Indian values or right values?

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. Continue reading “Indian values or right values?”

The cure for racism!

Racism – An ugly word, with uglier social implications,  with the ugliest outcomes in most cases. Racism is a behavior; the discrimination based on racial differences are daily common occurrence. There is no debating that racism is a social issue, a social disease.

It is human nature, we react differently to different situations; we respond in our own ways to those who appear different from us. The racism is a product of our culture; a part of our ignorance about other cultures, about other people from different race.

The way we are raised, the way we are educated and the way our surroundings are – all little things add up to affect our thinking, consciously or subconsciously.

They say that the racism is all in our brain, the way we think. Many times, we may not even know that we are subconsciously discriminating. For example, our education may teach us to be fair and equal to all, but our childhood upbringing may have taught us differently. Just the way things were around us, when we were growing up, leave a lasting impression on our thinking, on our behavior. Continue reading “The cure for racism!”

Her first job in America

“Are you going to bring the girl with you?” Hira asked right away.
There was a long silence at the other end.
“I was not planning on it.” Rajiv replied.
“Okay” Hira said after a pause.
“I was going to come over by myself this morning….if that’s okay with you.”
“Come on over, we can talk!” Hire said and put down the phone.

Hira Patel got up slowly. Rubbing his eyes, he dragging himself out of the large wooden chair. His dark brown shirt was tucked inside the khaki rumpled pants, over his protruding belly. The receding hairline made him look much older than his age of 45. Warm air from a small electric heater next to the chair made him sleepy; he did not realize he was dozing off.
He looked out of the window into the deserted parking lot. Then, he checked the the coffee pot next to the reception desk and walked back to the chair.

“It is so chilly outside, and it is not even December yet!” Rajiv said as he pushed open the door and walked in.
“Yes, the winter is coming! How are you, Desai Sahib?”
“I am good, not bad. How is the business?” Rajiv walked over, they shook hands.
“Slow, very slow! Nobody is spending like good old days!”
Rajiv looked around.
“Have a seat,” Hira gestured to the empty wooden chair that Rajiv was already walking towards. “Do you want some coffee? It is freshly made.”
“No, no!” Rajiv replied looking at the big coffee pot with white plastic cups and a sugar jar next to it. Continue reading “Her first job in America”

Yes, Life is different here!

Living Abroad – Different strokes for different folks!

Yes, life is different here, very different!!

Here, people come from all over the places! They have different skin tones, different heights. They walk different, they talk different. Some have local accent; others are outsiders for sure. Some speak in a monotone while others are too dramatic in every expression. Some stand still and deliver their opinion in a quiet but firm voice, while others use their hands and gestures more than their tongue.

Some dress sparingly and reveal everything, very outdoorsy to say it modestly! Others are too covered, as if protecting themselves from a wintery chill, even in the summer months.

People speak so many different languages here. Just walk down the street and you will get an earful of gibberish dialects for sure; many of those you have never heard of!

Yes, life is different here, very different!!

The food choices are quite interesting, or strange. Some like it plain and others, spicy. Some eat only vegetables while others hunt for meat. Some can afford it all, while others live from hand to mouth. Some like it exotic and show off their feasts while others struggle to feed even two times a day. Continue reading “Yes, Life is different here!”

Greed or Fear … or Love!

Greed, fear…. or love – A thought on our daily life and behavior

It is very easy to understand this world; well, most of the time. Most of the time, people are selfish and shallow, restricted by the ‘acceptable behavior’ or social norms. Every person tries to be accepted first rather than worrying about accepting others. Everyone tries to blend in, rather than standing out. Very few have the courage to be different.

We are always so eager to point out differences and how to deal with them. We are preoccupied with ‘differences’ and how to treat them, how to react to them. In reality, if you look deep and far enough, no one is really that different unless you treat them differently – that is, unless you discriminate. Knowingly or unknowingly, we often discriminate in everyday life, and then we talk about equality and diversity – perhaps, just to make us feel better, for our own ego. By end of the day, we are all looking for ways to reduce these differences, forcing ourselves and those who are different to blend in! We can blame this all on our own fears or our own ego.

We are not as complicated as we claim to be. Most of our actions are controlled by one of the two motives – greed or fear, and quite often greed and fear. Most of our day-to-day existence is merely limited to our routine stuff, routines that revolve around our greed and fear.

The biggest shackle to our personal progress and freedom of thought is the fear of rejection or the greed of acceptance. That is a reality; freedom of thought is often suppressed by the social norms. Perhaps, that is why we talk about fantasies, dreams and the perfect world… Continue reading “Greed or Fear … or Love!”

Her social drinking troubles

Her parents drove for two hours from Seattle to Surrey, B.C. They did not have a choice. They had to be there. For the entire drive, Meena – her mother – looked out of the car window. She was not admiring the scenery or the landscapes; her brain was racing with troubling thoughts and imaginations. She was worried about their daughter, Anita.

“I am not sure how to tell you this, but I have to; people are starting to talk!” Out of the blue, that was a bombshell from Rani, Anita’s mother-in-law, when she called on Wednesday.
“I don’t understand, what happened?” Meena asked; her voice trembling, and barely audible.
“Can you come over this week-end? Then we can talk,” Rani said after a pause.
Her hands shaking, Meena put-down the phone and slumped into the sofa.

“What’s going on?” Meena called Anita within minutes after that call, the suspense was killing her.
“Hi mom, how are you?” Anita was caught off-guard.
Her mom was quiet on the other end of the line.
I don’t know what you talking about, mom,” Anita added.
“Rani just called me.”
“I don’t know what the big deal is about. Everything is okay mom!” Anita said.
“You tell me now, or I am coming there tonight!” Continue reading “Her social drinking troubles”

Some things never change….in India

An NRI’s prospective on the not-so-changing aspect of Indian life

Bigger houses, better cars, western food, newer mobiles…there are so much new in India; there have been so many changes over the last two decades. India, along with very few other countries, is economically growing at a pace that rest of the world can only imagine. The villages, the towns, the cities – the positive changes are sprawling everywhere.

And then, there are many more things that are about the same, same as the old days. If you look closer, the stuff that has not changed much is in fact much more profound and much more important than the economic progress made since early 90s.
The key aspects of Indian way of life that have not changed much include: Continue reading “Some things never change….in India”

10 simple ways to improve cross culture understanding in a new country

The social adaption varies from person to person, some people adapt faster than others. Regardless, it is very natural to have some ‘opinions’ or biases against a new culture or a new place.

Once we move to a new country or a new culture, the adaption starts; we subconsciously start to get used to the new norms as time goes. And, in many cases, we don’t even realize that we are adjusting to the new culture; it happens automatically. It is a natural social change – adapting to the new circumstances over time.

However, the social adaption happens much faster if we make a conscious effort to interact with the local culture. To improve the cross cultural understanding and learning more about the local way of life, here are a few simple but effective things that we can do:

1. Adapt to the local language: Don’t isolate yourself from the local language and the local way of speaking – the slang, the style, …. the whole nine yards. The article ‘Self-help guide to lose your accent’ goes into the details on this subject. Continue reading “10 simple ways to improve cross culture understanding in a new country”

Cross-culture understanding – It is a culture thing

The Journey Abroad: A multi-cultural living

We have opinions; we are full of them – likes, dislikes. We love some, we hate some; sometimes, we don’t even know the reason – why? we carry biases in our head all the times, even when we don’t want to. The way we are raised, the way we have seen the world growing up, affects the way we think. We always look at everything and everyone through the eyes of our own traditions, our own standards, our own culture.
One of the common biases in any culture is the self superiority complex – every culture considers itself superior or better than others. For someone new from India going abroad, for example, it is not an unreasonable belief that Indian culture (or subculture based on the part of India one belongs to) is far better than any of the local cultures.

One of the key reasons for self superiority is that fact that we don’t know as much about other cultures. We try to judge and perceive everything and everybody from the viewpoints of our own culture.
Because that is the only reliable reference we have. We know our culture so intimately; we are so used to our own social standards. Everything outside our society has to measure up to our cultural norms – good or bad, accepted or taboo. That is why we are always comparing different aspects of a newly acquired foreign society to that of what we are so used to – our own Indian culture or sub-cultures. Continue reading “Cross-culture understanding – It is a culture thing”

Indian Beliefs or Perceptions of American and European Culture

India Abroad: Indian misconceptions or perceptions of the overseas culture

The Indian misconceptions or perceptions of the the cultures abroad are closely related to our way of thinking. It is human nature, we always try to understand everything in terms of our own culture. Everything we see, everything we observe, we see it through the lenses of our own experiences. When we look at the American or the European culture, most of the time, we are just comparing it with our Indian culture, our own beliefs. Our beliefs play a major role in how we see rest of the world.

Many of you may consider this as a redundant piece of information – nothing new. Yes, you are right. It is nothing new, but it is something – we still have these misunderstandings or notions that we should remind ourselves of; it is something that may help us with self awareness and as a result, may reduce our stereotype about foreign cultures.
So take this with a grain of salt. Some of these misconceptions may sound absurd, or may sound very true – depending on your personal outlook, depending on what you believe.

Here are some of the beliefs and notions that Indians have about the Western – American or European or Australian – culture.

Not Very Religious: It is very hard to compare one religion to another. For example, in some religions you are expected to pray multiple times a day while in some others, a daily prayer might do. The fact is every religion dictates its own rituals, its own guidelines. The religion is a very predominant part of the western society. the younger generation may be a bit less religious and more spititual. If you pass by any Church in America on a Sunday morning, they are jam-packed; you won’t find a place to park.

Drug Use and Similar Vices: Where do we start, may be with some Bollywood movies depicting or comparing western culture with desi culture. :)! We may be exaggerating a bit when we say that smoking and drug use is much more common in the Western countries. If you walk down the street of any major US city, you won’t find many smokers in public, just as an example. People are more health conscious now-a-days. The drug use is probably comparable to India. You are not going to find ganja smoking hippies (as shown in some Indian movies) on a corner of every American or European city streets. That was 70s, and the movie was ‘Purab or Paschim’! Continue reading “Indian Beliefs or Perceptions of American and European Culture”

Our Beliefs and the Outside World

It is human nature, we think in terms of what we are exposed to or what are familiar with in our own surroundings. Our thinking and the way we behave is greatly influenced by how we grew up – how we were raised since early childhood.

The childhood is when most of our beliefs are formed, when we watch others and try to figure out what is the accepted norm – what is right and what is wrong. As we watch the world around us day after day, our beliefs firm up over time. We start to make our own mind and our own opinion about everything around us.

“Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.” said Albert Einstein. By the time we enter our adulthood, we already have our own beliefs about the world around us.

Just think about it:

  • Our political and social views are always influenced by the community we live in and by our own social circle. Don’t confuse this with your Face Book or Twitter network – there is a real world out there;  just look outside the window. 🙂
  • We almost always follow the same religion as our parents; our religious beliefs are greatly influenced by our family and the religious preaching while growing up.

Continue reading “Our Beliefs and the Outside World”

20 Tips on personal safety and crime prevention abroad

Commonsense tips on how to be safe in a foreign country

Rape, assault and violence – the news are full of sickening tales everyday. Every country, every neighborhood, every place has its flaws. One way or another, any city – big or small – is a victim of deadly crimes. It is a part of life; we are all exposed to some sort of danger all the time – at home or abroad.

In a foreign country, safety and security have always been keys concern of travelers and immigrants alike. Be it the streets of New York, south-side of Chicago, the suburbs of London, the cities in Australia….. the safety is always in the forefronts of anyone’s mind – travelers and immigrants alike.

An immigrant (or a minority) often considers herself/himself to be more exposed to the danger of personal safety for many reasons:

  • The local criminals may find it easier or less risky to go after an outsider, or a minority group.
  • Many societies blame the immigrants for unemployment and job-loss issues; this social bias or grudge can contribute to the crimes against them.
  • Many fanatics may single out the minorities as a cause of their social agenda and target them.

While you cannot eliminate the racism or discrimination overnight, – even though it is a good wish, next to the cure of aging – there are certain things we can all do to be safer and more secure in a foreign land:

1. Select the residence location wisely: Pick a neighborhood with low crime rate that is safer to live. Do your research while selecting a residence. For example, many local newspapers publish information such as ‘Best places to raise a family’. A local real estate agent can also guide you to the safer areas. Avoid areas infested with crime.

2. Avoid bad company: It is simple as that, however, easier said than done. The company and the circle of friends you keep play a big role in day-to-day interactions with the society. Steer clear of the gang and crime infected social circles. Avoid areas with gang activities; stay away from unsavory characters.

3. Lock doors and windows: Once you have a residence selected in a good neighborhood, make it secure and burglar-proof. Install good quality dead-bolt locks on all the exterior doors. Also, Install quality locks on all the windows. Keeping your placed locked provides extra sense of security and deter burglars.

4. Trim over-grown shrubs and trees around the residence: Make sure to remove or trim shrubbery that hides doors and windows. That way, neighbors or passersby can see someone trying to break into your home. Limit the hiding spots for a burglar by keeping the bushes and trees tidy and well-trimmed.

5. Well-lit Place: Always have a light outside the front door and other areas of entrance. A well-lit area discourages the thieves and the bad guys. Continue reading “20 Tips on personal safety and crime prevention abroad”

‘Color-blind’ kool kids of today!

Fading racial bias and prejudice among the younger generations abroad!

“Rupa, you are here!,” a pretty little girl in red exclaimed the obvious; her curly blond hair bounce as she jumps with joy.
“Happy Birthday, Courtney!” said Rupa, handing over the gift bag. The mothers exchanged a smile, and a hello; and then moved inside to make room for the next young guest arriving with another gift bag…

The kids’ party venue – The Jumping jack, is chaotic, with kids  on a mission of fun and frolic. They run from one game-stand to another; trying every machine and trampoline. All kinds of gizmos and play-stations span the open halls, colorful bright lights adding to the joyous ambiance.

Every few minutes, a new kid arrives with a new gift. And, the ‘birthday girl’ – Courtney – runs to the welcome area to greet the newly arrived friend. Smiles, giggles, chuckles and innocent greeting fill the air:
“Hi, how did you get here?”
“I didn’t know you were coming!”
“Did you see the big pile of my gifts?”
“You are here too???”…….a lively chatter fills the air.

In the play area, a clear pattern starts to emerge. The kids are getting on with what they are good at – playing. Boys are crowding the ‘boyish games’ – target shooting, hoops, gun battle, Sponge Bob… They are running around – one play are to another, bragging and showing off….And, making sure that there is someone to witness their great performance.

The little girls have their own things going, mostly with the girly stuff. The ‘mechanical pony rides’, ‘matching games’, ‘the make-up show’ and pink swirly slides…… And, the adventurous ones are taking up on the boys, playing hoops and shoots. There are no barriers, no rules, no bars. Everybody is a busy in their fun world – no worries, no care!

Every kid seem to have a purpose – to have as much fun as possible. It does not take a whole lot to please them, to cheer them. Life at it best! Continue reading “‘Color-blind’ kool kids of today!”

Thanksgiving – More than Family, Food and a Prayer!

Happy Thanksgiving


On 4th Thursday of every November, America celebrates Thanksgiving Day. The schools are closed for a better part of this week; most of the businesses close Thursday though Sunday. Families prepare for days to get together and celebrate this festive time.

The American Thanksgiving holiday traces its origins back to 1621 when newly arrived Pilgrims from England held a harvest feast after a successful crop growing season. For more on the history of the holiday, you can take a look at Wikipedia or search online…There is a whole lot of historical background attached to the holiday.

Yes, it is a harvest festival. Over the years, however, it has become a ‘Turkey Day’ – every feast for every family-gathering is supposed to include baked or roasted turkey. Thanksgiving with Turkey is like Christmas without presents, Diwali without lights. That is a part the tradition.

Cooking a 20 pound turkey is an adventure in itself. For amateurs, there are live help-lines where you can call for help – toll-free from your kitchen, if cooking is not going the way you expected; the nice ladies on the other end of the phone are always full of tips and tricks to help you out. This – ‘the turkey tip line’ – is one of the businesses they cannot outsource to India or China, at least not yet! 🙂

Thanksgiving is the time to thank, as you can tell by the name itself – duh! It is time to thank God, it is a time to thank family and friends. You thank God for all the good things and good karma bestowed on you. You thank friends and family for their support, for their love, and for standing with you through thick and thin. So no doubt, there are big family gatherings, a lots of feasting, a lot of thanks and gratitude going around….and yes, some praying… A a weekend full love and compassion, and yes, full of feasts and parties… Continue reading “Thanksgiving – More than Family, Food and a Prayer!”

‘Happily Single’ – Growing trend of marriage-free single lifestyle

All young women begin by believing they can change and reform the men they marry. They can’t. ~George Bernard Shaw

Some things never change; human mentality for ever-lasting freedom is one of them! 🙂

Growing Trend of staying single and marriage-free
According to the United States Bureau of the Census, the fastest-growing household type since the 1980s has been ‘the single person’. There has been a similar increase in single person households in England as well. If we look around, this trend is probably true for most of the free societies around the world.
Surprised? You should not be. The institution of marriage has been under attack for a long-long time. This attack is coming from the marriage itself – the attack from within!
Now, what are these attacks from inside – from the marriage and married life itself? There are too may, you name it:

  • Unhappy marriages – there are plenty of them to go around;
  • Incompatible marriages – Not made for each-other;
  • Marriages with different expectations – ‘I never thought we will end up like this’
  • Drifting away over time – ‘I didn’t know we could grow apart over time’,
  • The past – ‘I miss my freedom of good old single days’
  • The grind – ‘I am doing this for the sake of the kids…only for the kids’
  • Regret – ‘Sometimes I wish I could turn back the clock’
  • The dead End – All the way to something like ‘I hate your guts more than I hate you’
  • …and many worse endings…

This should not surprise anyone, right? We all have seen this in our society, in our neighborhood. Day after day, there are examples of miserable or failed marriages playing out in our own back-yards. But somehow, we all have found a way to justify and isolate ourselves from those troubled relations.
“That couldn’t be me. I can never be miserable like this”. Many have made this kind of promises to themselves. These self-declarations may not mean much down the road. Continue reading “‘Happily Single’ – Growing trend of marriage-free single lifestyle”