Mission Bindi: Indian-American High Schooler Making Waves through power of social media
The US is a diverse land which hosts scores of nationalities, ethnic groups, and harbours cultures from all over the world. But in a bustling cosmopolitan country, it can be very easy to lose your identity. Blending in with the crowd is the easy route but comes at the hefty cost of shedding your very roots.
Archita Nemalikanti, a senior at Massachusetts High School, had a similar experience where she was at a crossroad - mould herself in a conventional way to avoid questions and stares or embrace her culture and be herself. She chose the latter.
At times Nemalikanti would put on a bindi before going to school, but since they were unaware of its significance, her non-Indian classmates would poke and prod her about the bindi.
In this process to identify bindi she ventured to who she is and eventually what is her identity? This small bindi pointed to a bigger picture - that the world needed to know more about Hinduism and its culture, not for the sake of diversity but because Hinduism holds within itself divine wisdom and a connection to our roots.
Thus the idea of the Bindi-awareness project was born. Now, Nemalikanti not only aimed at educating her American peers but also to empower her Hindu friends to embrace their cultural heritage.
Though the Bindi awareness project started as a school project, it soon expanded beyond the school grounds and through social media travelled across the world. And Hindu youth all over the world identified with the vision and emotions of Mission Bindi.
The bindi is more than an accessory to the Hindus, it is an integral part of their cultural identity and Mission Bindi wants to preserve it and also educate the mainstream about the Hindu culture.
One of the initiatives under Mission Bindi is the Bindi Emoji Initiative. Currently the proposal for a Bindi Emoji is under consideration at UniCode. Archita believes, Emoji may not seem like a big deal, but its one more way for a lot of people like us to feel acknowledged and represented. and added it is an integral part of our experience on the internet.
But her more ambitious second initiative went viral. Started in 2020, the second installation of World Bindi Day was celebrated in as many as 20 locations in US and also at many international venues.
Hindu youth all over the world enthusiastically involved themselves with the Mission Bindi on World Bindi Day on 7 October '21 - the first day of the Navratras. This day is an opportunity to understand the glory of the Hindu tradition, embrace the deeper meaning of the bindi, and bring the bindi back into the mainstream remarked Nemalikanti.
At the regional events at Campuses and Universities Students set up information booths, handed out bindis and spread the word about the science, history, and spirituality of the bindi - and, by extension, the Hindu culture.
World Bindi Day ended on a high note with a virtual event graced by author Sahana Singh, activist Sushil Pandit, and New York Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar.