Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Will the real ABCD please stand up ?

(Image source : wikipedia )

The only reference I had to ABCD growing up was, while learning the alphabet . It was only after living in the USA for a while did I hear those letters in a different context. To those of you reading this, who may still be unaware of what these letters stand for......ABCD is an acronym for American Born Confused Desi. 
It is a phrase which is meant to describe the unique breed of people who are second generation Indian immigrants to the USA, i.e kids who are born in America to parents who are immigrants from India . It is supposedly used to describe the confused state of mind regarding their cultural identity of these category of people, in other words a confusion between their Indian-ness and their American-ness that exists in their minds .

I have a daughter who was born in the USA, hence, she is an American citizen. USA has the concept of
Jus Soli  which basically means citizenship by birthright. So she is the 'AB' part of the acronym, she's too young to yet develop any issues about the 'CD' part, so time will tell in the matter.

There are two major aspects of why Indian parents worry about their child turning out an ABCD, the first is more of a social concern..i.e the impact of the social norms of the world they live in on their child, and other is cultural, which has more to with the concern of the child not absorbing any Indian cultural values, as they grow up. Several movies have attempted to document this phenomenon, most recent and notable of which is The Namesake (also my personal favorite), which had a very realistic and honest potrayal of the ups and downs an immigrant desi family to the US goes through.

Raising a child in today's world (anywhere in the world), is difficult by itself, to begin with, without adding any extra cross-cultural baggage onto it. I do know some people who choose to return to India, once their kids reach a certain age (usually before the age of 10), because they want their kids to inculcate some Indian values growing up. I can partly understand the apprehension of some in such cases, as many a times the parents themselves find it difficult to assimilate in the general American population, and hence don't want to get alienated from the children as well . There is a case to be made for both raising one's kids in India or abroad (if you even have the option in the first place), each has it's own pro's and cons, what suits one's situation better depends on multiple factors, and the answer may be different for different people. I'll first address the social level concerns of desi parents in the US .

There are many aspects of American society that most Indians find difficult to swallow. Leading the list is the epidemic of teenage pregnancy in America. According to statistics,  a third of american teenagers will get pregnant . That's a lot, a 33 % chance of it happening to your daughter ( or involving your son), and for people from a land where pre-marital sex (even though you may be 40) is still taboo, it is like hearing a death sentence. Even if you ignore the teenage pregnancy rates for a little while, the statistics also state that 7 out of 10 teenagers will indulge in sexual intercourse by the age of 19, now that's a very high number, pregnancy or no pregnancy. There's also a reality show on tv documenting this phenomenon, called Teen Mom, which discusses this issue indepth, and showcases real life cases of teen pregnancy, and life after becoming a teen mother. The show puts light on the fact that most girls end up getting pregnant and then hope their boyfriends will stick around or maybe even marry them and they'll raise the baby, but the reality hits, the boyfriend disappears, and the girl becomes a single mom, a teen one at that, left to fend for herself and her newborn .  Recently this issue came into the limelight yet again, due to a high profile case, of the former governor of Alaska and the vice-presidential candidate of the losing ticket in the 2008 election.....Sarah Palin.
Palin's teen daughter, was pregnant during her run for the election. This inspite of Palin being an advocate for abstinence. So this certainly is a very real problem in American society today.

To me the teen pregnancy problem, seems very complex, first off I can't understand why abortion is such a huge issue in USA, I know the issue is a constant debate in the country, to me it seems like a no-brainer solution in the teen pregnancy situation, but all the religious beliefs of people make it more complex than it needs to be, but that's a separate discussion for another day. American society also definitely needs to take part of the blame, because clearly there's something broken in their culture, that's causing this phenomenon more than any other developed country in the world . There is a kind of sexploitation that's going on with kids, everywhere, but even moreso in the west. Constant bombarding of sexual innuendo, provocative lyrics (in music), corporations marketing skimpier and sluttier clothes for younger and younger aged children, there are even dolls in the market for little girls that go right up to the line of decent and indecent (Bratz dolls anyone ?). What this does in essence is rob children of their innocence earlier and earlier, and this is definitely something that needs to be addressed by american society as a whole.
All said and done, good and bad kids are everywhere, and many a times the so-called 'bad' kids are really victims of bad parents, or parents who've checked out (emotionally or even physically in some cases), and haven't done their job well. I've seen plenty of good kids in good american families, and I know that if one does their job well as parents, they can raise a healthy, happy, vibrant, successful, good child anywhere, the outside world doesn't hold more power than the parents themselves. 

Secondly, there is the problem of drug use and other addictions. Although not as high as the pregnancy issue, drugs do pose a threat in american schools and colleges. Peer pressure is big and going down such a road can potentially ruin a young life. There are some other issues which also create fear in desi parents' minds, like, smoking, drinking, and in recent times several cases of violence in schools (opening gunfire inside the schools), etc but these aren't considered as severe or as difficult to tackle issues, as the main ones. Drugs as a mainstream problem doesn't exist in Indian schools and colleges, even today, maybe a small fringe might indulge in it, but it is still for the large part non-existant.  Drugs aren't as easily available in Indian cities, and most importantly, teens and young adults don't have nearly as much freedom and privacy to engage in such behaviors in an Indian home. In desi homes in the US, even though access to drugs might be easier to those kids, but the environment at home, and parents watching their kids like a hawk, make it very difficult for youngsters to engage in such behaviors. 

Some perspective too is needed on these issues, there are always good and bad influences in every society. India by any means is not a safe haven for young girls, there are multiple problems, like eve teasing, rapes and other sexual assualts on women, young girls being trafficked for prostitution, etc. A big city like Delhi which is also the capital of India is also known as the rape capital of the country, women are unsafe right under the nose of the government, to the point that they find it difficult to even travel alone after a certain point. Mumbai, even though overall a much more safer city for women, has it's share of crimes against women (in the trains, etc) on a fairly regular basis. Crimes happen in US as well, and there's no denying that, but just the everyday life of a woman (or any young child) is much more at risk in India than in the US and this is reality.

Premarital and teenage sex, yes, India does not have an epidemic like US going on, but there are similar cases that go on unnoticed or are kept hush hush in India, for eg:  every year in many places across India in the months following navratri celebrations, the abortion rates go up, quite a bit (which is self-explanatory).
Where India does score better is the overall culture which makes premarital sex and certainly teenage sex a taboo, which makes a teenager atleast think twice before pursuing such an act. There's isn't nearly as much peer pressure on youngsters to have a boyfriend/girlfriend, or getting dates for proms, etc...nor is there a stigma of sorts (among peers) attached to being a virgin ( if anything it's the opposite of the stigma being attached to not being a virgin), and I'm glad it's that way, not because I'm a proponent of abstinence, but I feel that if I'd have to pick one of two as a stigma, better there be a stigma on not being a virgin (atleast till one is an adult) than the other way around, which can possibly have many devastating outcomes. In an ideal world, it'll be good to have no stigmas, but sadly we don't live in an ideal world, there's gonna be peer pressure, pop culture influence, one way or another, and I for one think the Indian way is better when it comes to this atleast.

In a sense I find the USA and India at the opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to the attitude towards human sexuality. Indian culture represses sexuality to the point of almost denying it to the unmarried youth, and as a result there is sort of perversion created in peoples minds, which leads to undesirable side effects like eve teasing and sexual molestation cases across the country. On the other hand USA has a very open culture towards sexuality, which leads to a perversion of it's own kind, resulting in wanting engage in sex earlier and earlier, indulging in debauchery, hedonism, etc. Obviously there are many people in both sides of the aisle who grow up with a completely normal sexual attitudes, but there do remain these extreme cases as well, painting the nations in a certain way. I dunno which is more desirable (actually that's easy, neither, but again not an ideal world), because clearly both have their own set of problems, but overall, in my view the american system is better than the Indian one, mainly because the women are empowered to make their own decisions & choices, whether one agrees with those choices or not is a different issue altogether, whereas, in India except for educated rich or middle class women, no woman really has much choice, much say in her own life or what happens with her life .

Now let's come to the cultural side of things, these are facets of american culture that make desis uncomfortable. While I do see some merit in the social issues being raised by the Indian-American parents, and them wanting to protect their kids from being exposed to such influences. However, on the cultural aspect I don't fully agree, and see it more as an projection of the parents' fears and insecurities, rather than an actual problem.
The most common argument made by Indian-American parents in this aspect is that the kids raised in America don't act like 'Indian' kids, they instead act 'American',  they don't obey their parents or teachers, they wanna date, wanna leave the parents' homes when they turn 18 etc, etc, (which is basically just stereotyping the american kids unfairly) which I say duhhh....that's only because they're AMERICAN !!!! I mean to expect kids growing up in an entirely different country to feel the same way about a remote country in another part of the world, they sometimes visit - as their parents do, just because their parents lived there before these kids were even born is really unfair to them. Our surroundings are a big part of who we are, they shape our personality, our thoughts, our opinions, etc to a large extent, so it's only natural for these kids to absorb more of American culture, than Indian.
Yes, they may like baseball or american football more than cricket. They may prefer pizza to panipuri . They may like Hollywood movies better than Bollywood ones ( HUH...Blasphemy ...I know ;-) ) , and parents have to accept that. To think that it would not be the case, because you are taking  precautions to make sure they have enough exposure to Indian food, culture, festivals, movies, tv, sports, etc  is deluding oneself .

What I fail to understand is the argument that kids who were born and raised in America have an identity crisis or even lack an identity. Who's to decide that ? Who's to say that they lack an identity ?? They have an identity, and they're quite happy with it. It's being an American. They are first and foremost American kids, yes there's no denying that, so to hold them to some standard of Indian-ness and say that just don't measure up, is quite unfair.
This does not mean that these kids shouldn't have anything to do with their heritage, and in most cases they do understand their heritage well.
Most Indian kids follow their parents religions, be it Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jain, Buddhist, Sikh...whichever.....many speak atleast two or more languages, they do speak their native language (hindi, gujrati, bengali, tamil, marathi, telugu...whatever the case) in addition to english . I've met several desi kids, who could recite shloka's like nobody's business, were well-versed with a lot of  bhajans, etc (and here I am born and raised in India, I don't know even half of what these kids know), kids proficient in classical Indian music and/or dance forms, etc so there's certainly kids who do pursue certain Indian activities/interests. Even academically Indian origin kids do seem to perfom exceedingly well,  for eg : in the spelling bee competitions, 9 out of the last 11 years have been won by Indian kids, similar results have been seen in geography bee and math leagues, with Indian origin kids making their presence felt at the top, so the second generation Indian kids seem to be doing rather well for themselves overall.

Another big fear, in the same context is that their good Indian kid might end up marrying an American boy/girl. Now, there are many reasons from which this fear stems, most are just that, fears, they are not reality, they are based on a media projected version of what American kids are like, and not grounded in reality. Baseless fears like, by marrying an American their son/daughter might become christian, or start eating beef, or visit pubs, get divorced, etc . First off the fact is many Indian kids (whether they grew up in India or USA) already do most of those things when they grow up, maybe out of curiosity or whatever, but most will attempt one or more of those things, irrespective of whether they have an american partner, it's just that the parents aren't aware of it, and live in ignorant bliss. There are many americans who don't indulge in any or all of those things, so there are all kinds of people everywhere
Secondly, even many people who move from India to the west as an adult end up marrying a westerner, so it's not just an ABCD special phenomenon. It's something that just happens, most often it's not planned, it's not pre-decided, it's just an outcome of the world mixing up, and becoming a global village.
Another fear is that, the Indian kid will not look after the parents in their old age, if they marry an american. This one does have some merit, only because american culture is definitely opposite to desi culture, where in desi culture children feel indebted to their parents for ever, and in american culture, they don't feel they owe their parents much, the attitude mostly is like "the parents chose to have the kids, so they're obligated to provide for them", nothing there to feel grateful to the parents for . Ofcourse there are all kinds of cases in america as well, where kids take very good care of their parents/in-laws in their later years, but these might not be the norm. Now the fact is that even many Indians (whether they've married a westerner or another Indian) are not caring for their parents in old age these days, and the number is only going up, there may be multiple reasons for it, but the bottomline is it's not just the case in mixed marriages.

Even beyond the old-age care issue, parents fear that they will not be welcome in their own child's home, because their partner has a different mindset, and thinks of the spouse's Indian parents as guests, not family.
I even read somewhere, maybe as a joke, I dunno, but some western women were discussing, how the shelf life of a fresh fish and a house guests is about the same (even if the guest is your in-laws), and anyone who stays beyond that is overstaying their welcome, and I must admit, even I found it a bit jarring. I know many american girls don't think this way, and are actually keen to have cordial relations with their in-laws.
I know of one such case, the son of a family friend of my maternal grandparents, was a pilot, and he married a german lady (back in the 60's), they both lived in Mumbai their whole life, and his wife, lived just like any other Indian woman, so I know some people will go far above and beyond what's required to make such a relationship work, the only concern of Indian parents is, that there's no way to know what kind of girl/guy your child will end up marrying, it could be someone with a completely western outlook, the fresh fish kind, and then the parents will be like strangers essentially in their own child's home, atleast this is how they'll see it.
This one is a complicated issue, that cannot be seen in black and white, there are cases to made for both sides, and issues that both sides will have to face and overcome. Even intra-cultural in-law relationship on both sides can be difficult, one can get difficult parents-in-law/daughter/son-in-law, whether they marry within the culture or outside, so it's just the luck of the draw in most cases.

I've come across some parents who get hung up on the fact that their kids don't enjoy daal rice/sambhar rice/rajma rice as much as them, or don't like eating with their hands, or don't like watching hindi movies with them, etc, but I feel that overall these are very small factors. There might be many Indian kids born and raised in India, who don't like any or all of the activities/ behaviors mentioned above. I'm sure I'm a different Indian than my parents, and my parents differ from theirs, so every generation goes through this adjustment with their children, and every new generation finds it own unique way of expressing themselves, being in a different culture just highlights it more.

As for  the answer to my original question " Will the real ABCD please stand up ?" ...I feel it is the parents who are confused, about their lifestyle choices, about their decision to raise kids in a different culture, in an environment where the parents don't fit in well enough, and project those fears and insecurities onto their kids. I don't think the second generation American born Indian kids are a confused lot, it's the parents who are confused, and hence I suppose the acronym ABCD should really stand for 'American based confused desi' those who came from south asian countries, and chose to make america their home, and ended up confused about their cultural identities .




  1. Very interesting read Anjali! The term ABCD confuses me in the sense that from my experiences 2nd or even 3rd generation Indian Americans were far more conservative and religious than my fiance and his friends [who are Indian Indians].

    The parents in the US [more so than Canada from my experience] were insanely into making sure their kids memorized sanskrit prayers and had this superiority complex that was staggeringly racist.

    In fact a friend of mine who moved to the US from Delhi was also shocked. She said she felt the Indians in America were far more 'backwards' than the upper middle crowd in Delhi...or Mumbai...or Hyderabad...or Bangalore. After moving to India, I agree.

  2. Very interesting indeed, I'm Swiss, married to an Indian citizen living in India and my daughter has the indian citizenship, she is too young to grasp culture yet.
    DH and I are pretty clear, we each bring in our cultural roots into our nuclear family, daal isn't superior to a cheese fondue, or a continental meal, I speak French to her, DH speaks hindi, she picks up English from the TV and playground. We aren;t particularly super religious, so I really don't mind her not going to church, during Diwali we all do the puja, including me, for Christmas we do a Christmas tree, meal and presents, not for religious purpose, but because christmas is a family tradition for me, and I want to pass it on to my daughter.
    The irony is that DH adn I aren't confused at all, and we know our daughter won't be confused as long as we present a strong united front. But our families, neighbours, and total stranger just questions it. In fact some actually question our actually observing western culture things, because we live in India we should ALL be doing only desi stuff according to these people...sigh! When oh when was it decided that by my marrying into a desi family and living in Idnai I had to just shed all that I was before taking the 7 steps? I wonder, but these people actually make me feel like I have no right to be who I am, and that western culture is all junk food, liberal sex life, and no value. I'm strong enough to face them, I want my daughter to just be proud of who she is and how she grew up regardless of what a certain social norm is.
    I know my family also expresses some concern at how my daughter will grow up culturaly, it started with my mom asking if we gave her a middle name to whcih I replied no, neither DH or me have a middle name, so why should she? My mom reasonned that she should have a western sounding name she could switch to should she choose to live abroad. which had me ask her why exactly because clearly my parents didn;t bother for my sis and I, what they did was make sure we had names which could be pronounced in most languages and had an international feel, the same approach DH and I opted for when we picked our daughter's name while keeping a desi sounding name to make things a bit easier for her in India.
    In our case the confused state of mind actually come from our own parents, but we as a couple and family unit aren't confused one bit.
    We don't delude ourself into thinking one culture, one place one language is better than the other, because each have their own set of pro and cons.

    Sorry for the long comment :)

  3. I had a desi prof in engineering grad school in a west-coast state, who has been in the US for nearly 40 years. For Diwali functions etc., he would invite all the desi engineering students to his house for a feast. Except for non-brahmins!! Could you imagine that? What a low-life!!

  4. I am going to post first and continue reading about cultural issues. I want to bring up some points on sex and drugs.

    While teen pregnancy is high is the US its certainly not as high as in many third world countries where women marry very young and have children young. Out of wedlock teen pregnancy rates differ in socio-ecnomic class, namely the lower your class the higher the pregnancy rates are, there are also differences in race (which goes back to class) So, if you are raising your child in a middle-class environment with focus on education and the future your daughter will be much-less likely to get pregnant.

    Secondly, the pregnancy rate has steadily decreased in the past 20 years, despite young women being much more sexualized now than in the past. I am not arguing in favor of sexualization of young girls, I think its detrimental for other reasons but there doesn't seem to be a correlation between hyper-sexualized youth and increased teen pregnancy rates.

    Thirdly, drug and substance is a much larger problem. Drug use increases every year in the US and there seems to be an endless supply of cheap and easily accessible substance, including illegal drugs, alcohol and prescription drugs.

    Now I am going to continue reading and maybe I will have something else to say :)

  5. Now onto the cultural issues. You've raised similar points that my partner has brought up. He said to me once, that if we were to have children he would want them to live in Pakistan for several years so they don't turn out to be rotten, American kids. This upset me rightfully so. The first point I made to him is that I would not, under any circumstances live in an Islamic nation as a Christian, that is simply not fair and in worst circumstances, dangerous. Also, extremely insulting. I never considered myself a rotten kid, I was a kid sometimes I did good things and sometimes I did bad things. I wasn't some hellfire spitting in my parent's faces and yelling "NO." I think this is an unfair stereotype. I disagree with my parents and don't talk to them every day on the phone, to him this makes me rotten but I am sure if he lived 10 minutes away from his parents he wouldn't find the daily phone conversation necessary and about disagreeing, I am an adult and so are they and none of us are perfect, I don't see why anyone should dictate my life.

    Now about older adult-care. I can see this as being a concern if you are from a country that does not have a system to support older-adults. Fortunately, at this point, America does. I wonder if it would shock people to think that many older adults choose to continue to be independent so long as they are economically stable and healthy enough to be that way. Now in circumstances where an older parent is sick or financially insecure its still quite common for one or more of their children to care for them. Obviously we also have nursing homes for older adults who need a lot of care. Most American families need two incomes so it is hard to find the time or the money to be a full-time caregiver for a sick and aging parent.

    I hope, that my partner and I will be able to forge through our lives together, have children and do so while respecting each other's culture's and realize that our children will be unique from both of us.

  6. Wow such gr8 comments from everyone :
    @ kay I have to agree with you on this one, even I found many NRI's in US, stuck in a time warp about what India's like, and most were way more conservative than even urban Indians !!

    @ Cyn, good for you for giving your daughter a taste of both cultures. I really think that it can enhance her cultural roots, both of them. About the people who think you should follow all Indian norms, please ignore (as that's the only way to deal with such people) they are the kind of people who think, that when a girl marries into a family/culture, she should give up everything of her's and bring nothing along, and whole heartedly embrace her husband's family/culture. This kind of thinking cannot be cured, so trying to do it is pointless. I think you guys are doing a great job, keep it up !!

    @ Sundar : I can imagine it ! I have come across such people too, there are many such conservative, bigoted Indians who live in the US, sorry to hear about your experience.

  7. @ Julia: WOW !! what gr8 comments.
    I just wanna make one thing clear before I comment further, the issues I raised in my post aren't exactly mine, they are just general issues I've heard/come across over my years of stay in America. I personally do not face such dilemmas, and can see the good and bad in every culture.
    Now , I agree that teen pregnancy is higher in some 3rd world countries, I didn't compare this issue to that, only because it's not an apples to apples comparison, most girls in the 3rd world who are getting pregnant, aren't doing so out of choice, so it cannot be compared to the US situation, and about the rate declining, I agree it had been on a decline till 2006 after which it has been on a steady rise again, I believe, so even though I'm happy it's lower than it was a few decades ago, it still is rather high, and it being on the rise again is not a good sign at all. I do however, think that over-sexulaization of the youth is partly to be blamed for this phenomenon. Teens are very young people with impressionable minds, and media and pop culture certainly play a part in this whole issue, I think.
    I do agree about the parenting aspect, which I also mentioned in my post, that good parenting can beat most external influences, so yes parenting has a big role to play in this regard as well...

    I agree wholeheartedly about the drugs issue being a bigger problem, see my view on this is, everyone grows up and has sex, not everyone grows up and does drugs, so to me the teen sex epidemic is less important than the drugs issue, but most desi parents seem to be worried out of their minds about the pregnancy thing which is why I put it first. I feel this issue needs to be addressed on a war-footing in America, as young lives are being destroyed by this menace, very very sad indeed.

    About the cultural aspects, again they aren't my personal views, it's what I have heard people express over the years in US. I completely agree that stereotyping US kids as rotten or spoilt is not accurate, and I hope I haven't done it in my post, I merely wanted to point out the issues many Indians have with raising kids here.
    Secondly I completely agree that many american kids are very respectful and are extremely well behaved, I have had the pleasure of meeting many quite a few such kids, so I don't mean to paint all kids in one way, there are good and bad kids everywhere.
    I don't call my own parents everyday either, and don't think that those who do that are necessarily any closer to their parents than I am to mine.
    I agree about the older care issue, I too know some Indian parents who choose to live independent lives in their old age, atleast till they're physically capable of taking care of themselves, and are happy doing so, for them their psot-retirement life is for enjoying all the things they couldn't in life, because of all the responsibilities, so I do see the positive side of the issue too. I know there are many americans who do care for their parents/grandparents, so I know it happens, and I've mentioned it in my post. I fully agree about the finances part, I do know may american families need the 2 incomes coming in to make ends meet, so there just isn't a scope to care for your older generation full time, unlike India hired help is very very expensive in the US, and not something most people can afford.
    I'm sure with an open mind and attitude like yours you'll definitely be able to raise happy, successful kids, who take the good from both cultures.

  8. ABCD is a different case. But in one case South India is lacking that the people are not fully aware of Hindi which is the national language. If I will become the PM then the first thing I am gonna do is to introduce Hindi in South Indian schools. Without knowing national language how can one be called Hindustani?

  9. Hi AAD thanks for this post and the previous one on Asian parenting. much to respond to! Thought I'd respond to the confused migrant stuff because that resonates with me the most. I'm so glad to see somebody else saying that it's parents who are more confused than kids...agree! I love The Namesake.I've watched the movie and read the book countless times and they never fail to make me cry. They give such an insight into how lonely and challenging migration can be, which is what it was like for my parents, especially in the early years.
    It always annoys me when people say things like, "Your parents are Nepalese? Really? You must have had a weird upbringing" (and yes,I do actually get those comments!). It's probably more confusing to an observer to understand how migrant kids can assimilate different cultural influences and not come out confused...But like you said of course people know who they are. They know their values. For me, it was only when people started pointing me out as "caught between two worlds" or "a bridge between two cultures" that I felt like I should be different or confused. Not saying there aren't any conflicts - obviously my idea of a good life differs from that of my parents. But conflicts within myself? Definitely not. The questions I have about life are not cultural, my beliefs and values are internally consistent and I don't feel challenged/confused by the fact that some of my values don't match my parents. Obviously they don't - values change between all generations, intercultural or not. It doesn't automatically herald an identity crisis (though I'm speaking on a personal level here and I wouldn't want to downplay the feelings of somebody who does struggle re migration and identity).
    I'd never heard of the terms desi or ABCD before I started blogging this year (I had to google them :))...not sure how widely used they are in Australia. Though going by blogs desi at least seems to be pretty common here...that one obviously slipped me by! Since I started reading blogs I've seen the term "ABCD issues" thrown around a lot. A lot of 2nd gens who label themselves as ABCD obviously do think of themselves as confused at some point. Maybe the label has some merit, like normalising your feelings when you're an adolescent and welding your identity to a community of peers with similar 'problems' (we all know it helps to feel less isolated as a teen). Still,I can't help but feel that by using the term 2nd gen kids could be objectifying and viewing themselves solely through the lens of migration rather than recognising that all kids go through identity-questioning...there is something very human about the process which is not exclusive to migrants. And before you're a migrant, or a desi (or a confused desi!), you're a human being. For me, identity and relationships start from there.

  10. How you managed to say so much in this one post blows my mind!

    I am glad you can balance the good and not-so-good of each locale.

    Being in a time warp applies to people who move away from home.

    Our parents will always remember us as little kids, we are their babies. Like that, when we move away from home, we tend to etch in our mind what home (culture, lifestyle) was like when we left. If it was positive, we idealize it. If it was undesirable, we demonize it. We either paint a rosy picture (not remembering every family has some issues) or a black picture (not remembering there were some good times).

    So when people from India move to US they remember how it was in their generation and in their town and generalize that to all of India and make a stereotype - which as we know stereotypes are always bad because never can 100% of people live up or down to those stereotypes.

    So, in this case in the past ten years A LOT has changed in India.
    Yes people have boy/girl friends and premartial sex (but hide it).
    Because of this pregnancy happens. (I've heard in Kerala girls get whisked away to boarding schools abroad so no one finds out.. conveniently gone for 9 months.)
    People may not celebrate a holiday with the same passion as in US cause everyone else is doing it. (Heard this about Onam in Kerala vs. USA from NRIs who've returned.)
    And there are kids who grow up in India in some metros eating western food for their school lunches. I know of a family in Chennai where their daughter eats burgers, pizzas and the like in school and at home refuses sambar rice.
    People pay lots of money for birthday parties for their kids in Pizza Hut or fancy hotels.

    So, it does happen in India too.......

    Look at a reality you can't see on a two week visit.

  11. @ Anonymous, welcome to the blog, and thanks for taking the time to comment...
    Thanks for the encouragement...I give you credit as be able to read through such a long post.. :-)
    I agree about those who move away being in a sort of time warp...nostalgia clouds one's thoughts and logic, and we just see things in black and white and forget the grey..
    I agree with all the things you talked about happening in India as well.. :-)

  12. loved this long long article..yess Even Pakistanis are confused where to live..THey want to live there but dunn wantt their children to adopt their culture:)...
    loved the article..:) shared!

  13. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  14. I am catching up on all your old posts. I loved this one. You make such a good point about the parents being confused as well. We don't even have kids yet, but my husband is really concerned about his kids being too 'American.' It hurts me when he says these things because it's like he's suggesting that my American culture is less than his or bad in some way. I try to explain to him that his kids WILL be American - by citizenship and by birth, and the fact that their mom will be American, but they will be Indian too, and we will make sure that they are proud of both of their cultures.

  15. @ Cora : Thankyou for your comment, and thanks for having the time and patience to go through my old posts, I would always like my new blog friends to give their opinions on my older posts... :-)
    About your husband's opinion, well all I can say is it's disappointing , I find such blanket judgements so unfair and not to mention completely wrong, and most of all it is not expected from someone who has chosen someone from that culture as their partner, I am an Indian, married to another Indian, and still after living in US, I can certainly appreciate some aspects of their culture, especially as a woman, I appreciate the near equitable position that western women have in their society compared to the hypocritical double standards women face in Indian society. Yes, west has it's problems, but so does India, and really what culture doesn't ??
    what I can never understand is why compare the worst of the west, to best of India, for every teen mom in US, we have a corresponding female feoticide case in India, so let's not start praising Indian culture to high heavens shall we people??
    You are right that your kids will be American, it is unfair to them for anyone expect any different, but being American does not equal to being bad, there are plenty of bad kids in India as well, and likewise plenty of good kids in America, we just need to do our job as parents well, that's all....and like you said as long they are proud of both their cultures, that is all you can hope for....

  16. The only reference I had to ABCD growing up was, while learning the alphabet . It was only after living in the USA for a while did I hear those letters in a different context.

  17. A - you are right - once again you make some really good points. I think once the time actually comes I'll be able to make him find the balance. Of course, the most fun debate will be NAMES... :)

  18. @ Cora : Yes, hopefully with time such dilemmas will sort themselves out, and Names..haha, yes that will be a fun one for sure, my daughter's name is like a tongue twister for most

  19. Hey very nice blog!

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