Friday, September 07, 2007

An Article "Indian Culture: Not for Sale"

I read this article - Indian Culture: Not for Sale by SUCHI RUDRA VASQUEZ, Jun 13, 2007 - a couple of months back and have been thinking about it since then. There are a lot of things in the article that make me go "oh yes", "that's right", "I agree" at many instances because I have also experienced what it's like to be away from homeland. To feel the loneliness and miss all that is *Indian*.

But I do have to say that there are quite a few points that I disagree with the author. First and foremost, she does not realize the importance of knowing a language regardless of how many people in the world speak it. I would be wrong if I find a fault with her. But I think the responsibility here is on the parents who raise their children without teaching them their mother-tongue/father-tongue. Within last few decades, there have been so many inter-cultural marriages that the individuals involved in these don't realize what they are missing out. Of course there's gain and loss of any such relationship but I have noticed that when an Indian gets married into a non-Indian family, and they choose to let go of their cultural values, they are the ones at loss.

The author asks: "If I asked these questions in Bangla now, would the answers given to me be any different?" Well, the answer is "Of course! yes they would be different." People feel much more comfortable talking to you when they know you speak the same language that they do. Many people don't realize that knowing another language or having your mother-tongue different than English can make a person more knowledgeable at the same time give a child an ability to learn another language in the future.

"How could I possibly ever learn Bangla beyond these few questions? If I spoke only in questions, would they think I knew Bangla?"

"I had already escaped once from where I was born, a place where my parents were not even born but had also escaped to, and still I wasn’t where they began."

How can a person possibly consider it an "escape" to go away from homeland? That's what I didn't understand. I just feel sorry for the people who think so and their children, if at all they have any. Just so sad their parents never realized the value of passing on their valuable culture and language to their children. Then they complain when others point this out. It's quite sad actually to see people not caring for where they come from and to see them trying to become that they aren't.

She asks: "What was I doing here, struggling to learn the local Czech language, which was only useful if I stayed here? It was not like learning English or Spanish or even German, which could come in handy in many places."

After reading that phrase, I realized it is the thinking of people that makes them who they are and when their parents/teachers have failed to teach them about how important it is to know your mother-tongue, there is little an outsider can do. She harps about how she spent an ENTIRE year in Mumbai trying to adjust to the new life and the struggles she had to go through.

Some quotes of the author:

"And so, if I tried to commit to these Bangla "lessons," how would this also be useful to me?"

"But we are always doing something which is useful, practical somehow, isn’t it? Some work that will make us some money, some purchases that will be needed in the future, some planning that will keep us ahead in life. Trying to learn Bangla did not fit into these categories."

"I did not know until later that Haveli refers to a private royal residence..."

I think such thinking makes the author mighty ignorant about where her parents' come from and their mother-tongue. Here I think the author fails to realize that may be her thinking like this was the reason Rehman, the restaurant employee, thought "What does she know about Indian culture? Come on, she doesn’t know anything, yaar."

I just wish people realized how they would raise their children before getting into inter-cultural marriages. Sometimes it's not even this, I have noticed many parents living away from their country, never care to teach their kids their language thinking it's useless to teach the kid or it would be difficult for the child to learn English, if they learned another language before English. This all just does not make any sense to me. I only have one thing to say to such people you are losing your culture, your values, and your children by doing so.


Bhavesh said...

Spot on Kanan. I believe primary education of a child must be done in mother-tongue. if not possible then atleast he/she should be taught mother-tongue just as english... needs extra effort but ah there is no gain without pain.

Kanan said...

Spoken like a wise man, Bhavesh. I wish more people realized this.