Learning the mother tongue…
The Sunday classes in the temple or Gurudwara…
Attending religious recitals even if you don’t understand what the priest is saying….
Growing-up abroad is a challenge in itself, not that we realize it when we are kids. Being a minority has its own offshoot effects that you cannot control.You cannot change your skin tone, unless you are Michael Jackson – not so easy, and you are still the same person inside! 🙂
Being an Indian overseas comes with its own demands. You not only have to worry about the the bigots and the racist idiots on the street, but your parents and elders are paranoid to the point of obsession; the obsession with raising the kids with ‘Indian values’.
Growing up in India – you are amongst your own kind; you are immersed in your own culture. As a child in India, the social values are spoon-fed over the years; you are surrounded by your own kind; you are the majority. No confusion, no duplicity.
Living abroad however, our culture at home is often different than the culture on the street. We are dealing with a multicultural society. Our social settings are totally different and multidimensional. As a kid growing up, we adapt to the surroundings, to the society we grow-up in.
Growing up in American or any other Western society, the Indian American families tend to hold on to the inherited culture and Indian social values much more closely. The parents cling to the carried-over traditions from India, holding on to the Indian roots very dearly. The Indian families make a very conscious effort to instill the Indian values into their kids.
This is all good – learning the family heritage and tracing back the roots. However, adapting to the local western living, understanding the western society and the western values are equally important. To be successful and be competitive, one has to be street-smart and in-unison with local society. You cannot be an ‘outsider’ and be successful at the same time, you have to be a part of the culture to thrive in it.
The Indian values focus on instilling the culture and social aspects that relate to India and Indian beliefs. The kid are coached in their family roots from India and their own religion – the family traditions, the Indian festivals and the Indian languages… yes, very important.
Equally important, however, are the global values that focus on the overall contributing factors in human adaptivity to the global cultures in the professional world. The higher education, the local communication skills and the adaptability to the local society, local job markets…. are also important.
Indian values, for example, teach us to work hard. On the other hand, working smart and looking at the global picture is equally important.
Do you want to raise your kids with Indian values or global values? Do we care if your kids are ‘Indian enough’ or not, regardless how successful they are!
Or perhaps, it does not matter if you raise an Indian kid, or ‘not so Indian’ kid as long as he or she grow up to be a good kid – a good human being. Perhaps, more than Indian or global values, it is important to instill the right values.
Under any circumstances, in any country, it is always better to teach our kids the right values. It is important to set a good example for them, than to worry about whether they are Indian enough or not. As the world continues to turn into a melting-pot of global cultures, some values will emerge to be more important than others. Well raised, well educated, well experienced and well traveled individual are bound to hold an edge when it comes to succeeding in life.
And, it is a common misconception that it’s easier to raise kids with the right values in India! Provide them the ‘right’ environment that cultivates human virtues and social values. Give them a loving and caring home to thrive in. Kids are very good at taking the cue, no matter where you live.
And, the litmus test: if your kid grows up to be someone who makes a positive impact on the society – if they grow up to be a caring, successful and honest human beings – then, you are definitely doing something ‘right’.
Some may disagree, growing up with the right values is definitely more important than being Indian or not!!
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