August 12, 2011

Salt-shaking isn't a tradition

A few years ago, someone got into an argument with me. He lived outside India, and something about my being here while he was there (wherever) annoyed him. "All right," he said suddenly. "What the hell are you doing for India in India?"

Naturally, given an opening like that, I rattled off a whole series of activities: navel-gazing, table-mat-picking-up, salt-shaking, rum-bottle-emptying ... somehow, inexplicably, each one only seemed to get him more annoyed.

So to put him out of his misery, if that's what it was, I eventually asked him: "All right, and what are you doing for India outside India?"

He drew himself up, puffed out his chest, and said: "Do you know, I teach Indian children who live nearby about our culture and traditions?"

He waited for applause. Instead, I said "And?"

Got him still more annoyed. Haven't heard from him since.

But in the years since, I've sometimes wondered: why is teaching Indian culture and traditions to Indian kids abroad considered a virtue (this guy saw it that way, for sure)? Why do it?

Can anyone take a serious stab at an answer? This is a serious question.


Postscript: And if that's a serious question, there is also this cartoon.


Baby V said...

I can understand if an émigré feels a need to stick to his/her purported values and traditions. He/she feels put upon in a foreign country as a minority and feels the need to assert it.

In that sense, he/she feels a need to indoctrinate his children with the values he thinks they should identify with. I can understand that.

I don't think that constitutes "doing" anything constructive for India or mother country.

Though, if you are a nationalist and like many nationalists, identify certain traits with "X"ian-ness, I can see how indoctrinating children with X-ian "values" and feeling of "X"ian-ness would contributing to make a future world where X-ians have a dominant position.

A good example of this would be English in British India or 'Anglo-Indians' as they liked to call themselves (by which I mean 'Anglo-Indias' as Orwell called them, I don't mean "our" Anglo-Indians i.e I am not referring to people who identify as Anglo-Indians in independent India). They tried hard to be "English" and indoctrinated their kids in to being as "English" or as Kipling[?], or was it Orwell[?], says "more English than English in England"

I think it's quite typical of immigrant communities, in general, isn't it?

And I understand it. I am not sure I agree with their world view and I don't want to live in a world where Indians are any more dominant than any other peoples, but it's not irrational - it has a rationale as well as a cultural and sociological backdrop which is understandable if in some variety - ominous.

Baby V said...

Request: Sometimes when I read your posts, I like it but don't want to comment. There is no option on blogspot for "expressing support" and showing the blogger that you like the piece of writing. Commenting is too garrulous for just that. Is there someway you can link your blogspot to facebook.

Another reason is that I would like my other friends to read your posts but then I feel silly to send them links all the time. Facebook has them as updates.

It's working quite well for shit sneakers and silly celebrities. It's time we exploit it for positive propaganda too.

Sorry if you think this is unwarranted unsolicited advice. I am being selfish here.

Radhika Misra said...

Is it Indian culture or a particular state's culture or religious traditions?

I have found its more to do with their own state / community / religion.

Maybe because there is nothing like some uniform, homogenous Indian culture. or is there?

Anonymous said...

Roots. Why do you take the time out to read to your children? What dictates your choice of material? Your friend read to the community children. Virtue? No. Good for India? Perhaps, in a general sense of awareness. Better than navel gazers and glandular gormands.

gaddeswarup said...

According to the post
Devesh Kapur said
"[T]he positive selection of Indian migrants through education has strengthened India’s democracy by creating a political space for previously excluded social groups. Because older Indian elites have an exit option, they are less likely to resist the loss of political power at home."
There is some thing in it I think, but in general it may depend on the person rather than the particular group he belongs to.

Anonymous said...

I'd just put it down to hyporcrisy. Just like the cartoon you linked shows.

Also, a certain sense of guilt, I suppose.

Oh well...

PS: Nice blog. :)

Anonymous said...

Just saw the cartoon. Why so much negativity about "NRI"s? They are looking for a better personal situation, like everyone else. Perhaps they emerged from middle-class families and abroad gave them a chance. Why disown them with animus? Why scoff at their efforts to remember what is/was good in the land they left, no doubt with mixed feelings? Are the native-born Indians living in India "holier than thou" in some way? Are the ones who return to India with available financial cushions even holier? The cartoon was funny though :)

gaddeswarup said...

To the last Anon. above:
I do not find much difference. Whenever I visited India I have been lectured about Indian culture, values, materialism of the west etc, how great a languge Sanskrit is and I see various young people still trying to find equivalent Sanskrit words for commonly used English words in Indian languages. People with names like 'samavedam shanmuka sharma" lecture both in India and abroad.

Chandru K said...

It's okay, as long as the values don't seriously clash with the values of the adopted land, or are against the law. People become rootless and lost without some grounding in their heritage. It doesn't mean living in ghettos like the Chinese or some other groups. But keeping up a few of the traditions and values is acceptable and understandable. By the way, Indians are not the only ones doing it. Italians, Portuguese, Greeks, Latinos, Caribbeans and Chinese do it as much and probably more. Indians with their Anglophonic background may actually be less strident. And they rarely segregate into ghettos or neighbourhoods.

Anonymous said...

Indians "rarely segregate into ghettos or neighbourhoods"??

are you feeling okay??

have you seen the indian ghettos in chicago? jersey? london? houston? nyc? durban? your own toronto?

indians dont live in ghettos? you must be living in some dream world.

Chandru K said...

Also, my own experience has been the absence of ghettos or minority dominated areas. We always lived in White, mostly Anglo-Saxon areas. And the people of Indian origin we knew and visited, lived in similar environments.

Anonymous said...

The reasons for ghettos and neighborhoods are the same regardless of specific culture. Indians do it too where the reasons are applicable. Of course Chandru K's family experience is that of the more skilled, richer and socially able sectors perhaps where ghettos are optional.

Nikhil said...

Seems my earlier comment was not allowed. But read this comment by vv. Very apt in this case - so much bitterness:

Cheers and Good day and good luck

Dilip D'Souza said...

Seems my earlier comment was not allowed.

There was no earlier comment received from you on this post.

Nikhil said...

There was no earlier comment received from you on this post.

Okay here it is again, from my memory.

Your visit to sandeepweb proves you are a complete anti-Hindu anti-Indian anti-national freak. How do you live with yourself, and so much bitterness? Different strokes for different folks, I am guessing.

Nikhil said...

No answer dear Dilip? Anti-Hindu bile got stuck in your throat, you sorry excuse for a writer? Your AID pals not supporting you? What is your reasons?

Anonymous said...

Yes .. Nikhil can show you how to live with that bitterness! Oh the bile! The angst! The umbrage! The animus! The innuendo! You should open a school and teach full time Nikhil. You are a real survivor of this ailment.

wisdomjobs said...

Let us all hope for piece to be spread in India