Growing up as a Hindu in the UK has been a beautiful, enlightening and confusing experience, to say the least.
Every time I questioned my parents about ‘Hinduism’, and there have been many times, they’d tell me, “Tulsi, we do not follow a religion. Being a Hindu is a way of life”. I was able to understand this concept to some extent, all until the next time I saw my dear grandparents, who have always been so ‘religious’.
From a very young age I witnessed their dedication and trust in God, and I really struggled to understand it; my comprehension of ‘praying’ was as far as an act of ‘wishing’ to this supreme being. I’d pray with my family before receiving my exam results, when somebody was in bad health, at the beginning of new chapters: but was this the “way of life” that made me a Hindu?
With a combination of maturity, reading, and plentiful conversations with my philosophical brother Kishan, I began to appreciate why our grandparents and their generation exhibit such a profound reliance on God. They grew up in environments where mental health was never acknowledged and in times of struggle, the only option was to suffer in silence. They never received the support, guidance or freedom of speech that most of us take for granted nowadays. The nearest thing to a ‘support network’ for them was in fact God, offering them the feelings of protection and security which they craved. The truth is, their spirituality and individual relationships with God empowered them to find the inner strength they needed in order to prosper, provide for their families, and reach where they are today.
The way in which ‘Hinduism’ had been portrayed to me for years anticipated my development of an assumption, in that all Hindus must trust in each deity, feel at peace in every mandir, and worship all Murtis with the same connection.
At the NHSF (UK) Committee Experience Day 2021 (CED), Dr Sachin Nandha Ji explored this very matter – for me, this was the most significant element of the day. Sachinji discussed what we mean by the ‘Hindu Identity’, and in reality this is unique to every single Hindu; we acknowledge each other’s varying religious beliefs, but what we share is a culture, a culture abundant in celebrations, traditions and diversity, not to mention the music, food and art that we enjoy as a collective.
Since recognising the actuality that being Hindu is not simply following a religion, I have avidly begun my journey in discovering what being a member of the Hindu community means to me.
Like many, I left CED feeling refreshed and inspired after networking with so many young, powerful Hindus, all at the forefront of this phenomenal national movement that is NHSF (UK). The pride everyone carried in representing our culture was contagious. The day started with a team-building exercise to make the tallest, free-standing tower possible using only newspaper, glue and a handful of straws. (My team most definitely won this activity). This light-hearted competition encouraged solidarity, a vital attribute for any committee to have. I thoroughly enjoyed the refreshing sports sessions where we got active, had a great laugh, and made some friends during the games. In another session, we were given 20 minutes to plan and pitch ideas for a Diwali ball as a taster of what large-scale event planning will involve. After harmonious team work during this task, brainstorming of collaboration opportunities with other chapters has commenced..
Over in Loughborough, my Committee and I cannot wait to put all our plans into action this year! We recently implemented a new “Freshers Family” scheme to emphasise the ‘home away from home feeling’ that NHSF (UK) strives to evoke. Our upcoming Meet and Greet will be a Holi event, to kick off the year in the most colourful way possible and give our members a sense of the fun we have in store. Navratri and Diwali are also fast-approaching, and after being deprived for so long, we are absolutely buzzing to get dressed up and begin celebrating. One of our primary objectives is to expand our chapter, so our range of weekly affairs cater for everyone – in true Loughborough spirit, there will be weekly badminton, football and netball, in addition to Aarti and Activity socials every Thursday where we will get creative, play games, hold debates, competitions and more! Finally, we look forward to honour NHSF (UK)’s 30th Anniversary as the Exhibition makes its way to the Midlands!
Above all, we endeavour to create a socially and spiritually enjoyable experience for all members and grow our society to its potential and beyond.