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While talking with my dad yesterday, he mentioned that now that both of his parents have passed, he often performs a Hindu ceremony called Amavasya Dharpanam in their and other ancestors’ honor. This ritual is conducted on the day of a new moon, and to keep a long explanation short, is the equivalent of the Catholic All Saints Day or Dia de los Muertos when family members who have died are remembered and honored. Every culture seems to have its version of flatbread, meatballs and the Day of the Dead.

At the South Asian Journalists Association annual convention this past weekend, Oberlin College (and Smithsonian Institute) sociologist Pawan Dhingra announced that he wants home movies and stories for the Smithsonian’s HomeSpun Indian-Am Heritage project. My family’s experience as Indian-Americans starts in 1990, coincidentally when my dad discovered the Hi-8 camcorder and started to take it everywhere he traveled in his new home. Once I get these over to a digital format (and after editing out portions of the program in which I am seen in neon wear and Keds), I will be sharing them with HomeSpun. Whether you are Indian-American or have Indian-American friends, please get the word out and send any good videos HomeSpun’s way.

The project reminds me that I have a National Day Of Listening interview in mind for both of my parents. Here are the questions I’ve chosen for them. What would you ask your parents?

  • What is your earliest memory?
  • Where is your mom’s family from? Where is your dad’s family from?
  • What were your grandparents like?
  • What were your parents like?
  • Do you remember any of the stories they used to tell you?
  • Who were your favorite relatives?
  • How did you meet mom/dad?
  • What are the classic family stories? Jokes? Songs?
  • How has your life been different than what you’d imagined?
  • What are you proudest of in your life?
  • What advice would you give me about raising my own kids?
  • Is there any message you want to give or anything you want to say to your great-great-great grandchildren when they listen to this?
  • Turn the tables: This is your chance to tell the person you’re interviewing what you’ve learned from them and what they’ve meant to you.
3 comments… add one
  • Blair June 20, 2011, 3:51 PM

    Wish I had done the listening when I had the chance.

    • Maitri June 20, 2011, 3:54 PM

      What would you ask your parents if you could?

      • Blair June 20, 2011, 5:46 PM

        I like your list. I have answers to some of the family questions but I wish I knew more about what they thought. I do remember that Dad was not a fan of most politicians – it is probably a good thing that he is not here today.)

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