances within a public
domain, is something that people never seem to think about, until we are put in
a situation, in which we then become aware that we are different. Our knowledge
of culture, ethnicity and identity is subconsciously internalized on a daily basis
through constant social interactions. Although the concepts of race and
ethnicity are socially constructed, they are real in their consequences. The
impacts that the culture, race, ethnicity have on the social world can be
noticed from my very own experiences from institutions, to peer groups, to
media representations, and lastly, to how I’ve come to view my own sense of
identity.

        I come from
the land of ethnicity and diversity, India. With a population of about 1
billion, India is a colorful canvas portraying a unique assimilation of ethnic
groups displaying varied cultures and religions. In fact, this uniqueness in
the ethnicity of the country is the factor that makes it different from other
nations. Moreover, the vastness of India’s nationalism, accounting to a
plethora of cultural extravaganza, religions, etc. is the reason that the
country is seen more as a seat for a major world civilization than a mere
nation-state.

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       Since ancient
times, 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, live
within the sanctums of one single nation, profess different social habits and characteristics.
Regional territories in India play an important role in differentiating these
ethnic groups, with their own social and cultural identities. The religions
that are prevalent in the country are Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism,
Buddhism, and Jainism, with the freedom for citizens to practice any religion
they want to. With the governance of 35 different states and union territories
in the country, there has originated a sense of regionalism amongst the various
parts, with different states displaying different cultures, which although
eventually fuse through a common bond to showcase a national cultural identity.
The Constitution of India has recognized 22 different languages that are
prevalent in the country, out of which, Hindi is the official language and is
spoken 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 the
country.

      From the very
beginning, I was aware of the diversity around me. I am a Hindu by birth, so we
practice Hinduism, but there were many people in our neighbor who belonged to
varied religion, race and cast. One of my closest friends was a Muslim, our
family friends were Sikhs and many of my friends were Christian. I belonged to
the Himalayan side of the country that is the Northern part of India, but there
were many students in my class who belonged to different other regions of the
country and belonged to varied cultures. This variation can be seen in every
aspect of our daily lives. From staple food to clothing, language and
lifestyle, everything adds up to the beauty of this variety. I remember that
during our lunch-time, one of our my friends who was South-Indian, used to
bring her staple food(idli and dosa) in her lunch and we used to love her food
more than ours. With a vast variety of culture and communities, India has
festivals more than any other country could have. We used to celebrate almost
every festival of any community with joy and harmony.

       There was always
national holidays on festivals of major communities like- Holi and Diwali
(Hindus), Eid (Muslims), Christmas (Christians), Lohri, Guruparv(Sikh),and many
more. We used to celebrate these festivals in our community by sharing our
special festival dishes with our neighbors irrespective of their caste and
culture. My mother used to prepare special sweets on Diwali(one of the major
Hindu festivals), and put them in beautifully decorated boxes. Me and my
brother used to distribute those boxes in our neighborhood. This was the first
lesson that we learned right from our home that though we are divided by
different culture, race, caste, etc, yet this diversity unites in the most
beautiful and cordial manner. People who belong to different communities in
India have their different family Gods according to their cultural beliefs or
ancestry, but altogether, everyone has great regard for every God.

       I belonged to a Convent School, so we had prayer
sessions in our school’s church on every Sunday. Me and my friends used to go
to 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 like
our second God and had true faith in him like our other Gods. To me this is the
true beauty of varied culture in India, people are somehow connected by the
thread of a common faith, love. This is the only thing that unites us. People
of other nations often taunt on the fact that Indians have too many Gods, or
festivals, but I believe that it is only the soul reason that being the most
diverse in nature, we are the most beautifully united. Every God has different
story connected with him or her but the basic root story of all of them( be it
of any religion is- Truth triumphs over evil). Every religion teaches us
positive aspects of life. Every holy book preach the same irrespective of its
varied script. In a nutshell, to describe the beauty of my ethnic background I
would share an instance as example. The best example of my experience of unity
in diversity was, there was a Guru Dwara (Holy place of worship of Sikhs, a
community in India) in our city where a langar(food served in Guru Dwara to
everyone) used to held every day (on afternoons). The best thing about this
Langar is that the people working in Guru Dwara prepare food and serve it to
everyone 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 of
differentiation. The food was served to everyone with the same feeling of love
and respect. This made me believe that how we all are same despite of all the
difference and it proves the fact that God resides nowhere, but in our hearts,
we just need to open it to everyone.

 

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