Monday, February 19, 2007

The Meaning of My Cultural Heritage and Identity

By Tristan D'Souza, Grade 623, Michael J Petrides School (P.S. 80)

Winner of First Place for Middle School Students, Celebrate Diversity 2006!

From time immemorial, cultural heritage and identity have played a major role in forming the lives of many people. By birth, I would be an American. But since my parents are Indian by birth, I have more of Indian than American culture. My cultural heritage has played an important role in my life. Like for instance, my parents have developed my intellectual faculties.

My cultural heritage has also influenced my behavior. Mostly everyone in the Indian culture has a peaceful lifestyle. Since my parents are two of those people, their teachings have made me a better person.

The Indian culture has also influenced me in many ways. These are a few ways:

-The Indian culture is one of the oldest and most unique cultures in the world. The Indian culture is a composite mixture of varying styles and influences. In the matter of cuisine, for instance, the north and the south are totally different. Color, gaiety, enthusiasm, prayers, and rituals characterize festivals in India. In the realm of music, there varieties of folk, popular, pop, and classic music.

-Christianity is one of the prominent religions in India. About 73% of the Christians are Catholics. In India, religion is a way of life being an integral part of the Indian tradition. The deep religious faith of my parents has made me a good Catholic thus shaping my life in a very special way.

-Indian cuisine is diversified in its varieties similar to its culture, races, and regions. Thousands of variations of dishes are prepared in the different parts of the country everyday. The essence of Indian cooking lies in the aroma of the spices, which are blended, together and added to enhance the basic flavor of a particular dish. Spices are always freshly ground to the required combination called Massalas. Many of these spices are noted for their medicinal values and are also used as appetizers. The ingredients, for the masala vary from region to region.

Rice is the staple food of the south while in the north it is supplemented or substituted by pooris, chappathis, or Nan. Dhal and Dhai are common throughout India. Vegetable dishes are prepared based on the main dish with which they are served. Rice is served with vegetable curries, vegetable side dishes, and curd. As India has a very long coastal area, dishes prepared with fish are also popular. The Indian culture is unique because of its diversity and its variety in physical, religious, racial, linguistic, and artistic fields.

Although the culture of the United States of America is a lot different from the Indian culture, it has still influenced me in many ways. Its culture is a western culture, and has been developing since long before the U.S.A. became a country. Its chief early influence was British culture, due to colonial ties with the British that spread the English language, legal system, and other cultural inheritances.

The United States has traditionally been known as a melting pot, but recent academic opinion is tending towards cultural diversity, pluralism, and the image of a salad bowl rather than a melting pot. Due to the extent of American culture, there are many integrated but unique substructures within the United States. The strongest influences on American culture came from northern European cultures, most prominently from Germany, Ireland, and England.

In conclusion, the Indian and American cultures have had a tremendous impact on my identity.

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