Building on U.S. Tradition, Camp for Hindu Children Strengthens Their Identity

Building on U.S. Tradition, Camp for Hindu Children Strengthens Their Identity

By Samuel G. Freedman

MACEDON, N.Y. — Just before the July a decade ago when Neha Dhawan turned 11, her mother informed her, “You’re going to Hindu camp this summer.” Invoking her most age-appropriate tone, Neha emitted a diffident, “Oh, yeah?”

Growing up Indian-American in Shreveport, La., was already a conflicted proposition for Neha. As the daughter of two immigrant doctors, she dutifully went with her parents to a Hindu temple and sat through their favorite Bollywood movies. In the other half of her hyphenated life, she joined her middle school’s pep squad and rarely missed an episode of “Lizzie McGuire.”

Despite her ardor to assimilate, she felt acutely set apart. There were maybe two or three other Indian families in her neighborhood. Classmates routinely asked where she went to church. Worst of all, a pupil at Neha’s middle school produced a “hit list” of students who were supposed to be killed, among them several of Indian descent.

So the last thing that Neha wanted that summer of 2004 was to be even more identified as an Indian and a Hindu. This Hindu camp, she figured, had to be for newbies to America. Neha could just imagine them, the girls with nose rings and oily braids, the boys with too-tight jeans and Bata flip-flops. Totally corny.

Most of the camps, though, aim to instill cultural knowledge and show children how to be confident in their Indian background and Hindu faith while feeling wholly part of the American mix.

Read the rest @


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *