Naina Arteaga loves her Modi toys. Not only do they give her comfort, but they’re also educating her on Hindu culture.
Founded by South Asian Americans, the plushies were for children to stay connected to their Indian roots, which are inspired by ancient Hindu culture. Naina’s parents, Reshma and Sergio, are deeply connected to their roots and are determined to pass that on.
"In raising our children in a really intentional way where like our eldest feels comfortable going around saying, ‘I'm Durga, ‘you know? " said Reshma. “Or like talking about the gods or like, ‘Mom, can I take my book and show my friends?’ That to me is really a sign of times changing. Like we're doing something right.”
It was important for Reshma to have her kids engaged in their culture. She learned about her own family tree when she was a little girl.
“Very fortunate to know my paternal grandmother, who I think was maybe one generation removed from those who were brought over from India as indentured servants or essentially forced labor or slaves,” Reshma said.
Without any material possessions, culture was the only thing her grandmother could pass down. Reshma grew up practicing Hinduism and celebrating Indian culture. She took part in its festivals with her Guyanese family, but often felt disconnected from other South Asians.
“Being Indo-Guyanese, you are often told, ‘well, you look Indian, you present as Indian?’ But then there are people who might say, ‘Well, you're not Indian,’ " said Reshma.
As a result, Reshma is trying to create an environment that is inclusive and is raising her daughters Hindu. Reshma doesn’t want her daughters to feel less than others because of their culture or religion. It’s important to her and her husband Sergio, who is Mexican.
“We're just hoping to, I don't want to say shield them, but at least provide them the tools that we have to learn much later in life, much, much later in life, to be able to advocate themselves and defend themselves," said Sergio.