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Problem Statement
Inaccuracies in
Negative Effects
on Youth
Youth Stories

Textbook Reform Initiative
Youth Stories

Below is a selection of stories we have received from youth describing
their feelings and sharing their reactions to information they were
taught about Hinduism and India. The youth tell how being Hindu affected their interactions with their teachers and friends.
Sameera Mokkarala
Sameera Mokkarala – Age 15 – Palo Alto, CA
When my sixth grade History teacher announced that we were going to be learning about India and Hinduism in class, I was overwhelmingly excited.  We were finally going to learn about something I could relate to culturally...
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Nina Appareddy
Nina Appareddy – Age 13 – Chattanooga, TN
Many Hindu-American youth will agree with me on the fact that growing up in a predominantly Christian country and representing a minority religion is hard.
At times, it may even seem to be impossible.
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Krishn Sharma
Krishn Sharma – Age 21 – Greensboro, NC
As a child, I only understood my religion of Hinduism by learning its perceived characteristics from comparisons to more “correct” religions. Most children are pliant on religious issues and accept these comparisons as fact...
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Alexandra Roberts
Alexandra Roberts – Age 11 – Oak Hill, TX
Since I was able to talk, I was proud to be a Hindu and I let everyone know it. That all changed when I started school. As early as 6 years old, the children in my class would make fun of me and say horrible things to me...
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Vishal Kapoor
Vishal Kapoor – Age 21 – Pasadena, CA
In high school I remember my history teacher making light of the Hindu faith.
He would say things to me like, “Vishal, don’t do so and so, or you will be
reincarnated as a slug.”
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Balram Sharma
Balram Sharma – Age 18 – Greensboro, NC
The misconceptions about Hindus and Hinduism are numerous in number. From elementary school through high school I have been taught wrong information about my culture, history and religion...
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Madhuri Ward
Madhuri Ward – Age 16 – Dripping Springs, TX
Growing up is hard enough on its own, but growing up and being a young Hindu is even harder. At the age of 12, I was discriminated against, and made fun of for being different. I lost friends and, at times, even teachers would turn against me. Even that wouldn’t make me want to deny who and what I was.
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Sameera Mokkarala continued
And I was fully anticipating it to be the best unit of the entire year.  When I came into class on the first day, I had in tow my favorite ghagra chole suit to share with the class along with a pack of my mother’s red Shilpa bindis

“That’s really cool,” my teacher said softly, fingering the burgundy silk as she put my outfit on display at the front of the classroom.  I took my seat, knees jittering with gleeful eagerness.  When everyone had sat down, my teacher took out a pen and wrote on the board in big letters

I stared at her in disbelief as she began to explain how the social caste dictated by Hinduism divides people in India.  Taking a furtive glance around the classroom, I realized for the first time that I was the only Indian there.  Looks of confusion creased the brows of the students around me and I frowned.  I should have known, I thought to myself, and raised my hand.  The teacher looked at me and waited a few moments before calling on me. 

“Yes?”  I swallowed, then changed my mind about what I was going to say.
“Er…I’m Brahmin,” I offered lamely, and she bobbed her head thoughtfully. 
“That’s nice.  Maybe you can explain it to the class sometime,” she said, and she continued on with the lecture.

After school, I went home and told my parents about what we had learned in class that day.  Our family sat around the dinner table. 
“What’s caste?” my younger brother asked. 
My dad soon realized the difficulty of explain caste to a 6 year old and was bombarded in a deluge of questions. 

I thought about school, about my peers and the looks on their faces as my teacher had introduced Hinduism hand in hand with the caste system.  I thought about it then in anger.  I think on it now in sadness. 

The few pages that had been covered in our textbook about India had been about caste and polytheism—another misnomer assigned to Hinduism.  It is one thing for there to be 6 pages on India and Hinduism and 16 pages on China and Buddhism, but there should at least be justice done to the religion by representing it correctly in however few pages it is allotted. 

First impressions are everything, and it goes without saying that that applies to religion as well.  Because of the way textbooks teach about Hinduism, students commit to memory not the beautiful and accepting nature of the religion, but social practices associated with Indian culture that appear to want to cast Hinduism in a bad light.  This is not only maligning Hinduism, but doing a great disfavor to Hindus and Indians in general. 

It seems only fair that Hinduism be correctly represented in classrooms.  If we wish to promote peace and understanding worldwide, it is imperative that students be taught first about the aspects of the religion that brought people together.  In a world where religion is one of the major causes of feuds, would it not be prudent to portray Hinduism (and other religions taught about in schools) properly instead of as a present-day barbarity? 

Now in tenth grade, I see around me how little people really know about Hinduism.  I am often asked if I “speak Hindu”.  I am always quick to correct the malapropism, but it saddens me when I see people with such a limited or twisted understanding of what Hinduism is.

Ours is the next generation and it is all important that we begin our studies of the world with open minds and hearts.  No door is closed.  However, we must amend these past mistakes and make right what is wrong for us to have a greater chance at creating a more unified future.
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Nina Appareddy continued

With inaccurate information about our Hindu religion and Indian culture everywhere we turn, and family members who can’t always quite answer our questions, how are we to stand up for ourselves when others question our beliefs?

In elementary school I actually thought that we worshipped cows and belonged to a polytheistic religion because I didn’t know better. Through several Hindu youth camps, spending time along with my family at an ashram, as well as reading a few books myself, I began to see Hinduism with the admiration it deserves.

If a 5,000 year-old religion seemed old, imagine my surprise on hearing about an eternal way of life! Some of us may live our lives saying we are Hindu, but never know the meaning of it. Some of us may end up turning away from our religion and denying our roots. Only a handful of us will ever know how lucky we are to be followers of Sanatan Dharm, and will slowly but surely discover its greatness and divinity. This is why I may consider myself lucky.

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Krishn Sharma continued

Instruction I receive in school on Hinduism often mentioned that Hindus pray to many gods, cows, and even snakes. I was taught that Hinduism is polytheistic. This is incorrect, yet it is often repeated to make our religion look ridiculous and backward.

I remember wanting to believe that Hinduism is logical and reasonable; I found it made sense only after reading books outside of school. I feel that students who are taught the correct information about India’s history, whose length and greatness are unfathomable, will appreciate and respect Hinduism and India.

I will never forget an incident I had in class with my teacher in middle school. There had been a bee flying inside the room and instead of killing it, I had suggested that we set it free outside. My teacher glared at me and said, “What’s the matter, are you afraid we are killing your uncle? If that’s the case, we should set him free.” Comments like this from people I admired, such as teachers, embarrassed me and forced me to stay silent. I could not argue because I did not know where to start.

Since then I have learned that our religion is scientific, logical, and practical. Though pointed questions from teachers and peers persist, learning the truth about Hinduism has provided answers to my personal questions and has given me confidence in our religion.

The religion of Hinduism is sometimes portrayed as one of peace, though is often vilified for promoting a caste system and having rituals. American textbooks books only recount the battles from the Mahabharat and Ramayan and often portray Hinduism as a collection of Greek-like myths. Loving and playful aspects of Hinduism are not explained or even mentioned, though they are the most important and beautiful components of Hinduism.

Hindu children must learn what their religion means instead of feeling insecure and ignorant as this can damage their confidence in the verity of Hinduism. I therefore support a reform in our public education system that will promote a correct understanding of Hinduism.

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Alexandra Roberts continued

In the higher grades I would lose friends and be called names such as cow lover, ground worshiper and other despicable things. For the first time in my life I felt like it was bad to be a Hindu.

As my classes started to read more about India I was amazed at what was in the textbooks. I could not believe someone could really write those things about a culture that they probably have no connection to. I tried to speak up and tell people that the books were wrong but I quickly learned that just doesn't work as no one wanted to listen. I would come home crying because I just could not stand to hear so many mean things said about the religion and culture I love so much.

In my 5th grade class my teacher was totally against me being Hindu and made my daily life miserable. At the beginning of the school year she asked the class if any of us were vegetarians. Not wanting to be a spectacle, I did not raise my hand and then she said, "Good, because I don't like vegetarians." My stomach sank as I could not believe any one could ever say something so mean. The year went on and she made other comments like that.

Then we had a class project to do in which you had to chose to eat a piece of fish or not. Being vegetarian I could never think of eating fish, so I had to tell my teacher. It was very difficult as she gave me a very hard time about this. In front of the class for 5 minutes she tried to get me to eat fish, knowing that it was against my religion.

It is not easy to be a Hindu today, but it is because of what Hinduism teaches about tolerance and kindness that I am able to cope with the problem of being confronted at school by prejudiced teachers and students. I hope this will change some day and make life easier for people who embrace religions other than Christianity.

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Vishal Kapoor continued

My high school experience with the way Hinduism is taught was far more pleasant than my college experience. At the University of California at Santa Barbara, I took a world music class. During the Indian topics, the Hindu religion was briefly discussed by the professor. I remember him saying the most absurd and derogatory things about Hinduism. He said things like “Krishna was an epic hero,” and that the Mahabarat was a “mythological poem.”

Any Hindu knows that Krishna is supreme God and that the happenings of the Mahabarat are historical facts. After hearing such things I did not know what to do or say. I was angry and confused as to whether I should approach the professor or not. Because of such scenarios, I stayed far away from religion and world history classes at the University, hesitantly leaving the problem to persist.

I have now graduated from UC Santa Barbara and am working for an accounting firm in Los Angeles. It is my hope, that other students who go through the education system in America can get a real understanding about Hinduism and Indian culture. The only way that this can happen is by going the root of the problem; that is changing what the textbooks say. Schools should present correct and authentic information about Hinduism. Those books that are published by biased, prejudiced, and unqualified writers should be removed forever.

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Balram Sharma continued

The roots of Hinduism were told to be the mixing of the war-like Aryan nomads and the docile “native” Indians. Then, the new race of people created a religion called Hinduism. This false theory makes it seem that our religion is not divine or eternal but an adaptation of primal rituals conjoined between two opposite races. This could not be further from the truth, but if all the books preach the same propaganda, what is a student to conclude?

One vivid image that I have as a child is being told that Hindus worship cows. Not in such nice words, but a classmate of mine reiterated this belief in a taunting and belittling style. I have also been in a class where reincarnation was discussed and watched the students laugh as the teacher made a caustic remark of the fallacy she believed reincarnation stood for.

After reading on my own, I realized that not only is Hinduism a religion to be proud of, but it is the essence and truth of all. If Hindu students read their school books, they can easily become confused and frustrated with not only their religion and culture but also with themselves.

It is very difficult to sit quietly in classrooms while our religion and culture are continuously being degraded and followers of Hinduism humiliated.

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Madhuri Ward continued

At first I didn’t realize why everyone looked at me differently, but eventually
I figured it out.

One day I visited our school library to see just what the books were saying about Hinduism. When I opened one of the many books on Hinduism, my heart dropped. I was so angry to see what they were writing about Lord Krishn.

I told the librarian, she shouldn’t be keeping books that are so far off the truth, and she laughed and asked if I wanted to check them out. No one took me seriously. There seemed to be nothing I could do but be angry.

The following years were not much different. Every now and then religion would come up and somehow I would find a way to get myself in trouble by standing up for my religion and protecting it from what was being said.

Sometimes in classes like English, the subject of past lives and reincarnation would occur. Students would laugh and teachers would say how that’s so wrong and there's no way it could ever happen. They would say, "You are either going to heaven or your going to hell. There are no other choices." And, of course, there I was asking her not to voice her opinion about religion in class.

Growing up a Hindu is extremely hard unless you deny what you are which I chose not to do. I love everything about this religion. If I had the choice to start all over again, I wouldn’t change anything. I would put up with all the comments from people over and over again, just to stay this way.

It's worth it being Hindu, I love the way I am, and the religion I believe in.
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