Clueless. Dumb. Rude. Obnoxious. American-born Confused Desis (or Indians, in Hindi).
This is something that is the common lore in India. This is how American-born kids of Indian parents are viewed by the majority. It’s no surprise to me because there was a time when I used to view these kids the same way!
I hasten to assure you that I’m not accusing any of my Indian friends of being judgy; this is a observation of a general trend! I’ve met some really weird kids, children of my parents’ friends who lived abroad in the US or the UK. I still remember them because they were loud; they constantly complained about the food, the dust, and the heat; and they talked back to their parents, a cardinal sin for us Indians! On top of that, they wore shorts and tees, which was wholly inappropriate for a formal social gathering! Or, if they wore Indian clothes, they still wore Reeboks, which, if you haven’t realized yet, looks plain silly!
But, that hardly gives anyone the right to render a blanket judgment on anyone and everyone born in a culture different from one’s own. The sweeping statement about Indian kids living abroad caused me anxiety when I had my own kids and they started to walk and talk, and talk with the American accent that their grandparents took time to understand when they spoke to them over the phone!
This revelation that “OMG! My kids are becoming ‘Amreekan'” is what causes Indian parents abroad to run and sign their progeny up for shloka classes, Bharatnatyam classes and tabla classes! A lot of it boils down to the fear of ‘what will people say?!’, or more accurately, ‘what will my people say?!’ if their kid does not epitomize Indian culture in every possible way!
The Husband and I had decided early on that we would not succumb to such emotional self-blackmail. Neither of us subscribe to the ‘what will people say/think’ mentality’ and, if our kids were to learn anything of our culture, it would be because we wished to teach them and they demonstrated the interest! This is not to criticize anyone whose kids are more immersed in Indian culture than ours are; it’s our own personal preference to parent this way!
Of course, that led to very little being taught! I would shrug my shoulders and smile when people asked me why my sons weren’t participating in the cultural show of any Indian gathering, even though inwardly, I would feel the twinge of regret of not having pushed.
All in all, my kids know the very rudiments of our Indian culture, where their peers would probably be near-experts, but we choose to focus on the fact that they are confident, independent, yet respectful young men. This was brought on me very forcefully when we visited my in-laws’ place last December.
We had landed there just a few days before The Husband’s grandfather’s hundredth birthday celebrations. With a 12-hour time difference between the US and India, we were still fighting jet-lag, yet we all got up early, showered, were decked up in our finery, and presented ourselves at the function hall. There were, of course, hundreds of visitors and relatives, many of whom milled around us since they were meeting us after a long time. My boys were of special interest because they had grown since they had last visited. Despite all the constant small talk, often in a language they did not understand, I noted that both Big A and Little a managed to keep it together and nod and smile.
Obviously, that wasn’t quite enough for some! One of The Husband’s aunts came up to me with a sneer on her face, told me that my sons had said, “Hi!” to her and then stated in a derisive tone, “So, they’re completely Americanized, is it?!”
I started to go on defensive mother mode; I wanted to tell her how they are sweet and caring, polite even as they continue to challenge my parenting; that they help around the house; how they show compassion for others; how they are quirky and funny, and really cool kids! But, I checked myself just in time. Turning to her with a big bright smile, I said, “Yes, indeed they are!” And, I continued to smile until she turned away.