This last weekend I saw my own culture through the eyes of those who I did not assume to understand it.
I tended to be less open-minded to the authenticity and, frankly, the legitimacy of the participation in my Indian and Hindu culture from those who were not born into my culture. I appreciated the fact that those who weren't born into my culture might enjoy traditions and festivals, and want to experience them for themselves. However, I was apprehensive about drawing the line before appropriation, the most annoying, when someone attempts to teach me something about my own culture without considering that I would already know.
That changed intensely or at least opened my eyes wider when I attended the ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) Festival of Chariots at Venice Beach. I did not know what to expect and thought that it would more closely resemble Coachella, but with the ocean breeze to keep us cool. What I did not anticipate, was being overwhelmed by colors, smells, and imagery that I had seen my whole life, but that I still felt like exploring further.
Walking up, I didn't realize how integrated the festival tents would be with the boardwalk and beach. But, everyone who was not directly attending the festival still walked up to food stands and information booths - those that talked about the start of the organization and the stories of the Hindu god, Krishna, and the context Bhagavad Gita, a major Hindu philosophical text.
The festival itself follows a procession of religious statues, that in this case were carried from Santa Monica to Muscle Beach, and the partaking of music and open-minded worship that comes with the faith. I noticed the usual characteristics of Hindu ceremonies - fresh flowers, free food is given out to anyone that wanted some, and lively choruses of music and song. Just this time, I saw it at so much greater of a caliber, and with so many different looking and sounding people loving every moment of it.
I did learn about the organization and efforts brought forward by ISKCON, which I was not totally aware of before, but I also learned how so many people that I otherwise did not identify with on the surface, could truly appreciate the philosophies and beliefs of my faith and culture.
My mind was changed for the better over the last weekend. I connected together that when it comes to an open and accepting faith, I cannot think of myself as having "dibs" over any part of it. Regardless, of whether or not I was born into it, or somebody else decides to take it on later in life.