Monday, September 28, 2009

Change is good, but not when its forced,demanded,expected

The most confusing, excruciating, challenging, but also the most fun part of being a first generation Immigrant is the time you get to travel between your origin and the current home. The difference in the two dots on the map is further increased when the places in question are as the US and India. Every time I personally had to make that journey, which is usually once a year during my college years, I felt this need to change myself in behavior, customs, beliefs, routine or just plain perception of society, but in India's case the change is usually expected and even induced. That very reason is the probably the strongest deviation in culture or society between the two countries: In India the change is directed towards becoming the same as most in society, whereas in the US the change is towards the individual, such as the enormous transformation I personally went through in terms of behavior, perception, beliefs etc. So usually I am an amalgam of the two cultures, but both countries some times demand that you sacrifice or temporarily suspend practicing the other culture. Both culture, obviously, have their flaws, but by having the contrasting perspective one becomes more experienced, and more appreciative of the diverse ways of living life. For a small example, in US the notion is to respect everyone regardless of their socioeconomic status or background; in India, while the general consensus of course is to treat everyone with respect, the poorest are usually target of skepticism or criticism towards their "laziness" and blamed for their own problems. So two amazingly different ways of treating people, especially when seen in practice in extreme, but both are expected in the two separate places. One can groan about the laxity of family standards in America given its high divorce rates, or one can go off in a rant about how rather strictly a woman has to adhere to standards in India, but both are a result of society's practice and expectations, and thus right in some way in their own place.
The main point of this blog was to address the notion of change particularly when traveling to one's home country that is unique in itself. Neither an ABCD traveling to India, nor an Indian who is traveling for the very first time outside it, have that blurring of two cultures into one single mixture of thoughts and ideas; and its even harder to extract or purify one culture as sometimes is expected in both places...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Beating your kid is prevalent and for the right reasons

Kids can be little a**holes sometimes. So a parent should know how to deal with such a situation in a way that not only results in the immediate cessation of whatever annoying or idiotic act the child was playing, but also imprint the experience into the kids memory so that it can be and will be recalled at the next display of bad behavior. In India, just as many other developing or poor countries, beating/hitting your kid is accepted and actually promoted in certain situations. I have to testify that it is not only practical but rather successful in making sure that for the most part the kids dont end up under bad influence or the wrong path. I mean that is not say there aren't kids in india who dont achieve or drug addicts or other types of failures, but compared to western countries, especially the US, their numbers and severity is low. I have seen parents, both mom or dad, slap the kid right in the middle of the hustle or bustle of the market place, and then leave the kids crying for a while, instead of the "time out" or "cut it out" or other non violent strategies used by the american counterparts. Now i am not the one to condone child abuse, but the indian way is discipline. After experiencing first hand the kids of america in high school and colleges, although they were very respectful, responsible, and more mature than kids in other countries as they experience more life early on, most of them do end up in drugs, debt, divorce, crime or other failures of life in some shape or form. One of the best anecdote was told by a person, Mahendar Pakore wala, the last monicker referring to his occupation as a cook who used to make delicious pakoras on a street cart for most of my childhood in our punjabi community. He now owns a conveniently located convenience store, offering the usual staples. He told me that he used to lock his sons outside his house, after stripping them naked whenever they would do some naughty or inobedient stuff. I have seen kids getting hit by belts or chased down the street by a parent holding a shoe in one hand. In one case, the neighbors overheard a teenage boy yelling at his mother and threating to hit her, and immediately mobbed into the house to thrash the kid back to the real senses. Even cops, when approached by kids complaining about getting beaten up by parents, although for a culturally understandable reason like getting home late, drinking, smoking, flunking classes, getting caught with a girl, etc., would look entirely the other way. Parents are given the utmost respect and dignity and are expected to have a very strong influence on their child and their life, instead of the american notion of the child being independent from the parent after some years. Some of the fits i have seen in america downright scare me away from children. The americans are great parents overall, but due to the prevalance of divorce rates and other lack of familial structure or social cohesiveness, the notion of individuality and independence is pushed to such limits that a person is free to explore all the possibilities and offerings. But in India, the local community and the larger society dictates and scrutinizes the behavior of individuals, thus persuading most away from straying off. But I guess the ones that do stray, the shepherd is there with a stick to put them back in place....