For the past few days, this link has been passed around quite a bit, at least on my social media newsfeeds. The webpage that the link opens to is titled, “27 signs you were raised by immigrant parents.”
This is where being mixed comes in - no matter how Punjabi I look and how desi my lifestyle is, I could not relate to a single item on that list. I had PB&J packed for lunch everyday, I read Clifford the Big Red Dog, and I was never told that I had to be a doctor or lawyer.
Yesterday I was sitting in one of the rooms in my house that is furthest from the kitchen. I smelled my mom’s ‘famous’, famous in my household, chicken dish.
I was entranced by a waft of nostalgia.
Those were the days; when my high school work-out regimen and fast metabolism enabled to me to eat anything without thinking about the consequences of an extra 150 calories/day.
I could smell the onions caramelizing on top of a bed of cumin seeds that were roasting in the middle of the karahi pot on the stove.
This chicken dish was an Indian one and my mom was making it with her own hands.
Isn’t it thought-provoking that what I associate with my childhood is something my mother didn’t associate with hers?
It’s pretty obvious that there was no garam masala in my Spanish grandma’s kitchen pantry.
What once was my mother’s first, trying Indian food, is something that I have always known.
It’s not a first anymore.
Do you know what else is not a first anymore?…
I finally received the go-ahead for an article I want to write. With that said, I started calling around to set up interviews. My first interview was of a Hindu priest at a mandir, or Hindu temple.
I had never been inside a Hindu temple before.
I was under the impression that I would feel comfortable walking inside the temple. Years of Indian drama serials and films had prepared me for Hindu religious tradition, right?
There is a big difference between watching and reading about something and actually experiencing it.
I was so completely out of my element as I watched the priest decorating a life-size deity. He was chanting and ringing a bell. There were small earthen clay-like bowls a lit with fire and smoke everywhere. The fragrance from the incense was strong. The chanting got quicker and stronger.
I didn’t know what to do, so I just stood and watched. I took some notes here and there and stopped myself from ringing the bell hanging from the ceiling.
When I first came inside, one of the temple administrators who was expecting me told me to come inside. I halted because I knew enough to take off my shoes before standing in front of religious idols that are worshiped by other people.
The crowd of chanting people were around the idol and I was a good 2 feet behind the pack. The priest then walked the 2 feet towards me, away from the crowd that was following him, and made sure to throw some holy water on me.
Suffice it to say, I felt horrible for making him go out of the way to give me this blessing.
It was a first though -
This is what excites me about journalism: I’m made to go out and venture, to learn, and to speak with people I probably would not have spoken to otherwise.
My dad asked me how the interview went.
I was describing to him everything I saw. I told him that I was trying to remain open-minded despite my stress from feeling like an outsider.
I didn’t feel the peace that I get when I go to Gurudwara, the Sikh temple.
It’s amazing how cultures and religions that were born from the same country, are so vastly different.
Still, I recognized the expression the Hindu worshipers had on their face as they were chanting; it’s a universal feeling of peace. Though I was not particularly at ease in the mandir, I understood why the others felt at ease; after all, how one attains peace is individual
I was describing to my dad the schedule of worship. I only had to speak 5 words before my dad told me the schedule as if he were there himself.
“On Tuesdays they worship Hanuman. The offering they give you is called 'badana.’ They are small, syrupy, and orange…”, said my father.
How did my dad know this?
He casually told me, “Oh I used to go to the mandir with my Hindu friends sometimes. You just grow up with these things.”
Just like my mom having had a different culinary experience from me when she was growing up, my dad had a different social experience from me when he was growing up.
So many firsts, but with firsts come lasts and it seems to me, to be somewhat of a generational cycle.