Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

We’re ALLLLL in this together

September 9th, 2009 · No Comments

I find the prompt a bit vague and difficult to answer simply because I’m not at all familiar with how Sikhs and Hindus adjust to life in London.  However, based upon what I’ve seen and what I’ve read, there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between the cultural identities of the two in the UK.  I actually think that a lot of their adaptation is similar, mainly because I link the two religions in my mind as well.

Just as an aside, I read a quote today by C.S. Lewis that reminded me of our visits to the two temples: “You don’t have a soul./You are a soul./You have a body.”  I think this is the perfect way to sum up Sikh and Hindu ideas regarding the relationship between God and humanity, that is to say, God can exist in all things and in all people.  I was particularly reminded of our guide in the Sikh temple who stressed the transience of the human body and the importance of tending to one’s soul.  However, it could also refer to the Hindu concept of “Atman,” or the true soul which transcends earthly existence and our false egos.  I think the relevance of the quote extends to each in equally significant ways.

I think the sense of community central to both Sikhism and Hinduism plays a huge role in the ways that these people adjust to London life.  Both temples stressed the fact that their buildings are a gathering place where people can congregate and worship.  In Salaam: Brick Lane and Brick Lane, I got the impression that Tarquin Hall and Nanzeen felt isolated in their respective communities because they were forced to adjust on their own.  Since Tarquin Hall and Nanzeen came from such different socioeconomic, cultural, and geographical backgrounds than their neighbors and friends, they both seemed to suffer from loneliness to some degree.  Each managed to cope until they became more comfortable with their surroundings, but it certainly took time and great effort.  I found that this was in direct contrast to the Hindu and Sikh communities that we visited.  They put great emphasis on community and togetherness, which makes for easier adjustment to a new culture simply because they are able to spend time in comfortable places with people who act in a familiar way.  Similarly, I was able to adjust to London life quickly because I am surrounded by people who are going through the same changes that I am.  From a psychological perspective, change is easier when one is not alone, and I think this is applicable to Sikhism and Hinduism.

Along those lines, both attempt to maintain this community through arranged marriages or simply marriages within their religion population.  Interestingly, BBC mentioned that online dating is increasing for both denominations.  This, to me, is the perfect balance between adaptation to a new culture and adherence to one’s background and history.  They are able to try new things while still congregating with those who share their own religious beliefs and morals.

Since this is getting quite long I’ll finish, and perhaps add more later..but for now, I think my general sentiment is that both Sikh and Hindu followers are able to adjust more easily than other religions because of their focus on community and willingness to support one another in their daily lives in London.

Tags: Amy

Cultural relativity: kicking ass and changing names so we can pronounce them…

September 7th, 2009 · No Comments

So, since we’ve all been given the post topic, I feel as though I don’t need to go into the simplistic description of our travels. We saw Sikh and Hindu places of prayer. They were both gorgeous. What is their differences and how are they reflective of the two cultures attempts to integrate into British culture? Looking at the Sikhs, I would say they were looking for acceptance, where as the Hindu guide was trying much more to impress. Both are devices used to gain positioning within a society.  I distinctly remember our Sikh guide saying something along these lines: I hope one day people will not stop us at the air port, rather they will say ‘oh hey, he’s a Sikh, he’s ok.’  Sikhism in general is a younger religion than Judeo-Christian faiths and Hinduism. With this, it is often forced out of public eye and understanding. For this reason, they are often left to get whatever cultural capital charity they are able to get.  the Naara Mandir was also looking for a piece of the British-cultural pie, but they have gone about attaining it in a very different way, despite the fact that they came to England initially around the same time.  Almost like the girl who punches you when she likes you, the temple seemed to me to be attempting to out do British structures in order to gain their respect. If I heard another comment about Italian marble or how amazing the whole thing was, I may have just laughed. Further, I thought the way that the temple was presenting Hinduism was simply a way to cater towards Judeo-Christian understanding. Hinduism comes from Vedic traditions, and by nature is not a singular religion. While they are all relatively accepting of each other, there are many distinct traditions far beyond what the Mandir was expressing. 

Possibly too bold: the Sikh’s looked to intergrate through submission (BBC mentions cutting their hair, putting down their sabers) while the Hindus looked to intergrate without compromise. Strangely enough, it has worked for the Hindus. Overall they have gained respect much more far reaching than that of the Sikh.   

The few other Hindu temples I have been to have been quite a bit less opulent. This may simply be because of the focal-point nature of the Mandir. Ali and I both went to a small Hindu farm where monks lived and worked together to live and pray. At the farm, the only sign of riches at all was a small pillar filled with donated trinkets. And even then the trinkets were out of sight.

The one thing I noticed about both religious groups, Sikh and Hinduism, is that have both been greatly affected by globalization (not necessarily from an English influence). Comparing the Mandir to an Indian village, where there may only be one TV for the whole community, is quite startling. Also, the concept of a global leader is also a fair new concept– relative to the existence of Hinduism that is. But I think the world requires that of religions these days; the Other needs a Dahlia Lama or Pope. The Other needs a hierarchy to categorize and compartmentalize. Even the name Hinduism, is silly. Hinduism was the name given to the people of the river valley, an umbrella term that described hundreds of tribalistic beliefs.

Onto the articles… Sikh’s using the Internet to find mates makes perfect sense. What better way to cut away the physical attraction than through having emailing dates.  You get all the perks of talking to someone and learning about them, without the issues of false attraction and dating. The concept of sexual abuse in a religion preaching sexual suppression is not unimaginable.  Look at Rumspringa in the Amish community. When you push and ignore any aspect of a person’s psyche, it just enforces a person’s need to let it out. Why do Amish kids go out and drag race, do coke and who know what else? I would wager it is because they know they can’t otherwise. In many conservative religions, people are more likely to go to extreme sexual lengths when they do actually go about having sexual experiences.

Anyway, cheers

Tags: Andrew R