Commended Entry: "Crossroads of My Life" by Pranavkrishna Bharandidharan from the USA.
This article was submitted in the Kids World Travel Guide Essay Competition 2020 in the Senior Category 12-15 years.
As I am writing this essay, feeling the breeze of the Sierra Nevada while listening to Carnatic music, I reminisce about the most important moment of my life. Imagine a two-year old embarking on a journey from the place of my birth and ancestors, India, to the United States of America, the country whose culture I have now embraced.
I see myself, whose heart is split between India and the United States. Because of this unique position, I feel that I have the best of both worlds.
India, the largest democracy in the world, is replete with unique traditions. From the biodiverse Sundarbans National Park, the home of the mighty Bengal Tiger, to the picturesque Himalayas, there are many physical biomes and ethnic groups.
India comprises mainly two ethnic groups. The largest group, the Indo-Aryans predominantly speak Indo-European languages, like Hindi. On the other hand, the Dravidians, the second largest group speak Dravidian languages, such as Tamil, the native language of my family. From the Indus Valley Civilization to the British Raj, India has seen many sovereign nations over the millennia, which have contributed to its cultural diversity.
The most famous landmark is the majestic Taj Mahal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. India holds many cultural traditions in the 28 different states, but perhaps the most celebrated is the festival of Diwali, or Deepavali. The "Festival of Lights" is a celebration of the victory of good over evil. It is celebrated by lighting lamps called diyas and sparklers, wearing new clothes, and going to temples.
The United States of America, the "land of the free and home of the brave" is known for its diverse geography ranging from the majestic Niagara Falls in New York to the high Rocky Mountains of the western US. The United States has diverse ethnic groups, such as Caucasian-Americans, African-Americans, and Native-Americans. Although there is no official language of the United States, most people speak English, with Spanish also being prevalent.
I had a memorable experience of visiting one of the most famous monuments of the world: the Statue of Liberty; a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the largest city, New York. An iconic American holiday, Thanksgiving is a celebration of gratitude, a very important quality to have. Since the famous feast many centuries ago between the Pilgrims and the Native-Americans, the festival has changed. Besides the sumptuous dinner, people celebrate the occasion by spending time with family and friends, shopping on Black Friday, and donating to charity.
I embrace both American culture and my Indian heritage. For example, on the harvest festival of Makar Sankranti, or Pongal, we wish everyone by saying "Pongalo Pongal!", and eat the namesake porridge. Similarly, I also take part in Halloween by wearing costumes and by trick-or-treating. I have learned about both Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., who have helped to make this world a better place. The lessons I have learned from these men have influenced and inspired me.
In conclusion, my heart is with both the United States and India. Each country has its own unique identities that sets them apart from each other. While I live in the United States and celebrate its customs and traditions, I vividly remember and enjoy my Indian roots. I feel that both countries are a part of my identity.
I believe that this universe has a place for all cultures, for, as the Tamil poet Kaniyan Poongundrunar wrote 3000 years ago, "yaadhum oore, yaavarum kelir" or "all the universe is our place and everyone in our universe is our people.”
Thank you for the awesome essay "Crossroads of My Life", Pranavkrishna!
Another excellent piece of writing from you! You were one of the youngest entrants in this category and can be very proud of your work. Thank you so much for sharing the proverb with us, indeed there is place for all cultures in this world, and in this world we are all one! Well done!
Pranavkrishna Bharandidharan attends California Montessori Project in the USA. He received an award also in the 2018 competition when he shared his insights about the Diwali festivities in his family. Read more here.
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