When my brother got married, his wife came to our house. Ours was a joint family with my parents, grandparents, elder brother, his wife, and two sisters. My new sister-in-law was coming from a different state with different family traditions and way of life. Since she was the new member in our family, it was our job to make her feel at home, to make sure she feels comfortable, to help her settle down and become a part of the family, to give her love and affection so that she does not miss her family too much. And we all worked towards making it happen. In turn, she also adapted to our ways and became a lovable part of the family.
So, when people from different countries, diverse cultures, and dissimilar values migrate to United States, they try to adjust and adapt to the new culture. But the onus should also be on American people to welcome them, to make them comfortable and feel at home.
What do we do to create awareness about different cultures? Unfortunately, I have not seen much effort on the part of the government. People can be so ignorant about different cultures, that they expect same kind of behavior from all in different situations. I would like to see some organizations stepping up and make deliberate efforts to make connections to diverse cultures.
People of different cultures also must advertise and organize events, and invite all to create cultural awareness.
The Sikh foundation of Virginia, the Sikh temple at Ox Road is committed to this cause. We organize a cultural program each year in which more than 100 children and adults participate and perform to typical Punjabi folk music. We advertise the event in local newspapers and invite people from different faiths. This is an important event to make connections with our extended American family. We have found that many people are interested in learning about different cultures, but do not know where to go and whom to approach. This event generates enough interest and we do get interesting questions to understand our dances and music. Moreover, music knows no language barriers, and everyone enjoy the dances a lot. Cultural events could be a gateway to get to appreciate and celebrate diversity.
Kenwal Sachdeva of Fairfax Station is a Public Relations Officer for Sikh Foundation of Virginia.