It’s nice to be among people from your country. – Haripriya (on why she is involved in ISA)
Many of our informants have created new communities here in Muncie to replace the family and friends they left behind in India. These new social networks do not consist solely of other Indians and many interviewees point out that since they are in the United States they are interested in learning more about American culture and meeting Americans. However, many do have Indian friends here in Muncie or participate in Indian events in one way or another.
Jiya enjoys doing many social activities with other Indians, though she typically does the most with those from her region in India because they share cultural similarities. She prefers to celebrate festivals with Hindus from all over India rather than celebrating with just her and her husband because they “feel like family” in other words the larger Indian community has fulfilled the role that her extended family and friends would inhabit in India.
Many of our informants are involved or have been involved in the Indian Student Association (ISA) at Ball State University. Other informants are involved with the South Asian Muncie Association (SAMA) an organization in the local community. These organizations are secular and welcome people of all faiths to attend. In the past members of both organizations have included Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and Jains. Though the organizations are not based on a certain religion the majority of members of both groups are Hindu. This predominance of Hindu members has influenced the events that are planned by both groups, including the most recent large scale event, the Diwali and Eid celebration at Ball State University. Though the event highlighted aspects of both Hinduism and Islam it was apparent that the focus was slightly more on the celebration of Diwali.
Many informants addressed this issue pointing out that there are large and active groups for Muslim students on Ball State’s campus which organize important Muslim events and Christian holidays are also celebrated widely throughout the country. They feel that because Hindus celebrate numerous festivals, there is a major festival almost every month in India, it is important to celebrate festivals here in Muncie too. They see ISA as a way to share not only their Hindu culture but also their Indian culture with the Ball State and Muncie community.
Krithik says he uses festivals and the popularity of Indian food as away to share his own culture with his friends here in the United States. He typically will send out an e-mail around major festivals announcing the event and said many friends will ask him about the event the next time they see them. He also cooks Indian food for friends or goes to Indian restaurants with them.