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An Evolving Festival of Lights

I’ve learned that traditions evolve. My Diwali is not my parent’s Diwali; my mother and father’s Diwali probably landed differently that their ancestor’s celebrations. But there is a unifying thread that connects these experiences together and lends to the definition of Diwali.

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Not an Ordinary Thread

She explained the tradition of Raksha Bhandan, a holiday for brothers and sisters to celebrate their relationship. In India, my mom gathered at her parents house where each brother held out his wrist while each respective sister tied the thread with a knot. Tying the thread on her brother’s wrist meant that the sister vowed to wish him eternal well-being, while he in exchange, promised to protect her.

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A Principle That Endures

Why did my vegetarianism endure? If you asked me this question twenty years ago, I might have said, “Because I am Hindu.” It became an answer that seemed convenient, but not the sole reason. The root of my vegetarianism encompasses a multitude of layers. It is a way to honor my parent’s cultural tradition, commit myself to a principle that is one that I am not willing to compromise, and uphold an important tenet of the Vedic scriptures.

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Small Steps toward Calm

Meditation often feels like a maze in which I cannot ever exit. I enter, fumble around, but the restlessness persists. That “Zen” feeling is like a ghost in my life. It appears as an apparition and then disappears before I can really fathom what it means. My attention span is finite. I realize my failure at meditation is not in the practice, but the attention I often direct toward results. Over and over again, the same mantra keeps chanting in surround-sound. “You have to appreciate the process.”

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Am I Really a Hindu?

I reflect on these contrasting memories and wonder how to navigate this question: Am I really a Hindu? I identify with the principles of Hinduism, but fail to include the practice of these rituals in my daily life. Part of my reluctance stems from not knowing what these chants and rituals really mean.

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Pushing The Button

Hindu tradition dictated that his children bathe his body, comb his hair, and place holy items next to him. My sister and I took the sponge and doused it with water. I scrubbed his face, arms, and legs. Each stroke left a scent of the sandalwood.

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Clasping My Hands

Why did I abandon these rituals in my own home? Although I observed my parents’ dedication to their faith, a part of me remained disconnected because I did not attribute any meaning to what they were doing. Nor did I understand the significance of what this meant to the Hindu faith.