Inspirational Thoughts 11/3/2012: Mental flexibility

I grew up in India born in a Hindu household. I went to a Christian missionary school. Every morning we said the Lord’s prayer during the assembly. We had a chapel in the school and had no reservations going to there to pray. I grew up with Hindus, Muslims, and Christians. Even though I was native to India, I was essentially a first generation immigrant in the state I was born and brought up in (Orissa). My parents are South Indians. They spoke a language not native to Orissa. Each state in India is truly a country of its own with its own unique cuisine, language, clothing, and religious culture. Not only my parents had to learn a new language and culture, my sister and I had to learn to assimilate into the culture as children and also learn our own birth culture. As difficult as it may sound, we grew up learning 5 different languages- the 2 languages we spoke at home (Tamil, Kannada), language spoken in Orissa (Oriya), medium of instruction in school (English), and the national language (Hindi). In addition I was exposed to Telugu, and Bengali which I am able to understand but not quite a fluent speaker. I learned to eat a variety of cuisine being exposed to a multicultural environment. I was so immersed in the variety that I did not cognitively notice the differences unless I was looking for a reason to see the difference.

I experienced migration pains again as a young adult at 22 when I moved to the States. This time however I was exposed to international multicultural situation. However I was more culturally wonder struck than shocked. It seemed like in this vastly enriched multicultural melting pot there is a vast sense of identity insecurity. For example the debate of saying pledge in school because of the word God in it. I always look at my situation and wonder if saying the Lord’s prayer as a Hindu affected me or strengthened my core. I think the later. The politically safe approach to allow for the Ebonics dialect to be used in the academic setting. While dialects are beautiful and has its place in communication, I do not understand why one should not be required to learn both standard English and all dialects. I look at my situation, my Tamil is a dialect very different from the standard Tamil. Had I grown up in Tamil Nadu, society would have insisted on learning both ways of communication. There would be no ifs, ands, or buts about it. In fact I do try my best to switch to standard Tamil when I speak to a native speaker. I look at my son struggling to learn Spanish in High School and regret he was not exposed to it in Kindergarten through immersion in spoken language. After all I learned multiple codes by the time I was in grade 1. I was exposed to a variety of cuisines as a young child, and am reaping the benefit in my willingness to try new dishes as an adult. Where as I see more youngsters in this country with so many opportunities to try new cultures seem so close minded and intimidated by novel cultures.

I think there is a great advantage to being open and flexible, while keeping your cultural identity. I think acceptance of variances from the root culture strengthens your identity further with enriching experiences. It promotes positive vision all around. It promotes unity in diversity.


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