As the child of first generation Indian immigrants, who moved to Britain in the sixties, I can tell you that living between two cultures can be complicated at the best of times. But how about living between three cultures?
As a British person of Indian origin, who has now settled in America, and is bringing up American kids of Indian origin, who still have a slightly British accent (one of them puts on a French accent from time to time just to keep things from getting boring) life is…… well it is wonderful, complex, confusing for some, and…….busy, especially around this time of year.
Navaratri has just passed, Halloween is over, now we have Diwali just around the corner, then Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year, and then Pongal in January. I consider my children lucky to experience all these different celebrations and have such a rich cultural background to shape them, but things can get a little bit hectic around here.
Thursday Oct 22nd was Vijayadasami, a day that celebrates learning, and the arts, in southern India. In Tamil Nadu, it is traditionally the day when small children are taught to write for the first time using their fingers in a plate of rice. Vijayadasami is a very important day for people who create, and engage with the fine arts. It is normally a day that I put aside for contemplation, a day when I just sit and create without any purpose than to just create. However, this year my poor run down body got sick, and not much creating (except of copious phlegm) was done.
I decided that I needed a do-over, so last week I had my own Vijayadasami of sorts, and spent a couple of days sitting on the floor with a mess of colored tissue paper strewn around me just making stuff. Not everything I made was fabulous, most of it was truly terrible. The point was to just enjoy the process rather than worry about the outcome. I’m a little rusty when it comes to making things without a plan or brief, so I started off by doing an exercise that I had set for my summer camp students – Bauhaus letters – it looked like so much fun when they were doing it, so why not?
I cannot explain how amazing those two days were, how many new ideas I generated for my work, and how much more I wanted to do. Obviously I should do this more often, all people should do this more often. Go and schedule yourself a day, or even a couple of hours of unplanned creativity now. Do it your own way, whether it is writing poetry, playing your guitar, or making origami. I’m going to actually physically block off time on my calendar every month for this, because I need it. I need to push myself to keep developing, because learning must never stop, especially if you are a teacher.
I count being able to celebrate Vijayadasami as one of my many cultural blessings, along with being able to understand many languages, recognizing a decent cup of tea, and doing a convincing Hagrid impression.
We all have cultural blessings, what are yours?