Category Archives: Indian Culture

Celebrating a Traditional Indian Birthday!

Today, I am celebrating my birthday through the traditions of Indian culture here with “Ek Koshish, One Attempt!” When I woke up, I practiced a sacred Hindu tradition, where young men bend down and touch the feet of the elders for whom he has the utmost respect. Usually, my elders in India, with whom I practice this custom, stop me before I reach their feet, which they practice out of respect for me, saying “Khush raho, beta” (“Stay happy, my child” in Hindi). After a special mug of chai, in the “birthday mug” (an especially large mug for the birthday boy, as my host family described), the family has been showering me with little gifts and treats. Everybody, even including our students from our school, has been wishing me a “Happy Birthday,” or “Janam Din Mubarak,” as we say in Hindi!

The family I have been staying with has made many preparations for this special day for me: Apart from the surprises unbeknownst to me, today we will be going to a Hindu temple, for “Darshan,” which translates to “Visit/View” in Hindi, specifically for visiting a temple, God’s home, in this case. During the day, I will go with my “bhaiya” (Hindi word for “brother,” but used among friends as well) to the markets in India, where we will buy some food and a cake for the evening. When our students can arrive to the “davat” (the word for “party” in Hindi) at dusk, we will host a special meal for all of our students, in honor of my birthday. In India, charitable acts, especially involving feeding the hungry, are highly venerated, which is why the host family with Ek Koshish would like to celebrate my birthday by giving back to the community! Otherwise, I have posted this picture above, which was taken during my favorite Indian holiday, “Holi,” in Mathura (a city a couple of hours south of Faridabad by car). This is another example of a “davat!” I am excited and looking forward to these unique birthday festivities!

“Gullak,” Hindi for “Tzedakah”

Being here in India for this holiday, I learned the following phrase today: “Father’s Day par haardik shubh kaamnaayein!” (“We sincerely wish you a Happy Father’s Day!” in Hindi). I have been learning so much Hindi and about Indian culture in general since I started volunteering with “Ek Koshish One Attempt,” and I wanted to take the time to discuss one topic I found very interesting. Seeing Indian people’s utmost respect for other life forms, especially cows, has been a touching experience for me. People are always conscientious about feeding plants and taking care of one another: As I mentioned earlier, we feed cows every morning, and we feed stray dogs every night. Another tradition that some people follow here is similar to what we call “Tzedakah” in my culture, Judaism. This picture shows the equivalent of a “Tzedakah box,” a collection in a home, which will be given to a charitable cause. This charitable cause is specific to taking care of cows in India. Every day the team at Ek Koshish and I have been filling some money into this box, which will be sent to the charity on a subsequent visit. The bottom of the box has a lock, to which only the charity itself has a key. When I spoke to the teacher from our new program, where we teach illiterate children to read and write, she told me that one of our students (Mohini), a poor maid in Faridabad, believes in the cause too, donating what little she can. It is a real inspiration to see the care and love all people have here for one another, whether human or otherwise. I hope more people will come and volunteer here with Ek Koshish, as this has been the best way for me to learn Hindi and give back to a community in need! Happy Father’s day everyone, and especially Happy Father’s Day to the fathers in my family: Papi, Zayde, Tío Roberto, Tío Albert, Tío Ramon, Tío Alberto, David, Mario, Isaac, Freddy, Tío Charlie, Alan, Phily, Sal, Israel, Gil, and Uncle ji!

Observing Indian Culture and Traditions

Yesterday morning, I had the pleasure to partake in a daily Indian custom with the secretary of the Ek Koshish team! Every morning, when people make “Roti”(traditional Indian flat bread, similar in shape to pita bread, but much thinner), the very first roti that they make is supposed to be saved for cows and bulls, who may come by the house in the morning. In case a cow or bull does not come by during the day, they save the bread for the next day, as I found out after having asked the question. A cow or bull doesn’t usually just eat bread that someone holds up to its mouth: A person must affectionately offer these creatures the bread, while petting them and tenderly interacting with them. As cows are considered to be the archetypal mother-symbol in India (because it freely gives us milk, just like our own mothers did), Indians say that they offer cows and bulls this roti as a part of their spiritual duty, or “Dharm”. As I learned more about this tradition while speaking with the rest of the team with Ek Koshish, they explained that there is another tradition they follow at the end of the day: The very last roti that is made at night, is to be saved for dogs. In feeding dogs, we play our role in society by keeping in mind to help the needy and hungry, a responsibility called “Karm.” Though these words Dharm and Karm have very profound meanings, through this way every morning and every evening we remember that there are two essential types of obligations that we have as human beings: those to our mother, or more broadly, to the one who created us, and those to our fellow brethren.