Monday, January 22, 2007

The Desi-fication Of J

Unless you live in southern Hicksville like I do, and the Bharatnatyam teacher with two left feet is the only game in town, enabling the desi-fication of Indian children born in this country is much more than a cottage industry.

The offerings in the burbs of Boston for instance are mind-boggling. My good friend and our former "Activity Director" is using that as bait to lure me into relocating to Lexington, MA. Apparently, the public school system is head and shoulders above what I have going on in my town. I figure she is tired of me bellyaching about a) J's hidebound elementary school b) J's near complete cluelessness about all things desi for want of socialization opportunities.

The Hicksville sensibility seems to be a contagious thing because the desis in my town stereotype me in ways that are not very different from the locals who have lived in the same county for three generations and never crossed the state line. I recall having met desis of a very different stripe when I used to live in bigger more vibrant cities. The only people I can safely socialize with are the ones who are passing through town on temporary assignments and can't wait to head out of here the moment they are done.

While I believe J will benefit from assimilating Indian culture and getting to know people of her own ethnicity, I think I will stop short at the sampling platter. The results of a la carte desi-fication are less than desirable from what I have seen. These kids seem to hang out almost exclusively with other desi kids whose parents have likewise pursued desi-fication with a messianic zeal.

As adults, they serve on the committees of desi organizations, wear desithreads, party with others like them, post pictures of themselves in various degrees of undress and inebriation on their Friendster profiles and speak English with a strange gangsta slant. The quaintest phenomenon has to be the desi "professional networking associations" where they go to find future spouses - I can't think of a better transliteration of the arranged marriage into a western context.

You wonder if they may not have been better served if the parents had not taken desi-fication to such extremes. The kids may have had a fighting chance to blossom and grow outside their all-desi topiary framework. The road to hell is paved with good intentions including but not limited to teaching the kids to read and write the native language when they can barely speak it, Odissi, hot yoga and Vedic chanting classes, Saturday afternoon visits to the local Hindu temple, elaborate Diwali celebrations, innumerable trips to India, Sat Sanghs, annual Sammelans where desis of their particular state in India from around the country congregate for a week of cultural immersion. Surely, all of that was for the edification of the children. It must be a case of too much of a good thing.

While I have no use for full service desi-fication, I could definitely use some self-serve.

Part 2 : Vasudeva Kumtumbakam

5 comments:

Ashu M said...

I find it hard to disagree with your views about this forced-down-the-gullets desi-fication of kids in desi families here.
Nicely written :)

Suja said...

Interesting blog. Well, at GaramChai.com, we do our bit to enabling the desi-fication. :-)

Net Admin said...

Most people in America do try to hold on to their roots. Totally disregarding your country of origin - or ancestral origin can lead to other peer problems, and have devastating effects. I agree we need to find a balance - and not over do things. I know many nice desi kids here - who are well balanced and proud of their past and present. I think that is what most people are trying to achieve.

SFGary said...

Looking at that list, I would have to classify myself as the Minimalist Desi...

Heartcrossings said...

Ashu - Thanks ! Forced down the gullet is right. And it hurts in more ways than one :)

Suja - Thanks for the link at Garamchai and for being enablers of desification. We all need it but in moderation.

Net Admin - I think desis try a little too hard to hold on to their roots and go overboard on their desification drive. Some are able to strike the right balance and their kids come out winners.

SFG - Less is more when it comes to desification :) Tell me how you got there - it will help me with raising J.