Cultural traditions instill positive values

October 13, 2017 — by Sanjana Melkote

Junior Sanjana Melkote considers how Indian traditions have shaped her life

I was taught to never step on paper, and whenever I accidentally did, I was told to touch the paper and then touch my eyes, as a sign of showing respect not only to the paper, but to the knowledge that the piece of paper held.

In school, I can’t even count how many times I have touched a paper I stepped on and then pretended my eye was itching just so that no one would know that I was really saying sorry to a piece of paper.

Perhaps it feels embarrassing or even silly, but from this tradition that my parents taught me, I learned the value of respect.

As a child of immigrants, I have been confronted with accusations of being less American just because I follow my parents’ Indian customs and traditions. But being American is not defined by Western standards alone. Rather, being American should entail adapting and evolving the vast variety of ethnic cultures to influence and fit in with the group of diverse people that come together in one country.

While being American has provided me the privilege of meeting and communicating with people who are different from me, my Indian culture and heritage have given me another community I can identify with and taught me other important lessons that have shaped me and my interactions.

Practicing Indian religious traditions has also taught me how to individually evolve and interpret my culture because my own interest is pushing me to uphold these traditions. So while I’m probably never going to be able to follow the many intricate religious ceremonies scripted in Sanskrit, I can still recognize the resonating “so-what” message from ceremonies rather than the fine “how-to” details of the ceremony itself.

Although the reason for respecting something may differ between cultures, the morals taught through these traditions tend to be the similar. These positive values that our cultures instill in us (kindness, respect, hard work, to name a few) are reason enough to maintain them throughout generations.

These ethnic and religious traditions will also be where many of us will turn first when confronted with future hardships.

I am thankful that in America, my peers, teachers and community are accepting of the many varying cultures that exist here. With each tradition, custom and belief, even one as small as respecting a piece of paper, comes a larger principle that shapes us and gives our lives meaning

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