Last Thursday I had the pleasure of attending an Eid celebration with Jill and Sarah. Ayesha, one of the high school counselors at DPS-North, invited us to her home to celebrate with her family. Eid is a Muslim holiday celebrated after the of fasting during Ramadan. For 30 days, children and adults who participate do not eat or drink food between the hours of dawn and dusk. They also give to charity during this period and do not engage in entertainment activities such as movies, TV shows, etc. It is a time of self-reflection and is supposed to increase empathy for the needy and hungry. The festival of Eid is celebrated with lots of deliciously rich and fried food, gifts, and time spent with family and friends.
Ayesha’s family welcomed us into their home with open arms. Also invited, was the other high school counselor, Deepa, and an 11th standard student at DPS-North, Reya. We ate some of the most delicious food I have ever eaten. The main dish of the holiday in Southern India is called Biryani. Similar to turkey at a thanksgiving dinner in the USA, Biryani takes a long time to cook and is the center of the meal. We also ate chicken, beef, eggplant, and much more. After lunch and dessert, Ayesha and Reya gave Deepa, Jill, Sarah, and I mehndi. Mehndi is also called Henna in the USA and is done in Indian culture during celebrations like the Eid holiday. Ayesha did such a beautiful job on mine. She did it without a stencil or a design, and just designed it as she went! She is very talented. Ayesha and her family were so welcoming and nice. It was fun to see the holiday from their perspective.
There are people in the U.S. who tend to think all or most Muslims are radicalized, angry, and terrorists who want to push their faith on everyone else. But while sitting at the table with Reya, who is a Christian, and Deepa, who is a Hindu, I realized how unfair these stereotypes are. Muslims simply want peace and to be able to practice their faith. The family we spent time with was just like anyone else. Had we not been celebrating a Muslim holiday, the fact that there were different religions in the room wouldn’t have even crossed my mind or mattered. This was a major revelation in my trip and in my personal beliefs. While reflecting as I was writing this, I realized that I used to subconsciously believe many of these negative stereotypes about Muslims and the Islam faith. However, because of this experience I realize that you cannot define a group by a handful of their members. Ayesha and her family are not and should not be defined by groups such as ISIS. And further, you should not define a person solely by their religion. This experience also had me look deeper into myself and question what other stereotypes am I still holding on to. And how can I as a future educator break down these stereotypes in my future classroom? Although I do not know the answers to these questions yet, I think because of this experience I am more aware. I’m so thankful to be in India having experiences like these that will help me be the best educator I can be.