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Monday, December 24, 2007


When I was in high school, I had a heated debate with my Dad at the dinner table and it proved to be more than the regular table talk we used to have. I don't remember how it started but when I opined that attaining success -by any means - is the raison d'etre of my life, he expressed his views that values are as important as success is. And the whole concept of : 'the right path with the right motivation' competed with Mom's deliciously cooked dishes to fill in our mouths.

Years later, in retrospect I feel that he was right. It is not just enough to be happy. You should be happy for the right reason. I am not ashamed to say that I thought that being vindictive gives you a sense of power. And for that reason , I never forgave. In fact, so abashed I have made someone with my verbal assault that he alleged I have paid back more than he could have ever wronged me.

Now I think it is time to let go. Maybe it does feed your ego for a while, but a revengeful attitude starts gnawing into your mental peace soon. It has an infinite appetite; it's better not to indulge in the starters and let it starve to death. However, I also feel that you need to have that "Don't mess with me !" expression on you so that people don't take advantage of your vulnerability. If they can't locate it, they can't exploit it.. right?

Wrong. Your close ones would know your weaknesses and yet, never try to manipulate them to gain an edge over you. I am talking of the closest circle in Set A

So, is the key to let your hair loose and be yourself with your inner circle and wear a mask of professionalism/ armor of strength when you are out in the big bad world? Maybe.Maybe not. I have recently earned the name of a "tough nut" (Dada), "hard heart" (Ma) etc from the members of my family. The veracity of the statements have yet to be verified by Dad. But I guess that it is what he always wanted me to be. TOUGH.

I cry less. ( Doesn't count that I wept while watching "Happy Feet" yesterday. Now, how dumb is that ?) I mean I cry less when people don't do what I expect them to. Somehow, I have begin to respect the differences and that has given me a quiet inner peace. I know I am human and I have my flaws, my negative biases, even prejudices. But I am glad that I don't limit myself to them . I let the shackle break free when I am proved wrong.

For example, the derogatory term ABCD (American Born Confused Desi) is applied to the second generation kids of Indian origin, born as US citizen who have a different accent and taste for food/music/attire/anything you can think of. The general idea is that they are confused about their identity and are not aware of their own roots.But I have seen even first generation Indians turning either an assimilationist or an atavist to survive. It's natural - isn't it?

I am in Maryland with my maternal aunt for my Christmas and you can call my two cousin brothers (Age 13 & 14) ABCD if you want to. But I beg to differ. Last night, when I was doing the dishes, my aunt kept insisting that I shouldn't move a limb and stay put and enjoy my vacation. But I know how difficult it is to manage the domestic chores all by yourself. Ok, answer this question: #How much should men contribute in household work in a country like US where domestic help is not easy to get? ( I need statistics to prove a point, so please reply :D )

I stove her out of the kitchen for a while and did what I could to help. The younger cousin came over and teased: You are disrespecting your elder (by defying her). And I winked :Aren't you? (by questioning me? ) And we both laughed. I felt glad that they were not alien to the values I had inculcated myself while growing up. It has nothing to do with the geographical location, or the differences of breeding, or in being brought up in a different environment. The kids here are as respectful and probably more polite than they are back home. I think I will have a word to say when someone uses the term ABCD to mean NRI kids.

Quote of the Day:
Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.
-Lao Tzu


Bubbles of FireWhisky said...

i hate it when peopl do that... stereotype everyone into these stupid abbreviations... its derogatory... i particularly loved this post of yours... i used to think that holding grudges would get me through things... i've been in a place where rage tainted almost everything i did... and i think i let it consumed me... destroy a part of me... not many people get second chances, but i've been lucky... this life, right now, is something that i've had to build from scratch... and i'm very proud of it... letting go wasnt easy but it made all the difference...

Sam said...

Forgive and forget they say...
I say forgive, but never forget!!

I was once this hot-headed kid, who would bash up first and ask questions later!! Such was my anger that I used to destrot things instantaneously... never aware of my strength I've done things which ppl had put beyond me!! and den I grew up... somewer down the line i realised that anger can be controlled and it doesn't take u anywer... neaither does vindictiveness... nopes... want revenge?? hey relax... the suitable oppurtunity will rpesent itself at ur doorstep... it always has for me!! and dats how i learnt to be calm... and yet there r some who knw me really well, who'd do anything not to get me angry/vindictive!!

and stereotyping!! honestly.. can anyone tell me what's teh big deal abt it?? i mean, why do they do it?? i've suffered from this a lot... fatso, bong.. god!! and time and again i've stepped up the gas to prove them wrong... yet it comes back to haunt... i've studied in sikkim.. the moment i tell dat to someone (esp an engg grad.) they are like "hey, the grass there is awesome, r8?? as good as manali??" i'm like.. wot the.. do I look like a doper to you??? seriously!!
and teh ABCD case yo've mentioned is so off the mark.. got my cousins out there... there more well-mannered, civilised and aware of the family values than some brats I knw back home... confused desis they say!!!

Munmun said...

That is a great point! I couldn't have agreed more. In fact, I always have realized that the kids here have several qualities that are almost non-existent in kids back in India.
1. They grow up to be more self-responsible due to the social structure of self-reliance after 18. Most of them start working and earning something by the end of their teens.
2. They don't suffer from the "I am a rich parents' kid" syndrome: dignity of labor is utmost.
3. I also have seen them cherish the ability to respect independent and variegated career decisions.

I would always want my kids to grow up in US: despite the common desi notion that kids here lack parental attachment. I disagree, because kids in India often get entangled into pamper which I think is not a great idea for development of personality. Hunting and accruing one's own identity if very important.
(I am thinking of making this comment a blog post :P)

Aparna Kar said...

"Hunting and accruing one's own identity, being able to take one's own decisions and the realization of the necessity to be self-dependent is very important"
I loved the way you have captured the essence of education in this one sentence. Only myopic parents gloat as long as their wards fetch high grades. Real education, a preparation for life, is not confined to textual knowledge. At the end, it is always how you can deal with a person on an one-to-one basis. I am not ashamed to say that I grew up in a pretty protected environment during my school days back home. When I joined junior college, it was freedom bestowed upon me out of necessity and for the obvious reason that I was away from home- I had to make my own judgement, choose my friends/ food/ attire. Every little thing was my own decision. There was peer pressure but I soon cultivated my own taste.There is an innate like/dislike factor in everyone which forms your habits initially. A more mature personality also takes note of what is appropiate/inappropiate. For example, if you like to drink wine and you are offered in a family gathering, you might refuse , not to offend some conservative elders. N.B My father is an exception though, it's just a generic example of the typical Indian culture.

The other day, we were having a discussion with my uncles- why my younger maternal uncle still smokes in the stealth i.e in absence of my elder maternal uncle. I opined that in our culture, self indulgence is looked down upon as a crime. Can you believe that drinking tea was considered sinful in older days? ( watch : Chokhher Baali)

People in US value individual freedom more. And it works for them. It is not a wonder they choose to work when they are in their late teens.It gives them the freedom and dignity to spend their own money and in a way plays a crucial role in "preparing for a lifetime" I mentioned before.

Anyways, values or education- whatever you may call it, in any geographic region is not complete until it is holistic. A nobel prize winner with no basic courtesy is not educated acc. to me. I might sound strange but that is how I view it. How you or I choose to educate our kids after a few years is partially in our hands. They will be what they want to be- and I would rather have it that way. I hope they will make their own decisions- some right and a few wrong. But learning all the while. And teaching me a few things too. But that's remote future. Let's learn a few things from my peers first. Nice thoughts. thanks for sharing :)
( ditto comment on ur post :P)

Shantanu said...

Interesting post, Aparna. I am sure more than one reader will identify with the first part of your post. It's all part of growing up, I guess. :-)

You are really a 'tough nut' when you appear your normal warm, friendly self to everyone, and yet don't let yourself be vulnerable to slights or let people take advantage of you. And you do not get completely pessimistic when some people try to. There are always some who will (try), and yet there are so many who will not.

Re: ABCDs... I think this is used in a light-hearted manner mostly. And mostly to refer to a crisis of identity. As for their values -- values themselves are a-changing rapidly in modern India.

Wish you a Very Happy New Year!

arnab said...

nice post and nicer comments - was a good read.

in the end, parenting style is as equally important as societal influences. in a place like india, where the society still frowns on any deviations, you generally get results that are, well... average. but i think that the true test of character is in a more open society, where you will find more extremes, both good and bad. and as shantanu mentioned, it remains to be seen how india shapes up in the future.

i will do the honors of replying to your poll :-) if the man and the woman are spending roughly equal times at work, then they should also share the chores equally, irrespective of where they are living in - as simple as that!

SUMiT said...

read ur blog 4 the first time.awesome really feels proud to have someone whose values defies the notion(ABCD-kind) that ppl think abt NRIs.