Identity

I got this email from J1289, a regular reader and commenter here and sharing this with her permission:

(In context of something someone said to her) “…… I feel there are only two options for all of us, be part of the herd and get all the joy sucked out of us where we are miserable, or be happy and do what you love to do and get rejected/ignored by others since your actions don’t fit their mold. It’s never a win-win situation IMO.

Indian culture (or perhaps most Asian cultures) can be very beautiful. There are certain aspects I love about it, however being pressured to be this ideal “Indian girl”, get married, have kids, live in servitude and act like a doormat where toxicity takes over, sucks all the positive vibes about being Indian and makes you have a strong disdain towards it.

Especially the fact that in Indian culture, non-Indians are inferior to Indians, we must “stick” with people of our caste and people from our state only (I HATE THAT!) so that we keep the “culture” alive where it will not lose its “purity”. (Emphasis mine)

I hear this all the time, and it makes you think, can we still keep a homogeneous culture? How come people from conservative places, despite living abroad and exploring the world will not look at any other perspective?

Also lack of equal respect is another factor I dislike about being Indian. I would never show I am superior or treat someone ill because I’m much older than them.  I made it a point for myself that I’ll take a blend of cultures because I have equal respect for all,  (not only Indian) and incorporate into my life. Sure I’ll keep some “Indianness”, but I will also make sure to get rid of some of the toxic aspects (arranged marriages, being a slave to in laws, and be firm when I have to). I will make sure my life is full of diversity and not just one sided.”

My reply to her:

“I think you have the right approach when you say you take a blend of cultures and incorporate them into your life.  No culture is perfect; each one has strengths and failures.  I agree with you on all those unpleasant aspects of Indian culture.  I think we can reject those parts and take the parts we like.  I think that makes logical sense – why should it be all or nothing?  We take what makes sense, what feels right, what makes us comfortable.  We reject regressive thinking and practices.”

But then, when I thought about it more, I was intrigued by this idea of “cultural purity” and “protecting one’s culture”. I could relate to so many parts of J1289’s email because I’ve been in her place many times.

I have often been accused of “becoming too American”.

Because I let my children disagree with me.

Because I let them make choices and decisions that impact their lives.

Because I don’t fall on elders’ feet at weddings.

Because I don’t cook up a feast in the kitchen while the men discuss “important things” in the living room.

Because I sit next to my husband on the couch.

Because I hold his hand when we walk.

Because I wear what I want.

Because I don’t fast or pray.

Because I like to run/hike in my shorts.

Because I read and write and express opinions.

Because I don’t need permission for a host of things.

Because I make choices.

Because I laugh aloud when I’m happy.

Because recently, I told my husband’s aunt who came to the US to visit her daughter, “No this is not a good time to visit. The children have exams. We will come and see you.”

Instead of “Yes, you are always welcome in our home.”

And with the predictability of sunrise, she pulled an Athidi Devo Bhava on me.

We are constantly told that this kind of behavior goes against Indian culture. That it is a betrayal of Indian culture. But then, what exactly is Indian culture? Allowing your elders to control your life – until it’s your turn to control your children’s lives?

More precisely, WHO gets to define Indian culture? Who ARE these dreaded guardians of Indian culture? Why should they be in charge of defining Indian culture and identity? Because what they are defining happens to suit them? Because “tradition” can be a great way to avoid the tough questions and accountability?

I’ve seen other Indian American families struggle with identity. Some (if not all) first generation immigrants keep a little nostalgic piece of India in their hearts. It is a soft-focus, rose tinted picture that ignores the negative aspects of our culture.

But not seeing the truth is unhelpful. This holding on to an “ideal Indian culture” never allows you to take a rational standpoint. It never allows changes. It is stifling, both for them, and for their children, whom they have chosen to raise in a different country.

It is a disservice both to their birth country (to hinder truth, learning and progress) as well as the country they’ve immigrated to (to reap the benefits of another culture while condemning it). It keeps them in a time capsule. India and many Indians living in India have moved on with the times in many respects, but some Indian immigrants still hold on to the past, afraid to let go.

To some extent, I can understand this love for one’s country of birth.  It has a sort of magical pull.

I recently visited India for my niece’s wedding. I delighted in dressing up in kancheevarams and donning jhumkas. I re-watched 3 Idiots and laughed like one in some scenes. I sat on my brother’s balcony, watching the vendors below, as the evening darkened, cups of chai in hand, discussing Indian politics with fervor, knowing very well that governance in India is still a distant dream. I listened to my sister practice her Veena, her hands now faintly aging, but the music flowing strong and confident as ever.

I smelled coconut water and Aarti in the Ganesh temple my mother makes me go to, on every trip. My mother still sticks bits of turmeric to the new clothes she gifts to my children. I visited my childhood tailor, Arif, who must be in his 70s and can’t see well anymore but still seems to be turning out beautiful dresses with his old hands through sheer habit.

On my last evening there, I went to the Old Town – the most neglected part of my hometown and hiked up the highest peak (now I realize it is a small hill) that overlooks a rocky shore. At the foot of the hill sits my old convent school.  I visited the strict nuns of my elementary school, now softened with age, their disapproving looks replaced with welcoming smiles. I sat peacefully in my school’s worn down church as they conducted their Catholic service, not really understanding their rituals, but calmed by the angelic singing.

To me, all of these things are uniquely Indian, or define the part of India I was raised in. Who can take away this Indianness from me?  This “love” is about  people and places and memories.

BUT, why does being Indian have to mean giving up the right to think, analyze, question, discuss, disagree, and express?

You don’t have to feel like you are betraying Indian culture when you think for yourself. Rabindranath Tagore thought for himself. So did Sarojini Naidu. And so did Gandhi. And those 3 eminent thinkers spoke and wrote their original, independent, rebellious thoughts eloquently in Indian languages as well as in English. They looked and sounded and felt Indian, but they were far from being subservient. They were certainly not part of the “log kya kahenge” crowd. So, let’s stop defining Indianness as conformity and fear. It isn’t nor does it have to be.

I love my country of birth – it is colorful, vibrant, unique, energetic, evolving, boundless. I love America too – my adopted country – it is a place of equality and respect for the individual and immense personal freedom. Neither country is perfect, and both have numerous problems. And I love them both.

No one has the right to tell us what parts of which culture we adopt. One’s identity is a complex combination of one’s background, nature, experiences, and influences. It is ever changing, growing, and developing as we undergo new experiences. It is not to be determined by one’s aunt, mother-in-law, neighbor, pastor, or politician. It is up to us to determine who we want to be and how we choose to define ourselves.

And perhaps the same thing goes for India too. Indians should stop defining their country in terms of their Vedic past, the colonial legacy, the Islamic influence, traditions and customs, and other hang ups – these burdens only serve to limit us. While our rich past undoubtedly makes a fascinating study and understanding it is crucial, dwelling there forever is a sad mistake. Maybe if we start looking forward, India can be as beautiful and boundless as she wants to be.

Related Posts:

If our love for our people and our country needs being ‘proud of them’ then, here’s what we should be proud of.

When married Indian women (travelling or living outside India) strive to look unmarried.

Why do Indian women like to wear western clothes?

Why do some women see western clothes and being able to flaunt their bodies, without fearing being called sluts, as empowerment?

Mommy Guilt: A Western Influence.

Proud to be an Indian today…

I am Proud of India Today. Not India of Yesteryears.

Indians invented planes 7,000 years ago — and other startling claims at the Science Congress

The sari is the best way of showing global companies that these are Indian women managers?

Adarsh Bhartiya Nari – Ideal Indian Woman… !!!

Letting an outsider see or comment upon our imperfections is washing dirty linen in public?

“This is reply to BBC for making video on rape cases in other countries…”

“If we have people of your ilk in Bharat we do not need external enemies at all!”

“I am trying to make a list of soooooooo many advantages a girl can have if she is born in a Western family as compared to being born in india.”

92 thoughts on “Identity

  1. So beautifully and eloquently expressed. A very balanced view indeed. This is just the way I feel about this ‘culture’ brigade. Reading your write up a thought crossed my mind. The older generation imposes whatever is convenient for them on the younger in the name of ‘Indian culture and tradition’. They do things they want to do, which was denied to them probably by their seniors under the same pretext. Now our generation waits to be the older generation and imposes our wishes on the younger generation even though the ‘culture/tradition’ is one of our own making. This mixed with dashes of rituals makes up the complete toxic mix required to make a society sick. The better parts of our traditions / culture are butchered, buried and their remains jumped on very conveniently.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You are imposing your opinions on how India should be, on how elders and relatives should be, while you don’t want others to impose their opinions on how you should be…

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    • On whom exactly is she “imposing” her opinions? She just said her children are free to disagree with her. Elders and relatives can be any way they like, but when they are interacting with the OP, they need to behave in an acceptable manner or face the consequences. This goes for all interactions between all people. Give me a good reason on why anyone should impose their opinions on anyone else?

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      • Copying a sentence for you: “Indians should stop defining their country in terms of their Vedic past, the colonial legacy, the Islamic influence, traditions and customs, and other hang ups – these burdens only serve to limit us”.

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        • You left out the word “perhaps” from the previous sentence and “maybe” from a subsequent one.
          Look, the point is, this is an opinion piece. You are free to disagree. No one is being forced to follow this path.
          “Imposing” as you call it happens in Indian homes everyday – when adult women are not allowed to leave the house without permission from in-laws, for instance.
          If the in-laws wrote an article on their views and left it at that, I’m sure no one will have a problem with it.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Expressing one’s opinion like the writer has in this post is not imposing. Those who disagree with her thoughts are free to ignore them. But abusing someone with spiteful words and deeds, domestic violence, unrealistic and inhumane living situations to make them conform to one’s view of “tradition” – the way countless women are subjected to on a daily basis – is not just imposing, it is atrocity and domestic terrorism.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Just to correct you. Nairs are not matriarchal. They are matrilineal. The power still lies with the mother’s brother and mother’s male cousins. Only difference being that the daughter “passes the name on”, and traditionally property goes to the daughter, not the son.

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    • Please point out where she has ‘imposed’ how elders and relatives should be? She has written a post about how she feels about her identity shaped by two countries and how both have so much to offer and yet imperfect so what she would pick from both and what she would discard. She is not going to eldrers and relatives’ homes and ‘imposing’ how they have to live their day to day life. And why should she let others impose their opinion on her? Any good reason?

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      • When women express their disagreement with the abusive meta-culture, they are “imposing” their views on others.

        When Indian ILs “let you” work outside the home, or “let you” wear your choice of clothing, they are “adjusting”. When they say and do whatever they like and you question why they are abusive to you, you need to “adjust more”.

        I’m Nair from Kerala. We are a matriarchal family of martial artists, take our mother’s family name, have no priests and almost no rituals at our ten-minute weddings. We are a fiercely independent articulate bunch. My ILs are orthodox Brahmins from Tamil Nadu who do not like how non-religious and independent I am. Guess what? I am “against” Indian culture. See, my Indian family’s “culture” and history of atheism does not count ‘cos

        1. I am female.
        2. Religious and social conservatives think only their interpretation of “culture” is paramount.

        I have learnt and practiced yoga, classical, dance, given classical music performances. But none of that counts, apparently. To be a “cultured Indian”, you have to be subservient to elders, men, anyone who they fancy you should be subservient to. These are the folks who cannot distinguish one raga from another.

        Banal ritualism, flag-waving, misogyny and casteism will do to be qualified as “cultured”.

        If you have any doubts about how Indians think their culture is superior to everyone else’s, read the numerous blogs of American, Canadian and European women married to Indian men and how they are expected to subsume their lives and identities to what the Indian in-laws want. Their beliefs and practices do not matter at all.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I agree with everything in your comment, but just one question.
          I’ve often heard some Malayalis talk proudly of how they are from a matriarchal culture. But why is matriarchy better than patriarchy?

          Liked by 1 person

        • replying to purple prose:

          All Malayalees are not matriarchal. A small subset of Malayali Hindus are.

          Matriarchy is not “better” than patriarchy, but when women used to inherit property and their husbands used to move into their wives’ parental homes, women were on a better footing (this was in the past). A baby girl’s birth was and is still celebrated.

          We also didn’t hear of sons-in-law being abused or burnt for dowry, pre-birth gender selection, and of boys being neglected in favor of girls.

          It was win-win for everyone. Now Nair families are becoming like others. Children take their fathers’ last names, etc. What this translates to in three more generations, I’m not sure.

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        • @purple prose,

          I don’t think the Malayalis are matriarchal, for one thing. They are matrilinear and I have friends who have been forced into marriage for reasons pretty much similar to patrilinear communities. These same people might be proud of their matriarchal culture but it doesn’t mean a thing when it comes to ground realities on women’s rights. They are also patrilocal, in real life.

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        • @ fem

          Interesting.. and sad. So it doesn’t matter if women inherit property, they’re still discriminated against.

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  3. A great post from Priya, as usual.
    I never miss reading her posts.

    Priya is caught between two worlds, Indian and American.
    I live right here in India, and am caught between two generations!
    I don’t conform to many of the beliefs and practices of my peers and seniors who are in their seventies or older. Many of my postings in my peer groups cause controversies and disappointment.
    I am too old to be part of the modern young generation! They are embarrassed by my presence.
    I “adjust” with both, but am content to be “myself” .
    No regrets.

    Regards
    GV

    Liked by 1 person

    • And you do a great job of treading your 2 worlds GV ji🙂
      I’m glad you contribute here. Because it busts the myth of this huge older/younger divide. I think there are some older people who are independent thinkers and some younger people who are caught up in conformity (as we have seen in so many recent emails).

      Liked by 2 people

      • Dear GV Sir…
        I love reading your comments. I have not met many senior citizens or even 40+ who are accepting towards radical views such as those expressed n IHM’s blog, even in metros like Delhi or Bangalore. Just like how I love comments from Shail Mam, Priya, Radha Mam (who I think belong to the 40 or 50+ age group).
        I am not saying that I agree with everything you say.
        You are old-fashioned, I feel. But NOT rigid, which makes all the difference. And what I really respect about you is that you dont attack with ‘oh-young-generation-today’ and prejudice. I am sorry I have not met many old people (actually just one, my friend’s naani) like you who are so non-judgemental, accepting and patient.

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      • @Indian Warrior,

        Simple:

        1) I can’t easily join them in a conversation. They clam up when I am around if they are discussing something and I show interest in participating. They wait for me to leave and then resume.

        My own daughter and son have refused “friendship” to me on Facebook! They have asked me to stay out of their on line life and said it is embarrassing for them to have me as part of their on line friends groups I understand perfectly. I stay out of their on-line life. They too keep out of mine.

        2) Most youngsters don’t know about my views, unlike many of IHM’s readers who have been reading my comments on this blog for the past few years. So they think I wont approve of what they do and say they behave formally with me and show respect (often feigned) that is conventionally due to the elders as per our tradition.

        3)Some of them are so influenced by orthodoxy, that they wont’ dare to correct me when I am wrong, thinking that it would be rude or impertinent to do so. They are trained to respect gray hair(and I have a generous crop of it on my head)

        5)In the blog world, because I refuse to be anonymous and am open about my identity, I find difficultly in gaining acceptance by the younger generation of bloggers and his / her regular group of supporters/fellow bloggers/commenters. Only at IHM’s blog have I found “acceptance” and feel at home. Some bloggers have refused to publish even harmless comments that I made making me feel that I have been intruding into their circle. I have since stopped reading and commenting on those blogs, convinced that I am not welcome.

        On the other hand, In my peer groups, (and in a particular, community based peer group) I am considered a rebel and bad influence on the youngsters in our community. I remember that my postings on some our evil customs and traditions met with stern disapproval. in particular I remember that my postings on my willinglness to visit a barberfor a hair cut on a Tuesday, my willingness to use my left hand when possible and convenient, my stating that there are no heroes in the Mahabharata, caused a lot of heartburn.

        I am not complaining, Just explaining, because you asked.
        Regards
        GV

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hello, GVji!

          I’m a fan of yours from Delhi (ok, I’m not young any more , but neither am I old). I always wait to read your comments/replies. Regards!

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        • GVji,

          I love reading your answers here but still haven’t accepted my mothers Facebook request! Its about having a place for expression without having my mom see everything I post I think.

          As you can see you are quite popular here but I am usually quite reserved with people from an older generation. I guess past encounters have left me a little cynical. I should start making more of an effort.

          regards,
          rk

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        • As another ‘young’ reader, I’m gonna echo what most of the commentators have said, and say that I love your comments GVji! It’s very encouraging to see that age doesn’t really mean much if the person wants to be open-minded, progressive, and dynamic.🙂

          I sort of understand why your kids may not want to ‘friend’ you on Facebook. I ‘friended’ my parents, and sometimes regret it, because I am not as open about my views there now that i know they can read them. As for embarrassment, I think, no matter how much we love our parents, there is a point in all of our lives that we are ’embarrassed’ by their comments/behaviour. I don’t think it’s necessarily bad, because I’m sure parents are embarrassed by their children at times, too!😛

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        • You know what GV ji. If you don’t mind I would like you on my friends’ list on FB. You are a very respectable person, your age notwithstanding. All of us have our own thoughts, beliefs and opinions and they are not limited by age. I know many of my age(30s) who are extremely orthodox and believe in patriarchy or rather will not dare question the so called customs n traditions.
          It kind of saddened me that your children won’t let you in their circle. But to each their own I guess.

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  4. Thanks for the post Priya. I am sure lot of people living abroad find themselves caught up in this dilemma. You pointed out the point of not conforming to the ideas of old regressive thinking that are still imposed by elderly, that is a valid very point because the main cause of patriarchy comes from them and generation of protectors who idolize their elderly, try to hijack the thought process of others by shaming them into thinking that they are not respectful enough or simply not following the culture. And culture or respecting elders is so divine in our country that anybody not following is seen as spoilt or non-sanskaari.
    But people living abroad have the full liberty to make their choices as to what culture or what blend of culture they want to follow which is one big relief for people like us. I love all the festivals, colors, clothes and vibrancy of India but then I hate all the conditions , restrictions and responsibilities that comes with being an Indian woman (married or non-married)
    Sometimes I thank my stars that I live abroad and we can make a much better life here without all the non-sense of following Indian culture.

    Please write more such posts and bring your thoughts to us. It great to see how our thoughts are similar and I am not alone🙂

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    • Thank you FS. I agree it is easier to avoid the pressure to conform to Indian traditions when living abroad. However, I also feel India is changing so rapidly. The internet (Google, Wiki, YouTube) and social media have connected everyone and new ideas are instantly transmitted, absorbed, and applied. For instance, when the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage, it was celebrated by many Indians (both straight and gay) on many blogs and on FB. The decision was welcomed world wide by all people who believe in human/individual rights. In the past, (as in my childhood), that piece of news would have been a headline on the ‘Foreign News’ page in the Indian Express. Parents would have been aghast, their teenage children mildly curious about something happening in this distant country. That would’ve been the extent of it’s impact. Then everyone would’ve moved on to watching the cricket match, something that was much more real and reachable to them.

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  5. I live this dilemma from the foreigner married to Indian side. A lot of people think or rather plainly assume that I married my husband’s culture as a package deal. That I can’t be a good wife if I don’t dress Indian, cook Indian, breathe Indian and well redeem myself completely for being the wrong nationality and culture by changing who I am. I think this pressure to fit a mould is mostly something the older generation does. I noticed that my generation of woman is very open minded and trying to break these Indian culture stereotype for themselves and pretty much think it is silly that they have been imposed on me.
    The funny part is that neither me nor my husband ever thought I should change and act the “Good Indian wife” part.
    To both of us it was a no brainier that our cultures and traditions would blend as we go.

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    • Their thinking is “because you are a woman, you must adopt to the man’s family’s culture and customs.” Glad your husband doesn’t expect the same.

      I remember seeing so many silly movies in my childhood where the foreign bahu adopts to Indian customs in an Indian joint family, wears a saree, becomes an expert bharatnatyam dancer, etc. and the “evil, independent Indian woman who walks around in Western clothes” finally comes to her senses and learns from this foreigner to appreciate the traditions of her own land🙂
      The hypocritical directors of these movies seem to imply that Indian culture is superior to other cultures and so others adopting to us is welcome and appreciated but us being influenced by other cultures is seen as betrayal.

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      • The worst part is that the people who talk about “indian culture” are usually upper-caste hindu men who fail to see that there are multiple “indian cultures” in the same country and often the same family. So they try to impose their rigid views onto more permissive cultures and families.

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        • Actually, I disagree. Upper caste Hindu men do talk bullshit, but so do so-called “lower caste” men. So do women, in fact.

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        • @ fem

          Agreed, Indian men and women of all castes and religions talk this way. But I usually see the upper-caste men talking about how theirs is the “superior” and “real” Indian culture and ignoring or denigrating other equally Indian cultures.

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      • I know foreign women who act like this in real life, because they have been put under the impression that Indian culture is indeed superior. I also know many that are try their hardest to conform to that ideal. This is both sad and wrong.

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  6. Great response. I moved to India from Canada (grew up mostly in the US though) and I definitely found that Indian Americans are far (like exponentially far) more, for the lack of a better word, backwards than the Indians I live with in India. They’re still holding on to the culture of their regional place from 100s of years ago.

    I grew up in the US (state of Georgia) and the Indian American population there mostly came from Africa (so when it came to kids my age, their great, great grandparents were immigrants from India to several African countries). Being from a South Asian and Hindu background myself, I was appalled at the religious zeal and ethnocentrism that I saw.

    @LW–keep questioning things you’re uncomfortable with and move forward!

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    • Interesting observation, Kay. So you say that the more removed desis are from India, the more zealous they are? If I think about it, I’m tempted to agree. A part of it has to do with the desperate need to hold on to some part of their identity.

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      • Krith it also depends on when they emigrated. If they emigrated in the 1950s, 60s, or 70s, then it is THAT India that they are attached to. It is the thinking from that period that they’ve raised their children with. Sometimes I encounter a strange phenomenon – I run into 2nd generation Indian Americans who are much more tradition bound and India-centric than me, a first generation immigrant. Because their source of information regarding their culture came only from their parents (born several decades before me) who may have held a very one-sided view. They did not get a chance to grow up in India and make their own objective decisions about which parts of the culture they agree or disagree with.

        The people who emigrated in the 90s and later (my generation of immigrants) are a somewhat different crowd. Many of them still tend to be strongly bound to Indian culture in a non-questioning way but here’s the difference …. the India they are clinging to has moved forward. It is not the India of the 60s, it is the India of the 90s and later. Therefore their “Indianness” is broader and allows more openness both for themselves and their children.

        There are some who had settled in other countries like Africa, the Caribbean, and parts of the Middle East, and then emigrate to the US much later. They have developed their own sub-cultures that tend to be not entirely Indian, but more or less conservative in their own way.

        Of course, all of this varies with the individual …. some people have always been independent thinkers and less bound to traditions/culture, regardless of their emigration patterns.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Priya, I feel so privileged to read all the stuff you write! Shared this one on FB too. Write a book already… maybe coauthored by IHM, and we should have it prescribed in schools!

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    • A sweet thought Pallavi. Everything I write gets actually read which makes ME feel privileged🙂 And it gets analyzed and extended and we all learn so much more in the process – thanks to the intelligent readers on this blog. I’ve said to IHM before that she should make a book that would contain her own posts and some of the excellent comments (which tend to be like posts in their own right) we receive from the many readers here.

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  8. This has been beautifully expressed and then analysed in the subsequent comments but I believe the biggest issue we have as a culture is a sense of entitlement the majority feels is theirs, whether the majority is men or a dominant socio-political group.We are still not evolved enough to accept multiplicity of voices and choices.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve seen how some Indians live and I keep away, it’s their life, their choice,their kids. They are welcome and their kids are welcome too. V sweet people with a live for india and a hatred of all things western🙂 again we can’t judge them, this is a land of freedom.

    In our house we are a mix, this is a very well written piece, lovely.

    We’ve been called westernized, and a lot of stuff. I think for me it’s age, when I was young I would feel hurt about this , try to read on it out and show that our way was not bad, once I hit 35 wisdom shone on me, I simply don’t care. I do what I please. Blatantly and surprisingly this trip to India, no one bat an eyelid at my radical thoughts and behavior. In fact a few wanted their kids especially daughters to chat with me🙂

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  10. Just a curious question to the LW. Are you still Indian by citizenship or have you given it up to be an American ? I suspect it is the latter.

    It is a lot easier to run away from India and it’s problems in search of greener pastures and then sitting on your pedestal, try to dissect, analyze, criticize the flaws of a country that you technically aren’t even a citizen of and didn’t have the guts to stay back and contribute to. I find it utterly amusing when these Neo-Americans smug in their American-ness are still are so obsessed with India because oh yes ‘they still love their birth country’ after abandoning it.

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    • I am an American citizen. The hypocritical Indian government does not allow dual citizenship (which is ridiculous IMO) so I gave it up.
      You can judge me if you want, that’s up to you.

      Just some perspective:

      It is not “easy to run to greener pastures”. I paid my way through school with evening and sometimes night jobs. I lived in threadbare conditions as a student. I took the bus everywhere and carried my own grocery bags, cooked and cleaned, while studying and holding 2 jobs. I got laid off from my second job and put in crazy hours at a fast food joint to make ends meet, until I could find another job. It was all worth it though, and I’d do it again without a second thought.

      I studied like crazy to get into a good American university because I felt that my contribution (knowledge/skills/hard work) would be more valued than my caste or connections or quotas. America is a meritocracy. People from all over the world come here in search of opportunities that allow them to realize their full potential. They also come to live in a society that respects individual rights and freedoms and takes them very seriously.

      I have been involved in 3 Indian non-profits related to the the separate fields of autism, education, and technology. My role was in bringing these together and helping them collaborate – because there is tremendous potential for making the lives of intelligent but impaired individuals meaningful and productive.
      My younger son has autism and this has a personal significance for me. Plus I have skills in these areas so I wanted to contribute to by birth country. As part of these efforts, I’ve met some awesome, talented people (Indian citizens) living in India making a real difference.

      I also know other people (yes, Indian citizens) who don’t care about anything other than themselves.

      My older son became part of his school’s efforts in providing “rasam kitchens” (Indian version of soup kitchens) to seniors who are in dire poverty. This entire project was initiated by an Indian American teenager by the way.

      Living in India does not mean contributing to India.
      You can live in India, take bribes, and dump trash on the streets.
      You can live abroad and make a contribution to your country of birth.
      It does not matter where you choose to live.
      What matters is what you choose to do.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Hey Priya, don’t forget, you contribute to this site. That alone is great service to people globally.

        Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and struggling for years is not “running to greener pastures”. That’s the reality of most people who go abroad for a higher education. And yes, it makes more sense than putting up with people breathing down your neck constantly to get married.

        “Abandoning India”? How? By visiting every year, contributing to causes and organizations in India, staying in touch with relatives and being present for special family occasions? Paying taxes in India?

        And yes, if the Indian government allowed dual citizenship, I would be an Indian citizen too. Right now, I have the same responsibilities as an Indian citizen (I pay taxes in both countries and have a higher tax bracket for certain kinds of income in India because I am a U.S. citizen), but not many rights in India. The Indian government expects me to file tax returns each year, but try getting a darn Internet connection without your name on an electric bill or whatever it is when you visit India with a foreign passport. And no I don’t get to vote. (I did get to vote in the British elections as a member of the Commonwealth as a student there.)

        As long as we have relatives and family who are Indian, as long as we have roots in India, we will always be Indian.

        No, you don’t have to live in India to contribute. Many NRIs contribute hugely to causes in India. And yes, we face the same bullying on Indian streets as those who live in India do. As for being “smug” in our American-ness, it is a huge culture shock to land in India and get stared at, molested on the streets and be constantly reminded by the neighbor and their dhobi how to dress and behave as per Indian “culture” and “traditions”. If we are not Indian, why do these things apply to us? But they do, apparently.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Madam, I am not telling America how to run itself or telling Americans how to think about their country or their culture.

        Why don’t you let us have the same privilege with our country? Let us respect each other’s space. You are welcome to visit my country and I hope you will welcome me to visit yours.

        I hope you have a wonderful stay in our country. I hope you take back good memories when you go back to yours.

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        • That is incorrect. People living outside the US can and do criticize the US all the time. Same thing goes for Russia, Iran, or Brazil. You don’t have to live in a country in order to make observations about it. If we had that as a rule, all newspapers, blogs, political columns, can shut down. Thankfully, we live in a relatively free world where we are free to express our opinions and free to disagree.

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      • Priya, if you recollect, when you were naturalized, the US govt made you renounce your allegiance to other nations, without any exception. Here is something you should know.

        Dual citizenship had previously been banned in the United States, but in 1967 the US Supreme Court struck down most laws forbidding dual citizenship.

        However, the US government remained disdainful of dual citizenship for some time. To this day, candidates for US citizenship through naturalization are forced to (at least hypothetically) renounce their previous citizenship at the United States naturalization ceremony.

        The renouncing of one’s previous citizenship is part of the oath that new US citizens must take, and failing to honor that oath could result in the loss of citizenship in the United States.

        I hope you will reconsider blaming Indian govt for not allowing dual-citizenship while accepting American conditions with no reservations.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Where in my post did I say the US government is an angel or does everything right? But at least, some fundamentals are in place. People’s rights are taken seriously.

          The Indian government …. ah I don’t know where to begin. Corruption is a fact of life. I cannot get anything official (personal or business matter) done without a bribe being asked. Because I refuse to pay, everything takes 3 to 5 times longer. Do you really think the Indian government cares about ordinary people? How much illegal wealth gets pocketed while projects for which funds were allocated remain unfinished, forgotten, or short changed. The Indian government seems to have a lot of pride when deciding on citizenship but maybe it’s misplaced? Why not take pride in making the streets safe for women? The same kind of pride that makes us launch rockets but refuses to work on law enforcement or power supply or water conservation that people desperately need.

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      • Hi Priya,

        I respect your experiences and it’s not my place to disagree with them. I also respect your decision to settle down in America and do not for one minute think this makes you less Indian or not Indian.America is a wonderful country and I enjoyed the years I lived there.

        However, ” America is a meritocracy.”. This simply isn’t true anymore. Yes, America doesn’t have caste, but it does have race. The sad reality is, you as an Indian immigrant working two jobs had a greater chance to become successful and achieve the “american dream” than perhaps a poor african-american/native american/etc doing the same thing.

        America is not without problems, it just has different problems. Racism, sexism,gun violence are all alive and well and being actively nurtured in America. African-americans are shot by the police just for the colour of their kin.States outlaw abortions and defund Planned Parenthood because they don’t support a woman’s right to choose. Hundreds of innocent people die in shootings because of a badly-interpreted second amendment. Perhaps you are somewhat insulated from these things living on the West Coast, but “real america” is just as problematic as “real india”.So while it’s true that American culture respects an individual’s rights much more than Indian culture does, it is also true that in America, increasingly, these rights are for the privileged. The whole “work hard and you can achieve anything” myth simply isn’t true for most (non-white) americans these days.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I agree with you 100% on some of the points you are making on the problems of African Americans. It is indeed sad and ironic as you said.
          In a similar case of irony, as an Indian woman, I feel more equality in an American setting (both among friends and at work and among random strangers on streets) than I do in Indian public places and among my Indian relatives who still expect me to take my place in the hierarchy.
          I still feel that individual rights matter much more in the US.
          The crimes against black people undergo fair trials. I’m not sure that’s the case in India.

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    • By living in India you are indeed “doing your share”. I too find it utterly amusing when people claim more love/ownership to a country just because they are a citizen of the country and live in it.

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      • Physically living in a society, or a village, or a country means something to the overall working of that society, village or that country. So naturally, when you are not residing, you can only claim emotional love, not real ownership. It is not only about paying taxes and adding to the economic value chain, it is about helping the neighbours when someone dies, or some one is in the hospital. It is about going out on a Sunday to help the less fortunate. It is about participating in the political process. It is about being in the society as an integral part.

        Priya, it absolutely and practically matters where you reside. That is your home, your society and you belong there. You had an individual choice and you exercised it to be an American. There is nothing wrong in it. At the same time, it wont be logical to say that you could have contributed lesser to the growth of India if you stayed back.

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        • Not everyone who lives in India is an integral part of their neighborhood/village/etc. Also, by this logic, Indians should not move from a village in Haryana to Mumbai or Bangalore. I will not elaborate further as Radha’s comment captures it best.

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      • How are you doing your share? by paying taxes…or by contributing meaningfully to society?
        Im indian, i live in india, mumbai to be specific. Work here, raise my children here and i find your logic utterly incomprehensible. SO people who leave the shores cannot comment or write about or criticise the state of affairs here? people who leave cant love this country? why
        I love denmark , I visit with my husband on business trips. if India would give me dual citizenship and denmark gave me citienship i would get it in a heartbeat. i love it for it’s equality and freedom. Doesnt mean i hate india. Half the population living in india Cheats india, How many of you contribute completely to society to the best of your ability, how many of you uplift india to it’s maximum potential. a country is a sum of its citiizens. As far as i can tell, the india that is being represented by its people abroad is a far better india than the one in live in. i see young men and women showing apathy to their surroundings, i see middleages folks not giving a damn about the country, i see selfish older people . I see people not paying taxes, dirtying the place, bribing everyone, taking bribes, eveteasing, price gouging, stealing, slacking off at work yet expecting full pay. and generally messing with the system.and completely blaming the govt. yes our politicians are idiots, but who voted them. how many stand for elections, how many generate employment, how many even do the given job properly?
        Forgive me for the rant, but it is very easy to sit in india and complain about people who left. one doesnt have to be here to do good. if thats the case we’d be in the dark ages. most of the good i’m seeing being done is by people who left and are trying from far off shores. open your eyes, see us for what we are. and what we are doing.

        I run a hospital, do NOT take money from the poor , 95% of my volunteers are from abroad. 5% from India. I’m not taking monetary contributions – talking about giving time without getting paid for your skill . think about that.

        Liked by 4 people

        • Radha, if your reply was to my comment, just to let you know that the comment “by living in india you are doing your share” was meant sarcastically! I agree with Priya’s post here, I do not thinking one needs to live in a country to do one’s share. Just thought I will clear it up!

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      • I don’t agree. Obviously if you live in a certain country and are a citizen of it you CAN claim more “love/ownership” of it than someone who visits once a year and dreams of it from afar.
        The parent comment is relevant in cases of politics and economics, where someone who lives in India is definitely more affected by the political/economic situation than NRIs, no matter how much they may “love” the country. At the end of the day–if you don’t live in a country, if you are not a citizen of it, you always have a “back-up”, so you should “stay in your lane”, so to speak. The well-being of actual residents must always be prioritised.
        It is not relevant in cases of culture and social traditions, where problematic beliefs and traditions can continue on in the diaspora. Because this blog, and this post, in particular, is focused on culture, I don’t see how someone not living in India has anything to do with how important or acceptable their opinions are.

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        • What about Indian citizens who live abroad? Do they get a say about how India should be run?

          How about people like me who hold an “Overseas Citizen of India” card and send a good portion of our earnings abroad to sustain and support family and non-family in India?? We are denied citizenship because India does not recognise dual citizenship unlike many other countries in the world. Why not? Because the Indian government thinks India is culturally superior and we are beneath “proper” Indians?

          I think everyone who contributes to India should get a say in politics, economics, as well as culture.

          Liked by 1 person

    • @Rhea, im surprisingly not pissed off at your judgemental tone. But seriously I don’t know of anybody in my circle here in Australia who are living in luxury. Everybody have their own problems. We don’t get to spend here in rupees. I’m still struggling to get a job and still adjusting to the life here. Doesn’t mean I regret it. We made an informed choice. We knew life wouldn’t be a bed of roses but you know what? The air is cleaner and streets are safer. And we like travelling, seeing new places, getting new experiences.
      I’m explaining all this to you just so that you get it that everyone have their reasons for leaving as well as staying and you cannot begrudge them that.
      I might or might not get back to India but a part of it will always be in me. And that is not a bad thing.

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  11. Dear Priya – The points were beautifully laid out. Enjoyed reading them.
    In my experience, when I questioned age-old norms, and declined to follow not to rebel but that I could not come to terms with it. I was told – you have lost your indian customs etc, but the fact my family keep forgetting is that I have always been like that even before I came to america. Living in US did tell me to back it with some logical reasoning.
    I feel, on an individual basis, people tend to agree, but you cannot explain to everyone who is deep rooted into it. There was a simple instance where, I did not bother to wear a gold chain around my neck, bangles and bindi – my mother initially complained and I told her it is ok to not wear them and be comfortable. She was ok, then a neighbor came, she asked why am I not wearing it, and started giving me lecture on why one should stick to customs etc, and it got repeated by couple other’s. I did not give into any of that arguments and decided to do what I felt comfortable doing it. It came across to them as arrogant, rude and non-conforming. Most of the times, people do it for other’s sake just to get away from getting attention.
    It could be problematic, if that hurts a person in terms of time and emotion though.One should not give head to the blind faith that has been followed in the name of tradition.

    And all those superstitions – I feel, most of them do not apply any more to current era. The black cat, no nail-cutting on tuesdays, entertaining guests when yourself are full time working and no rest and many that comes along with indian tradition – may be they existed for a reason back then according to convenience but they may not apply all the time to all the situations. Everyone is unique and have different identity.

    @Fem – you said it nicely, that I did come across such nature only in people who emigrated to US in 60’s, 70’s. But, again, it depends on how individualistic the person is. May be people do not come up and speak out, may be they are trying to set an example..who knows.

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  12. Hidden Passions, I agree with you it has nothing to do with moving abroad. My brother lives in India, lives on his own terms, is non-conformist to the core, and it’s no surprise that he is unpopular in the extended family. You don’t have to leave India to be individualistic, people who think for themselves always do, regardless of where they live.

    Oh the gold chain and bangles! I really admire beautiful jewelry but seldom wear it (except for special occasions). Most of the time, I go completely jewelry free, except for one tiny pearl in each ear. Jewelry seems to bother my skin but not wearing any bothers many of my relatives🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Madam, your intentions are probably good. But just imagine if I were to walk into your house and start telling you how to raise your children, even if it was good well meaning advice.

      Why not respect our country and let us live our way? You are a guest here from America. We are happy and honored to have you as a visitor and we want to be welcoming hosts. But you should also be a polite guest, no? When you go to someone else’s house, do you start dissing them, telling them that their furniture is ugly or their food tastes bad?

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      • Your country is not your house and you are not the sole spokesperson for your country. You cannot speak for multitudes. When it comes to Identity and culture, everyone must be allowed to find their own.

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        • Well.. some identify with their narrow self. Some have a larger identity. It is always offensive when someone mounts the high horse to judge others losing sight of their own shortcomings and delusions. We don’t know what we don’t know.

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        • “Well.. some identify with their narrow self. Some have a larger identity.”
          Precisely. Identity is the sum of our nature, experiences, influences, circumstances, and choices. A few cannot claim rights to Indianness and define it in their own terms.

          The rest …. high horse and delusions …. not sure where you got that from.

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      • I have a home in India. I stay there regularly. If someone in my housing society is being a jackass am I not allowed to say so though I am a member of that society? Just ‘cos the Indian government won’t give me citizenship?

        People keep drawing and re-drawing their arbitrary geographical boundaries. Should we be mindless slaves to them? Should a person from Mumbai not take issue with the rickshaw drivers in Pune? Should the guy from Gurgaon not comment on Connaught Place?

        Where do you draw these borders? How do you enforce them? Vasudaiva Kutumbakam The world is a family. It matters not where someone is from. What matters is whether they have the same goals.

        Our families and near and dear ones live in India. We want the best for India. Just like you do.

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        • Especially considering that we live in a global economy. If these sentiments are carried further, the US should not employ Indians to do their software, Americans should not buy Japanese cars, Indians should not use English or import any technology that is not locally produced, etc. etc. This kind of chauvinism serves no one. My colleague is Canadian American (dual citizen) and thanks to her, we’ve been able to set up branch offices in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. More job creation is good for everyone, more competition is good for the consumer, more access is better for employees and their families (now Canadians can work for the firm from their cities without having to move). The more we collaborate, the better off the whole world is.

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        • Hear hear! What happened to being a global citizen. How does it even matter in terms of humanity if you are helping your “american neighbors” or “indian neighbors”. On a political level, there will always be boundaries, but on a human level, how does it even matter who you are helping?!! How does it even matter if you are contributing positively to a circle of human staying in US or in India or somewhere else.

          Liked by 2 people

      • Chaiwala please refrain from commenting on the behalf of all the citizens of India as you are doing by using ‘we’ instead of ‘I’. Everybody(of any nationality) can express their views as long as they are not abusive and enforced. Let everybody decide for themselves what they would like to agree, disagree, pick or discard. She has not disrespected any country as she is not enforcing her views or is abusive. Instead of being defensive and living in denial its better to do some reality check. If you are comparing a country to your home, does that mean you can hit a family member and somebody from outside your family not stop you from doing it?

        Liked by 1 person

  13. There is no such thing as “indian culture”, at least in the contexts that of the things you are talking about. It is just a lazy excuse people use to force others to do what they want.

    Don’t be afraid to call people out of their bullshit when they use this excuse of “culture”.

    At the same time, I get the impression, that you, like many (most?) other NRIs, are unnecessarily condescending and almost racist towards us normal Indians. For example this statement: “governance in India is still a distant dream” as if somehow the defective genetic makeup of Indians and their purported culture is the reason for India’s problems today. So two things: (i) it’s not, almost all of India’s problems are due to the colonial occupation and (ii) thanks, you can keep your condescension to yourself.

    PS. you’re not indian. you are american. This is nothing worse than being an average westerner, but it is something to keep in mind.

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    • Governance is a distant dream not because of the fault of ordinary Indians but because the Indian government has become so corrupt that it is not possible for ordinary, decent citizens to take part in the process and make changes. Every time someone is brave enough to try it, they get shot down. Most Indians living in India (the ones that I know and interact with) are honest, genuine, regular people, their hands tied because in India, power rules, not the voices of ordinary people. I’m baffled as to where you got this idea that I’m condescending. In case you missed it, my brother, my sister, my parents live in India too.

      It is interesting how sensitive some Indians get when India is criticized by non-Indians. I read a great article a couple of years back on the slums of New York and the crime within them, written by some Indian/Pakistani journalist and I didn’t hear any Americans complain about the writer’s nationality.

      You have taken one phrase from my post, misinterpreted it’s tone, ignored the entire post and all the details put in there. You seem very angry with people who’ve chosen to leave the country. Your anger and frustration are misdirected. They should be directed at those who choose to live in India and abuse good people everyday. People who abuse their positions of authority to make the lives of middle class people hell. Policemen who don’t take rape reports from women brave enough to file them seriously. Courts that don’t deliver justice until the point that honest people simply get tired and give up. Men who ogle or pinch or grab women on streets knowing they will get away with it. It is these people who are making life horrible for good people in India.

      Love for one’s country is not about being defensive. If one truly cares for something (country or otherwise), one must be open to looking at the problems and differing opinions, regardless of their source.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think what you are perceiving as sensitivity and defensiveness is actually justified anger.

        Most Indians know what the problems are in india, and they do their bit to change it, however they can. It’s not like they need people who live in other countries to come and explain the problems to them, they already know.I can’t blame them for being upset when people say things like ” Indian women are just property”, “indian women are doormats” and “governance is a distant dream”. I’m upset too. It is condescending, patronizing and infantilizing. It’s immensely disrespectful to Indians who live here who are trying to change things for the better.

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        • “people who live in other countries”
          Yes I can understand the sensitivity if a White American who has never experienced Indian culture first hand, for instance, called out on Indian patriarchy and misogyny. Most people here who talk about this subject (even though they live in other countries) were born and raised in India, and are still subject to the same Indian culture and practices. They are not outsiders talking. They experience misogyny everyday among their families. Also white women married to Indians comment here and partake in the discussions.

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    • @ priya
      Fair enough, I agree with what you’ve said. My anger actually isn’t directed at you, but at the commenter who said that women in India are doormats and property. I don’t think anyone, even an Indian, has the right to say that.

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  14. I have lived for most part of my life in India and moved to England 5 years ago. I do miss certain aspects about living in India which is natural because I spent all ofmy childhood and early adulthood there. However I hate certain unsolvable issues prevailing in India [eve-teasing, molestation in public places, superstitious beliefs and the mind-map of the society in general] and am very very happy to be out of it. At the end of the day I am a human being and would like to stay in a place which makes me happy. What is the use of staying in a place which creates insecurity and fear in you all the time? I am not saying UK or any other foreign country frees you from all troubles. But at least people here stick to their business and you are allowed your personal space.

    That being said, it has always been my dream to open a home for dogs and cats living on the streets [in India]. After moving here, I racked my brain on how to achieve this living remotely. I do not want to undertake something of that sort here because I feel there are number of organisations doing that here. I decided I will save up money and open a animal shelter [in collaboration with one of my like-minded friends] back home so that I can monitor and also frequently visit the place.

    Frankly, this is not because of my love for ‘Indian animals’ but for ‘animals in need’ .

    Arpita

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  15. Thank you so much for posting this Priya. I’m a little late to the party (work commitments..etc), but I loved reading all the responses, so thanks everyone🙂 Finally got my response done. Thank god there are Asians who can think outside the box lol😉.

    The comment from GV brought up a very relevant point and does prove that Indians abroad are still stuck in 18th century and are trying to force their children into their bubble. It’s so funny that s many are very much deep rooted in their psyche and believe everything else is bad besides their caste and group type, that they make sure they send their kids back to grow up in India so that they can be “cultured”, and prevent Western ills. What they refuse to acknowledge is that the old India is gone and things are changing and progressing by the minute, and pretty soon India will be no different than the rest of countries. Therefore it will not matter where your kids grow up, and for those who are still conservative and think they can accomplish this, well you are screwed lol. I heard that one family friend is planning to return to India so that his sons don’t get “spoiled” here in the US. Kids are not spoiled due to what country they are growing up in, it’s the parenting that controls that. Honestly I had to chuckle at that because since India is heavily patriarchal, his kids are going to get spoiled much worse than in the US (like it’s always said on here, men are “babied” in India) and top of that since women are just doormats and property there, they are going to learn that’s it’s ok to be chauvinistic, and treat women like trash. If I ever have a son, he’s NOT growing up in India, I do not want to raise a chauvinistic man who treats his wife as a ragdoll that he can just throw around. .instead if I could choose, I’d just move to Sweden since the concept of respect and equal treatment there is HUGE. Sweden does teach you the importance of being a descent human being and treating everyone and respecting everyone regarding status, or what path in life they choose. Someone once told me that those who just cannot accept that their kids will be of a different generation and cannot respect that and want to take control in every aspect of their kid’s life, then it’s best that they just do not have children at all. It will no longer work or be beneficial anywhere. Changes are common among each generation, and with that, each generation has a different outlook of life. Though I respect same sex marriages, for some reason I can’t fathom the idea of my own (if I have kids ever) being lesbian or gay. But I know I have to accept if it happens.

    Every place has its imperfections. The US also has its negatives and there are things I would never follow in American culture and there are things I dislike about being American culture as well (type A personality, snobby attitudes from some people, excessive MATERIALISM). However the thing is the West do acknowledge they have issues and are at least trying to improve on it. India does not do that sadly. Instead they refuse to acknowledge it/disregard it. They tend hide everything under the rug. A funny incident somewhat related to this happened yesterday when my aunts and uncle came over. They are older generation immigrants from India, one of my aunts and my uncle are very progressive and forward now, the other is still stuck in a olden mindset. The one with a olden mindset asked my dad if one of my cousins ( since his other two siblings are married) when he’s going to marry and my dad admitted that he doesn’t want to get married, for some reason that went the other ear and my aunt exclaimed a malayalee (we’re of Kerala origin) nurse will be good for him!! Um hello? He said he DOES NOT want to marry!

    @Rhea,

    I was born and raised in the United States, so I’m a natural American citizen. And I thank God everyday that I did because I would not have known what I know now. I was taught in school to respect everyone, however my own family’s negativity, ego, and sense of entitlement makes you want to question, “is this what I want to follow?”. Even when I went to India, the treatment among my female relatives and chauvinistic and egocentric attitudes were so common. They taught me what NOT to do more than what is good for you. Let’s not play that crap that whatever your parents tell you is always good for you and they are always right. There was another written recently written by Shail Mohan (god bless this lady) called “Not Saints” which talks about how parents are not perfect beings, but for some reason Asian parents think they do. That’s why I wrote this post about taking a blend of all the good traits from any culture and incorporate it yourself so you can grow more wisely and appreciate everyone,and respect everyone too, rather than thinking you are superior compared to the rest. That’s what I felt doing this have done to me.

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    • Your email generated a great primary discussion on the right to define one’s own identity and also an interesting secondary one on the concept of “taking pride in one’s country” and how different people view it. So thank YOU for you email.

      One thing you just said I agree with:
      “What they refuse to acknowledge is that the old India is gone and things are changing and progressing by the minute, and pretty soon India will be no different than the rest of countries. ”

      I already see this happening with the kids generation in my extended family. My children are growing up in the US and they get along famously with my brother’s, sister’s, and cousins’ children growing up in India. They watch the same shows, exchange books, play with the same gizmos, speak the same language (even the same teen buzz words). While culture chauvinists keep defending a certain sub culture or trying to guard it, I think kids the world over are blending and connecting with ease.

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    • @ J1289 Arent you contracting yourself when you say that it doesnt matter which country your kids grow up its the parenting that controls how your kids turn out to be and then you go on to say that YOU will not bring up a son in India because he will turn out to be chauvnistic and treat women like trash. While you scoff at parents who want to bring up a child in certain country you want to bring up kids in Sweden. I am no way defending their decisions and but callinng out on your hypocrisy. I do not belive like some commentators that you should not comment on India being an American citizen. I feel anybody has a right to comment butbit would help if the criticism is contstructive and not abusive. Making a blanket statement like ‘ Indian women are doormats and property’ is insulting to me as an Indian woman and maybe to many others who refuse to take patriarchial bullshit day in and day out. It won’t hurt to use words like ‘most’, ‘imo’,’ certain section of’ instead of making insenstive blanket statements.

      Liked by 1 person

      • About the ‘doormat’.

        Calling women “doormat and property” was not my intention nor was it intended to be “abusive”, which I don’t honestly understand how it was, but I apologize if some people felt it was insulting though. However,. I was putting it in context of a reference or simile. The way women are generally treated and controlled, and the fear of speaking makes it easy for others to stomp on them like they are a ‘doormat’. People walk all over doormats don’t they? It was like as if they were doormats. I never said women should be like that nor they are ‘property’. Maybe I should have worded it better.

        I did see I was sounding a bit hypocritical, but I did realize I was thinking and gave thought not all of India is not exactly the same. For some reason I was only thinking of my family’s region because what I mentioned does hold true to some extent, since it is still communal and what society dictates and influences is more powerful than what I can try instill, hence I felt a strong vibe for NO India. If I ever move to India, I brought Sweden up because they provide the best example of how people should be treated and respected and I would rather have my own children grow up in a environment where they learn to not to judge and be fair and respect everyone. Not many countries, even the US (though they emphasize) possess that. There are always cliques, people try to compete to be on the top.and look down those below them. I don’t know I have come across many Swedes and they are always well mannered and courteous.

        So again I apologize if I offended some people. I didn’t expect to become a huge debate, just the question can we just take some parts of any culture that we feel is ideal for us rather than being confined to only one to protect it’s “purity”

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  16. I tip my hat off to you Priya. This is wonderfully written. Of course playing around with words can always be done but I think gist is more important here.

    We Indians tend to take offence on even complements if not worded exactly like expected. So no wonder you ruffled some feathers here. But I feel we are living in denial if we keep trying to cut off every person who points out the problems. I know people in India (albeit a few) are working to bring change. The rest as usual are dragging them back.

    We are those that praise great men who became great years after they did something different. but when it comes to doing something like them, we chicken out. Its always someone else that is going to do all the work and bring revolution. We will just continue to pay bribes and curse the govt until change arrives on a golden chariot.
    We will continue to mistreat people until they are old and bold enough to stop taking the bs. We continue to exploit anything and everything easily available until its not available anymore. We continue to litter because its the corporations job to clean the streets.
    And we ask anybody who tells us this to shut up because its none of their business.

    And I use WE in a collective sense as I have seen enough Indians do this in my 30 odd years of existence.

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  17. Thank you Priya and all the other folks who shared their views on topic of identity. It was very interesting.
    I must admit that I view It as simple and yet evolving aspect of human culture. Disallowing change can stagnate the culture and the evolution of values.
    Currently, diversity is the driver for that change. Change is coming and we should hold what is viable in terms of co-existence (starting with family and then society) and let those values that are divisive and destructive slowly drift.
    I am a Montrealer of South Asian origin (Sri Lankan Tamil) which give me an identity baseline.
    I was fortunate enough to have lived in different places and was young enough to have openly embraced other cultures and through this path I formulated my identity. It is so much simpler today.
    irregardless of the location, evolving identity is becoming the norm due to the wealth of information on our finger tips combined with our ability to reason.
    The question then becomes what do you transmit to your children? In my diverse family (my wife is French Algerian) we transmit our shared core human values including spirituality and then color it with our current multi-cultural environment.
    The so called restrictive traditions are tools that stifle change. However, I teach my kids to respect others who strongly believe in these traditions because having respect is based on reason and not on emotions.
    So the notion of cultural purity is pure nonsense. It is very important to criticize our collective traditions that we see as unjust. Otherwise how do we motivate change in our traditions and inevitably in others. There is fusion happening all the time.

    Priya, Your points regarding:
    —I have often been accused of “becoming too American”,—
    I agree on all your points with the exception of one (not saying it is right or wrong). The line between nuclear family and the concept of extended family varies based on the individual.

    Thanks
    SK

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    • Thank you for your comment SK. You said, “The question then becomes what do you transmit to your children? In my diverse family …. we transmit our shared core human values ….” I so agree with this approach. I think it is the best way. Human values …. respect for the other as an individual, compassion, respect for oneself, thinking rationally, being fair …. this is the culture I would like my kids to grow up in and absorb.

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  18. Oh, I identify so well with this post, having settled in California! No one can tell me that I am no longer an Indian without feeling my full wrath; at the same time, I refuse to be mired by blind faith and rituals that no longer make sense! Wonderful post!! I’m hopping over to your blog and will definitely follow your posts!

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