Indian associations and culture schools.: Becoming Minnesotan

Ram Gada and Preeti Mathur, IAM Oral History Project 3 celebration, 2002.
  • Name - Ram Gada
  • Age at interview - 53
  • Gender - Male
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 12.07.1994
  • Neena Gada, IAM Oral History Project 3 Celebration, Minnesota History Center.
    Students, SILC, Como High School, St. Paul, April 13, 2002.

    We Are Here

    Essential Question

    We Are Here: What does it mean to this immigrant group to be here in America?

    Cultural Preservation: How does a person weave his or her traditional culture into a new American identity?

    Words to look for

    dormant
    secular
    assimilate
    thrive
    sustain
    tangible
    benefit
    publicity
    self-respect

    Background Information

    India is a large country that includes many different ethnic groups, languages, and religions.  In fact, there are over 150 different languages spoken in India!  Hinduism is the religion that has the largest following in India, but other religions that are practiced include Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, and Jainism. 

    Many Indian immigrants feel it is important to connect with the larger Indian community in their area, to establish resources for struggling Indian immigrants, and to reach out to educate Minnesotans about Indian culture, too.  It is often difficult for immigrants to find resources to help them when they are so unfamiliar with this new place.  Since India is such a large and diverse country with many languages and religious and cultural traditions, many Indian immigrants participate in religious organizations or samaj and social clubs that bring together members of their individual cultural group.  These groups plan events to celebrate their traditional language, food, music, and other cultural practices from their home regions in India. 

    There has also been a lot of support in the Indian community to establish a more permanent place where children could go to learn the Indian languages, history, and culture.  Kids today think of India as poor and overcrowded, instead of knowing about the many wonderful things about Indian history and culture.  Asian Indian Minnesotans have developed the School of Indian Languages and Cultures (SILC) in the Twin Cities that offer classes for both Indian and non-Indian students. 

    To learn more about Asian Indian history and culture, visit our Asian Indian Community page.

    • Chapter 1
    • Chapter 2

    Download Ram Gada 5
    2:4 Minutes | 1.98Mb

    Transcription

    Narrator: Ram Gada (RG)

    Interviewer: Polly Sonifer (PS)

    PS:  So, you started the Gujarati Samaj and the Jain Association.  Are there any others that you were a part of?

    RG:  I was very instrumental in reforming India Club which started in 1973.  It was dormant until 1980 when a group of people who were very active said, "Somebody else needs to take charge of India Club, otherwise we are going to fold it." 

    So a group of people came, my wife and myself and some other families.  We really revived India Club.   Then, we re-wrote the by-laws, which are by-laws we follow right now.  Since then, I have been active to promote its growth.  So, since 1980, India Club has progressed very well.  That's the one organization which is secular and goes beyond religious, sectarian and language lines.  Its main purpose is to assimilate Indians with the culture at large, while at the same time people from the major community can know the Indian community and culture.  So, India Club has been very active at Festival of Nations and promotes the Festival of India and provides speakers in schools.   It publishes a newsletter.  So, India Club has done very much progress.  And this has not been one individual effort; there are so many people helping with progress since it was revived.

    It runs in a very democratic way; every year elections are held and nominations are done and people are brought in from the different walks of life who are interested in Indian culture.  That's a very nice thing about India Club. 

    Continues in Chapter 2


    Download Ram Gada 6
    1:54 Minutes | 1.82Mb

    Transcription

    Narrator: Ram Gada (RG)

    Interviewer: Polly Sonifer (PS)

    RG:  Also, I was instrumental in the School of India for Language and Culture.  I served there as a teacher.  My wife is one of the founding members.  I work with her to support that organization so SILC has done good for the community.  Lots of young children come there and learn Indian languages, history, arts, applied sciences, music and dance and other things.  

    PS:  Are they all thriving?

    RG:  Yes!  I think they are all thriving.  These are the institutions where our youth in the future can sustain those organizations because they get the tangible benefit out of it.

    PS:  When you were a teacher at SILC, what did you teach?

    RG:  I taught Gujarati and history of India.  It was a very rewarding experience to talk to these young people, talk about  the way India was in the past, because nowadays in the current media you see very bad publicity about India.  When you talk about history, how India was in the Golden Period, and how India got where it was prior to the British era or time, you want to tell them why, what happened, the reasons.

    So they are proud of the culture where their parents came from. 

    One thing SILC has done is taught them self-respect.  Who they are, where they have come from.  Not what they see in the news media about India or Indian culture at this point.


    Related Glossary Terms

    assimilate

    Verb:  To absorb into a community by adopting that community's traditions or culture.  (assimilates, assimilating, assimilated)

    association

    Noun:  A group of persons associated for a common purpose; an organization; society.

    benefit

    Noun:  An advantage, help or aid.

    Verb:  To be or to provide a benefit to.  (benefits, benefiting, benefited)

    by-laws

    Noun:  Rules for a club or organization.

    community

    Noun:  A group of people who share a common understanding of the same language, manners, tradition and law.

    culture

    Noun:  The arts, customs, and habits that characterize a particular society or nation.

    dormant

    Adjective:  Inactive; asleep; suspended.

    era

    Noun:  A period of time characterized by particular circumstances, events, or people.

    experience

    Noun:  1. Participation in events, leading to knowledge, opinons, or skills.  2. The knowledge thus gathered.

    Gujarati

    Noun:  1. Language spoken in the state of Gujarat, India  2. A person from Gujarat.

    Adjective:  Of, from, or pertaining to Gujarat, or the Gujarati people.

    Listen to this word: 

    institution

    Noun:  An established organisation, especially one dedicated to education, public service, culture or the care of the destitute, poor, etc.

    instrumental

    Adjective:  Essential; central.

    Jain

    Noun:  A follower of the religion of Jainism, a religion and philosophy, originating in India, with a focus on nonviolence and personal effort to progress the soul towards divine consciousness.

    nomination

    Noun:  The act of naming someone as a candidate for a position or role. 

    progress

    Verb:  To move forward; to develop.  (progesses, progressing, progressed)

    promote

    Verb:  1. To raise someone or something to a more important or responsible job, rank, or position.  2. To advocate or urge on behalf of something or someone.  (promotes, promoting, promoted)

    publicity

    Noun:  Information about a person, group, event, or product presented to the public through the media.

    publish

    Verb:  To issue a printed work for sale and distribution.  (publishes, publishing, published)

    samaj

    Noun:  Hindi word meaning society or congregation.

    Listen to this word: 

    secular

    Adjective:  Not specifically religious.

    self-respect

    Noun:  The knowledge of one's own worth; valuing one's self; pride. 

    sustain

    Verb:  To maintain; to keep going.  (sustains, sustaining, sustained)

    tangible

    Adjective:  Real or concrete.

    thrive

    Verb:  To increase in wealth or success; to prosper, be profitable; to flourish.  (thrives, thriving, throve/thrived)

    walks of life

    Occupations, roles, social classs, or lifestyles. 

    Citation

    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access]. http://www.mnhs.org/immigration
    nid: 633