The first-generation NRI parents face many delicate choices as their children grow up. For instance, one of the fundamental questions they confront is: Whether to let kids continue on nibbling the American candy or bring them home and encourage tasting Indian Kheer. In either case, it’s a tough decision to make.
Deep in their hearts, the first-generation parents want Indianness to bloom and show in their second- generation kids – Whether it be showing respect to elders, food, education, and exposure to art forms of India and, of course, performing the traditions for Indian festivals or, at least, taking part in those activities.
Some NRI parents may argue that India is now very westernized and there is no difference between the upbringing worlds of the two. India may have adopted some parts of western culture, but it’s still enveloped in a closed segment of Indianness and the westernness is less contagious, unlike living in the west itself. There is barely any conversation about divorces or separations in schools, while it’s predominant in the west. In vest, once kids reach teenage, there is “peer pressure” to have night parties/boyfriends/girlfriends. And when the kids grow up, no matter, how the parent is openly thinking and letting them enjoy their life and teaching the values, they search for the Indian bride/groom only as their life partner. The heart would go for it; it would be hard to convince their own selves to accept someone in their family that is probably not “us”. The kids would adapt to the medium they are in, the culture, friends and atmosphere.
While Indian culture teaches “love and respect”, the western culture teaches “independence”. All the way, the thought process has been top-down (parent to child), but if it is bottom-up, it would be a 360 degree shift. There is some fact to it, but majority of the settlers have other reasons to choose: pollution, unavoidable relatives, scorching heat, cleanliness and above all, work culture.
Kids need love in abundance and it becomes the primary and sole ingredient for their academic, social and emotional upbringing. The second-generation NRI kids would have only a few instances to completely indulge in the love of family/friends. Oh yeah, the people in a country like the US are very friendly, greet each other good morning even if they don’t know each other, but even a six-year-old can figure out that they don’t mean it, but just say it.
When it comes to education, some NRI parents try to use quick fixes: sending them to afterschool Math classes, mother tongue speaking programs or raise the children in India until they reach teenage. The intention of the parents is commendable. No matter what they try to do, it’s only to see the child successful in all respects and yet preserve their sanity.
The NRI parents, all the time, teach “Indian formula”, while the child conveniently conceives “American concept”. According to immigrant studies, the first-generation immigrant is more successful than the future generations. There is a steep decline from first to the third generation in terms of education, socio economic growth and health.
At the end of the day, the NRIs do possess much more: A big single family house, one or two sports cars, constant and planned lifestyle in terms of finances, vacations and possibly kids’ education/settlement. On the contrary, in India, while those may be achieved, there are other slew of things that come automatically when living in India, that are not counted upon as charms in life: family love and sense of belongingness that cannot be bought by any amount of money. Giving kids a life filled with gadgets or filled with relationships is a choice that the NRI society can make for future generations, which boils down to one question: “Which taste is more enticing, American candy or Indian kheer?”
This article was also published in Time Of India on Dec 1, 2014, 04.54PM IST, you can visit the site by Clicking Here .