Friday, November 14, 2008
Bicultural Children- India and California
Video: Courtesy of San Jose Mercury News
Earlier this month, San Jose Mercury News had an article exclusively based on the kids who had returned from the Bay Area to Bangalore, India. Reading the article, gave me a better insight into the lives of children who are now, more than ever, exposed to and are living in two different cultures.
Global careers and economic opportunities lure several NRI folks back to India to settle down and as a result the children are also forced to tug along to a place that seems as foreign as it was to their parents when they first arrived in this country as graduate school students. The number of Indians going back, especially from Bay Area, given its Indian population is still on the rise with every passing year. As a result of this, several young Silicon valley children are trying to adjust themselves to the school environment, community and plain simple, just living in India.
Statistics show that per the National Association of Software Service Companies, atleast 22,000 NRI's have returned to India and more than half of it is from Bay area. Companies like Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Oracle are some of the major corporations that the parents are employed in and when they go back to posh, expat style, gated-community living in Bangalore where their neighbours are colleagues and friends from US, life is much more secure. Little do they realize, that just outside the walls of those posh residences, there exists profound poverty, which is the first glimpse of reality that their US returned children get to see.
While, attending International Schools may not be that much of a shift in cultures, nevertheless, the differences are still striking. The article has excerpts from what a few of the kids who were unhappy with their Indian classroom experiences said-
1. Students at school must stand up any time an adult enters the classroom
2. Students are required to address instructors as "Sir" or "Miss" and of course wear uniforms, somtimes with ties.
3. More than that, they have to wear a name tag/badge. One of the girls asks,"How many California schools make you wear a dog tag?"
4. Have to endure teasing from Indian classmates about their American accent.
5. Girls are not allowed to wear make up to school or even let their hair down, which is very much an active ingredient of teen school life in US
6. Last, but the most important difference is that the kids find that their teachers don't encourage creativity in the schools. Neither do the teachers encourage asking questions (in fact, many times the teacher tells you to shut up and listen to her talking), sometimes the teacher's response is "You don't need to know that." In the US, school and education is more about helping you grow as an individual and being creative and applying your learnings to real life examples.
A few other students who had adapted more easily to their new surroundings and environment had the following to say-
1. Coming to India breaks your mental block of America being everything in the world to you.
2. There is a lot more to the Indian community and you experience something very different and enriching.
3. Mingling with other religious students and learning about India's ways makes us more flexible with adjusting our ways and hence we have no fear of the unknown.
4. While there are no high school proms and dating activities, we do lot of things within our community as a group of friends.
5. Life here is much more slower and relaxing than being in US.
6. We have different people to cater to our needs, like a driver to take us out, a maid to clean and a cook for our meals and of course access to cousins and grandparents is always there.
While the census is that some kids are more adaptable than others, it is still a safe haven of living in a posh neighbourhood inside a world that is cut off from the poverty and other aspects of day to day Indian living, though a drive in the car and while waiting at the signal, you'll never miss begging children rapping on your air conditioned glass windows.
But, some of these kids still keep in touch with their Bay area friends, especially the ones who miss their silicon valley lives the most. They are up at night chatting with their friends who live here and look forward to the summer when they can be back in the Bay Area to attend summer school and do other activities that aren't there in India. And of course, like most other expat kids, they will be back in the US for their undergraduate education.
While, both returning parents and children come to terms with living in a global culture, sometimes, it just feels down right confusing for the kids, while the parents keep telling them that your old silicon valley life has not gone away, you've just grown an extra one and will go back to your old one once you are in college.
Link to the original article: http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_10898080?IADID=Search-www.mercurynews.com-www.mercurynews.com
Happy Children's Day and Thank God its Friday!