The short film titled “Indian Summer” explores the experiences of Indian American children attending the Hindu Heritage Summer Camp in Rochester, New York. The documentary, which is available online as part of the PBS Online Film Festival, is probably most relevant to Hindu parents who are trying to raise children in America while imparting them with knowledge about their Hindu heritage.The greatest purpose “Indian Summer” serves is to publicize the very good work that many in the Indian American community have been doing for years to provide forums for their American progeny to learn about their heritage. The documentary profiles a summer camp where Indian American children from all around the country come for two weeks to learn about Hindu philosophy, traditions, values, and rituals. Many of the camp attendees comment that they live in communities where hardly anyone looks like them or is of the same religion. The fact that a space has been created for these children to meet others like them while learning about their faith is very special, and Director Chandra does a great job of capturing all that the camp has to offer.I don’t think “Indian Summer” will appeal much to those outside the Indian American community. This is mainly because the documentary oversimplifies Hinduism’s very sophisticated concepts like karma and moksha. For example, the use of a cartoon “karma bank” to illustrate the impact on a Hindu of doing good and bad deeds is slightly off-putting. The documentary is not particularly inspiring nor does it have very smooth or artistic transitions. However, I think “Indian Summer’s” value is in sharing with the Indian American community that there are children’s programs they may not know exist.
As a child, I attended “Gandhi Youth Camp” in Olema, California every summer for several years – it was a camp run by a Gandhian and focused on imparting the values of Mahatma Gandhi to Indian American youth. Every day for a week, we prayed in every world religion, engaged in community service, practiced yoga, and ate vegetarian food. I learned a lot from Gandhi Camp, but it was a miracle that my family heard about it in the first place. My father read about it in the weekly newspaper “India West” (in the mid-1990s, we had no internet) and decided to send me there on a whim. The camp was in Northern California, we resided in Southern California at the time, our family didn’t know anyone attending or running the camp, and there were no documentaries or online reviews – my dad rolled the dice, and it turned out to be a valuable life experience.
My hope is that “Indian Summer” will serve as an excellent publicity vehicle for the Hindu Heritage Summer Camp and others like it throughout the country, and that parents will learn about these programs, figure out which ones are the right fit for their family, and invest accordingly.
To watch Indian Summer in full, please click here and let us know what you think about the documentary on our Facebook page or comments section below.
Barnali lives in San Francisco and enjoys exploring new SF restaurants, going to the theater, reading fiction, and traveling internationally. She is also Scuba certified. Barnali holds both a BA and MA from Stanford University.