Though I may not be a real authority on the subject, as a 16 year old girl born and raised in America, I have some thoughts about my Kashmiri culture and what needs to be done to keep it alive. No matter where we are or where we go, we will always be Kashmiri. We are the entity that enjoys delicious Rogan Josh, and devours a good dish of Hak. We are the people that bask in devotional hymns, and hold a strong faith in our gods. We are the ones who share a rich history of writing, performances, songs and music. But most of all we are the people who are starting to lose and in a sense disrespect the ages old culture that was passed on to us by our forefathers. Maintaining a connection to our beliefs and ancient traditions, not only strengthens our foundation as a community, but also highlights the unique tendencies and beauty of our culture, which is a necessary tool for creating one’s identity.
Being more in tune with our culture will bring us closer together as a people. Times like this illustrate to us how important it is for us to show a communal respect and appreciation for the work of others in our community. We all in our own way can contribute to our community. Learning, a Kashmiri tradition that goes far back in our history, is an effective tool for bridging the gap between different generations. The more we learn about a culture the more we come to respect it and its beginnings. In finding and honing this culture, we create an atmosphere of pride and delight in ourselves and in our children. In a country where differences are many, but individuals are few, we need to create a distinguishing factor between ourselves and others. We are all like a family; we share similar tastes, likes and dislikes. We all talk the same and we all walk the same; we all dress the same, and we all eat the same, then why don’t we take pride in that and proudly flaunt our defining traits? Why should we let our graceful mother tongue die out, and allow it to be replaced with languages from cultures we have assimilated with? Incorporating the behaviors and beliefs of our adopted homes is well and good, but losing our own culture to this is unacceptable. In this we can take example from many Hispanic immigrants, whose children, despite growing up in a foreign culture, still maintain the ability to speak their native language and follow their customs. It is a pity that many of us know more about French, Spanish, or any other culture for that matter, than our own Kashmiri heritage. In order to be totally successful we need to take on this responsibility to educate ourselves. People will not appreciate the Kashmiri culture, if they know nothing about it. This can be applied to our future generations as well. It is imperative show them the splendor of our culture and make them proud of our rich heritage. Though nobody can force another to appreciate something they do not want to, we can still be encouraging and supportive of our youth. If they can learn to love their culture, an integral part of their identity, then there are no boundaries to what we can do as a community.
Day by day we are compromising our fundamental beliefs, to that what we see around us. Many communities have taken steps to ensure that their culture thrives in a place away from home. As Kashmiris we are slowly surrendering our way of life to the forces of change around us. We can only respect ourselves if we learn to respect where we have come from. Hailing from Kashmir is not what makes us Kashmiri; it is our customs, knowledge and traditions that make us who we are. If we can see the significance of who we are as a community, there is no stopping what we can do. Whether on the banks of the river Jhelum or in the busy streets of New York, a Kashmiri is a Kashmiri, and not even the strongest winds of change can make that any different.