Growing Up in Multi-cultural Environment

September 28, 2023

I spent my primary school years in my Parish’s church school. Being a largely Catholic crowd, we had daily Catechism. That meant ‘break time’ for the Non Catholic students, whom we anyway rarely got to mingle with as socializing with them was discouraged by our elders. I did sneak out to a few Janmashtami celebrations though!

Soon enough I was in High School run by a Hindu Organisation with a predominantly Hindu crowd. Day one, I had to choose one optional language from Hindi and Sanskrit. Being fluent in Hindi, I opted for Sanskrit with the intention of learning a new language. However, I was forced to change the language from Sanskrit to Hindi by my elder sisters who said “Sanskrit is the language of Brahmins. It is not for us!” Sadly, we also ended up skipping annual day celebrations at the behest of our elders .The annual day cultural performances were based on Hindu mythology and we would stay home, listening to the distant beat of their drum.

College years dawned on me (at the same institute) and I found myself the proud recipient of the first prize at the Annual Science Quiz. As soon as the Prize distribution ceremony ended, I walked excitedly out of the hall, unable to resist unwrapping the coveted first prize. Just as I was opening it, I felt a pat on my shoulder. I looked back up to find the President of the Science Association looking down at me, worriedly. He said “I am so sorry Jerald, I did not expect you to win the prize. Had I known, I’d have selected another item for this prize.” I was puzzled and even more curious about the prize! I hurriedly unwrapped it to find a book - the ‘Ramayana’. As I ran my fingers over the glossy over and flipped through a couple of pages, I looked back at him saying “Sir, I am happy to receive this prize” at which the lecturer let out a sigh of relief.

Two decades later, I was posted as the Head of Sales in a remote area in Andhra Pradesh. One Saturday morning, during my first week at the new Office, the local unit In-Charge requested me to join them for ‘Puja’. Unfamiliar and curious, I went along to a Puja room within the Office, adorned with pictures and idols of Hindu Gods. This fifteen minute ritual with the entire staff ended up becoming a part of my routine, every Saturday at the Office. While the fragrance of the incense engulfed my senses, I would get lost in the echoes of their chants, feeling the heat from the burning lamps and silently pray the Catholic prayers I was brought up on. The Puja would conclude on a sweet note with delicious ‘prasad’.

Six months later, a group of excited employees came to me with a package and requested me to unwrap it. It was a framed picture of three distinct images - one of Goddess Lakshmi, one of the Crescent and one of the Sacred Heart of Jesus which they wanted to display in the Puja Room! A Holy Trinity of sorts, but secular! Needless to say, they had realized I wasn’t a Hindu and wanted me to feel included. From then on, the sight of it every day reminded me of their thoughtfulness.

After all these years of varied experiences in multi-cultural environments, I have grown to believe that no matter what the religion, every Puja, every Mass, every Namaz, all lead to the singular objective of getting closer to God. Our diverse nation gives us the rare opportunity to celebrate a multitude of cultures, to respect every ones beliefs, peacefully co-exist and grow spiritually, together as one community. How blessed are we!




By Jerald Coutinho
Jerald Coutinho is based in Mangaluru, having retired recently after a service of over 36 years in a public sector oil company.
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Comment on this article

  • Laila Pinto, Mangalore

    Sun, Oct 01 2023

    Well written article 👏 👍 👌 about life experience. Multicultural upbringing makes one broadminded in general and makes it easier to integrate and mingle with all irrespective of the place one lives.

  • Wenicka, Fabian & Lisa Mascarenhas, Mumbai

    Sat, Sep 30 2023

    Wonderful Article Uncle Jerry.....Very well written and expressed.......with a lovely message for everyone!!!!!

  • Hazel Coutinho, Mangalore

    Fri, Sep 29 2023

    Wonderful article, Dada! Stories from real life experiences are always special. Looking forward to more such gems from you :)

  • Anthony Cyril sequeira, Kateel/ Mangalore

    Fri, Sep 29 2023

    Well written Jerald. Respecting and tolarating others faith is the key to success, progress and peace.

  • Jaya, Bantwal/Kuwait

    Fri, Sep 29 2023

    " opportunity to respect everyone, peacefully co-exist and grow as one community ..." you nailed it, we all would love to live this way for a thousand years! Keep writing and keep inspiring us and the younger generation Mr. Jerry, God bless you.

  • Rita, Germany

    Thu, Sep 28 2023

    Written very well.Of course grown up with multi kulti religion envirement is gives one the feeling that you are not alone around knows ones likes or dislikes..They too will accept you as one of them .I too was grown up in such a surroundingetc..HIndus konkanas ,Shettys .Even there were so said untouchables .But we were not keeping them away .treated them like any other.One woman was bring water from well.Seeing it one of our own community person said ,I will never drink water by you.We didnt take it awkward.Why should we?.I went till 8 standard in but as a new Priest came to our church he said Icatholics should go to catholic school otherwise will not give communion.!Well no option I did for a year .Of course there was catholic teacher who was teaching us doctrine during Hindu children were doing Bhajan on friday last period.So we didnt feel outsiders.We enjoid all feasts of Hindus or catholics accordingly .We were helping to do tulasi puja and decorating happy was my childhood among Hindus too.I miss it now.


    Thu, Sep 28 2023

    Hi Jerry, your write up on 'growing up in multi-cultural environment' is very interesting and thought provoking. Growing up in a multi-cultural society can be a rewarding and enriching experience, as well as a challenging and complex one. INDIA is a diverse country with many different cultures, religions, castes, creeds , languages, and traditions coexisting peacefully and harmoniously. However, there are also some issues and problems that arise from this diversity, such as discrimination, prejudice, stereotypes, conflicts, and identity crises. Thank you and awaiting more such articles from you.

  • Anthony D'Silva, Udyavara / Fujairah UAE

    Thu, Sep 28 2023

    Nicely written, keep writing your experiences Jerry

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