My America

From : Jothi Ramachandran

1999

Hello,

I had the opportunity to read this article by R K Narayan a few months back - a mail forwarded by another 'Indian in America'. I did not then take the time to provide my feedback on the subject. Here's my 2 cents on it now:

I have a great deal of respect for R K Narayan as an author, an intellectual and a decent citizen of our country. I have read a few of his works and appreciated his style of writing. This article about Indians in America does touch a chord. While I agree in principle with most of his views, I take exception to a few. He seems to indicate that an Indian child is brought up to believe that an austere & contented life is what he/she should be shooting for. To my knowlegde most parents in India push their children to do well acedemically, aim for an engineering or medical seat and make sure that they involve themselves minimally in activities outside of that. There is little or no encouragement from parents when god-forbid the children show an inclination towards sports. They are told rather sternly that it is not a surefire thing. They believe that the only way that the kids could eke out a 'decent' living is by becoming a doctoror an engineer. Sportsmen do make a lot of money but to get there is tough.

On the other hand, they could try and manage a payment seat for the kids, in case they don't turn out to be the acedemicians they wanted them to be. It is not the thirst for knowledge or the love for austerity that drive these parents to get their kids into a professional course. Contentment is a virtue but it's meant for the saints, is the buzzword. Software is hot. People make a lot of money there. We've got to get the kids into it, is what most educated parents are shooting for these days. I don't see them telling their kids to study literature or history if it interests them. Where does austerity and contentment fit in here? Parents are ecstatic when their children make it abroad - be it to pursue further studies or to accept a lucrative job offer. A responsible American parent would guide his child to focus on his area of interest, nurture independent thinking and decision-making abilities in his child and support the child in whateverpath he chooses. In my opinion there is not that compulsive urge for a parent to get the child into a field for the sake of making money. To generalize that America's emphasis is on relentless pursuit of wealth and that of India's is not, is not only wrong but really far from the truth.

While I agree that Indian children growing up here tend to go through this culture crisis, I have seen a majority of them cope with it, do well in school, respect their parents and exhibit exemplary social skills be it with elders or other kids of the same age group. He is better equipped to handle pressure and stress than his cousin back home, who insists that the parents atleast get him a motorbike if not a Maruti car for making the grade. I don't see respect for parents or an understanding of their financial situation there.

I have heard more talk about reincarnation and Karma here than in India and the astonishing fact is that I have heard it come from Americans.

I am not holding the American flag high here, but I will not agree that we, the Indians here, are a degenerate lot, struggling to inculcate any semblance of decent behaviour in our children, living a meaningless lifewhile our relatives back home are leading this austere, pious andculturally rich life.

I would tend to believe that as a society, we have moved more towards materialism, whether we live in India or in America does not really matter.

Thanks,
Jothi Ramachandran

The views of this column are the author's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of NRI Online.

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