Guest: Acceptance Starts With Recognition


Junior Sneha Indrakanti celebrating Diwali.

For as long as I can remember, I have felt like I have had to hide a part of my identity from the people around me. I have felt like my culture and faith have come second to the culture and faith of people around me. And since people were not willing to learn about this important part of my life, I chose to suppress it. This is because I was never given the opportunity to truly celebrate my identity.  

Every year on Diwali, I feel a sense of dread rather than the sense of liberation and cleansing that I should be feeling. This is because the celebration is squeezed around the school day.  

Diwali, the festival of lights, is the celebration of the victory of good over evil. There are many stories behind the holiday, the most predominant ones being the tale of the return of the god Rama who was exiled for a tumultuous 14 years and the story of the god Krishna who killed the demon King Narakasura, which freed the people of Narakasura’s kingdom from their evil shackles.  

To Hindus, holidays come with more than just celebration. While they are joyous days, they are also filled with introspection and cleansing. Most people perform pujas, which are ritual offerings and prayers, in the mornings of various holidays. These pujas are meticulous in nature and span over several hours. The essence is to devote oneself to the rituals being performed, get rid of otherworldly desires and repent for past actions. To do this, one must be focused and unbothered by external circumstances. 

It is virtually impossible to be fully focused and appreciative of the prayers being performed with the thought of being late for school looming over my head. To make sure that the puja is done before school starts, I am forced to wake up as early as 3 a.m. This means that I am scrambling around all morning and not fully immersing myself in the important rituals. I, along with many other Hindu-American students, have never been able to sit in a puja without thinking about how I am going to miss the bus or be late for my first period class. This spoils not only the puja but also the entire day and further isolates us from our rich culture. At school, it is easy to forget that the day is a celebration as the day is overshadowed by stress. These factors make it so difficult for us to truly appreciate and celebrate our culture. 

It is especially hard to watch over 20 school districts in Pennsylvania give their students the opportunity to celebrate Diwali. And while it doesn’t make sense to give school districts off for every holiday, there has to be a way to give everyone the opportunity to embrace their culture. After all, America was created by and thrives off the vibrancy of intertwined cultures and ideas. Instead of blocking off every major holiday for every religion, as there are so many (Hinduism alone has six), students and staff should be able to take the day off without worrying about being marked absent or using a personal day; there could be floating days given to specifically observe holidays.  

By not properly observing major holidays, it is hard to accept the beauty of culture as it is not presented in its truest and most beautiful form. The broken pieces that we are forced to latch onto make it even harder to embrace our culture. 

Ultimately, if the people who celebrate a holiday cannot even appreciate it, how are others expected to? 

To learn more Hindu religion and culture, follow HH’s Hindu Students Association on Instagram at hsa.hhhs and check out a meeting over L&L!