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Book Review: Being Indian- Challenges of bringing up ‘Desi’ Children abroad

A recent book by a former journalist, who faced difficulty in selling "India" to her children, serves to be an apt manual on the upbringing of Indian diaspora children overseas

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– by Saket Suman

  • Titled “East or West,” the book has been written by Vinati Sukhdev
  • The author maintains that “old-fashioned immigrants,” who foist an Indian identity on their children, are wrong in being strict and inflexible
  • The author seeks to impress upon NRI parents to recognize the fact that their children will never be as Indian as they are

June 20, 2017: Book: East or West; Author: Vinati Sukhdev; Publisher: Westland; Price: Rs 250; Pages: 135

The many aspects of everyday Indian life — history, culture, language, family relationships, and marriage — that we in India tend to take for granted are often major issues of contention for NRIs living overseas – an estimated 30 million of them spread across over 150 countries.

Even as they go on with their lives in different countries across the globe, there is always an underlying desire to inculcate these “Desi” aspects into the lives and habits of their children.

A recent book by a former journalist, who faced difficulty in selling “India” to her children, serves to be an apt manual on the upbringing of Indian diaspora children overseas.

Titled “East or West,” the book has been written by Vinati Sukhdev. The author opens with an elaborate explanation on the concept of what goes into making us Indian, which she finds hard to define specifically.

Nonetheless, meaningful family relationships, hard work leading to material success, being tolerant of others and being spiritual are some visible examples that Sukhdev identifies as hallmarks of Indian ethos. She states that “being Indian” means counting on all such positive values and ensuring that children growing up in a foreign eco-system are exposed to them.

But it is not going to be an easy journey for parents because most children growing up outside India are likely to rebel at what they may consider “foreign and strange requests” from their parents. The peer pressure that kids are subjected to may further strengthen this resentment.

The author seeks to impress upon NRI parents to recognize the fact that their children will never be as Indian as they are. So she asks the parents to appreciate “every baby step that they take towards discovering India” and thus enjoy the journey.

The author maintains that “old-fashioned immigrants,” who foist an Indian identity on their children, are wrong in being strict and inflexible. Parents who go to the other extreme and keep their children completely aloof from India and its culture, according to the author, are wrong too as they are depriving their children of “an authentic and spontaneous experience of their mother country” and thus leave a gaping hole in their identity kit.

The solution is somewhere in between — by being judicious and balanced — and in the process, allowing the children to discover rather than forcing their Indian identity unto them.

Finally, Sukhdev reminds the many prospective readers of this insightful offering that NRI children often grow up without much knowledge of India’s art, history and culture. “This is a shame, because this is India’s strength and we should take pride in it,” she advises the parents living overseas.

From cultural immersions with the help of like-minded Indian parents and Indian language and music classes to casual dining table conversations and car pooling with other Indian families, the book opens an entire panorama of suggestions that those facing difficulties in the upbringing of their children abroad may find helpful. (IANS)

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Ethnic Indian Jai Sears responds to complaint against the statue of Gandhi in Grenada

Jai Sears wrote in response to a letter on Mahatma Gandhi entitled “Dustbin of history” written by Josiah Rougier

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Gandhi
Mahatama Gandhi, leader of non violence

Jai Sears from Grenada, Caribbean has written a letter to editor in response to complaints against the statue of Gandhi in Grenada. Here is the text:

I write in response to a letter on Mahatma Gandhi entitled “Dustbin of history” written by Josiah Rougier and published in the Grenada newspaper, The New Today (Nov 3, 2017). In his letter, Rougier is asking the Government to remove the bust-statue of Gandhi which overlooks Sauteurs Bay in Grenada where East Indians arrived 160 years ago. Rougier’s opinion is based on the false notion that Gandhi was racist because the Mahatma reportedly considered Indians to be superior to black Africans when he referred to the latter as “kaffirs.”

Gandhi was only 27 years old when he made that contextual statement. If Rougier had done his research, he would have found that Nelson Mandela said: “Gandhi must be forgiven for these prejudices in the context of the time and the circumstances.” The quote can be found in “Gandhi the Prisoner” by Nelson Mandela published in 1995. Gandhi was a man; he was not god. And even god made mistakes.

In favour of Mahatama Gandhi
Photo of Jai Sears

Rougier must instead focus on the Gandhi’s vision of non-violent protest and his belief in satyagraha which inspired rebels and revolutionaries around the world. Gandhi’s ideas influenced leaders of the African National Congress and the struggle by Indians and blacks against white apartheid rule in South Africa. From as early as 1956 when he was 27 years old, Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to Gandhi as “the guiding light of our technique of nonviolent social change.”

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Following the success of his boycott, King contemplated traveling to India to deepen his understanding of Gandhian principles. The fact is that Gandhi saw people of all races, castes, colours and creeds as equal which led to his assassination by a Hindu fanatic in 1948. So who is this unknown Josiah Rougier? Is he as illustrious as the great Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King? And is he disagreeing with his possible heroes?

A friend to all.
Jai Sears
Grenada, Caribbean