I was at a party today where I met a woman of Indian origin, AB, born and raised in the city in the US I currently live in. She spoke like an American but could get very well along with all the Indians. I asked her how it was to be raised here and told her that her answers could help me raise my soon-to-be-5 year old daughter, who was starting Kindergarten. She said it was hard at school that had only 4 Indian kids altogether in the entire school. So, her parents made sure she had a good cultural base by taking her to the Indian temple every Sunday, (where she played with other Indian kids) and by helping her get certified in Indian dance and music. She told me how surprised her desi husband (who was born and raised in India) was at her Indianness, when they first met.I asked her whether she fit in better with the Indians than Americans, she said yes. I thought that was atypical of American Born Indians.
Then I realised she was wearing a mangalsutra. I asked her whether she wears it everyday. She replied even though her husband would prefer it that way, she doesn’t because it doesn’t go well with the everyday (non-Indian) outfits. (I told her that I don’t wear it everyday because I feel I am much more than my marital status. But I wear it on my short trip to India in front relatives of my in-laws because I don’t want them to taunt my in-laws, who have no problem about how I dress).
She told us that she is trying to learn her husband’s language so that she will be able to teach their kids both languages and converse better with her in-laws and extended family. Another Indian friend pointed out that his Dad wants his fiancee to learn their mother-tongue to which I asked, “Is that a fair expectation?” To this, the American-born’s desi husband replied, “It’s easier for us at this age to learn languages than it is for parents. It might not be fair, but that’s how it is”, which AB summarized as “Life is not fair. We just go along with the flow”. I felt a certain defiance in his tone about what I was implying but AB seemed cool about the whole thing. He added that his parents might know English but his extended family is not so good at it, so his wife needs to learn his language in order to communicate. I just commented that the effort to communicate should come from both sides, to which AB strongly nodded and her husband didn’t really seem to object.
I am pretty sure the husband is gonna tell AB how ‘aaj-jkal ki ladkiyaan’ of India (that is me) are versus how good she is in spite of being raised in the US. I am just concerned that injustice will be done to her under the disguise of Indian values and she might accept it because she wants to belong somewhere (somewhere being the Indian community).
Now, here are my questions to my readers:
1. Is it possible to imbibe Indian culture in kids living outside India without supporting patriarchy?
2. Do kids get confused more when the Indian parents outside India tell them they can not do certain things (eat beef, date) because they are Indians?
3. Do Indian kids still feel they are different (based on how they look or their parents Indian accent) from the others even if their parents never say that to them or raise them any differently?
3. How do you raise a confident child with a sense of identity and belonging?
As a non-religious-but-spiritual, patriarchy-hating feminist , I often wonder about these questions. Can you raise your child to be proud of the Indian culture but despise patriarchy? Any inputs?