Sunday, May 6, 2012

Identity and Home

Are "Identity " and "Home" two totally different things or are they two sides of the same coin.

I recently watched a short film called Third Culture Kid Identity, posted by a friend on Facebook. Made by a college student as part of her school project, it contains interviews with several kids raised in multiple countries by parents who themselves come from different cultural/ national backgrounds and the dillemma thses kids face regarding their "home" - for example a daughter of Korean mother and American father raised in Hongkong talks about not being able to call any one of these countries as her home.

A few years ago a film like this would have greatly disturbed me. Inspite of having had a more or less comfortable home and life here in the US for nearly two decades, I still struggle to come to terms with (or accept) the issues and questions that arise out of migration to a foreign land- especially how it will affect the future generation.

In my early years here, I used to read a lot about children of Indian parents, raised in America, ending up growing conflicted about their identity - unsure whether they are Indian or American- the two cultures being as diametrically opposite as the countries are geographically apart. Like my son, these are , for the most part, Second Culture Kids not Third Culture- both their parents came here from India and the children were raised in the US. ABCD (American Born Confused Desi) was the acronym used by the Indian-American media to describe such kids (desi being a generic Hindi term used to refer to Indians).

Desperate and determined to save my son from the fate of becoming an ABCD, I started taking him on regular visits to India, from the time he was very small.

As anyone who has raised children must have experienced this - a seed that you sow in the mind of a small child, hoping it will survive and stay with him as he grows older, sometimes to your utter surprise and astonishment, takes root and a life of its own so fast that you are left feeling something close to ...be careful what you wish for!

A simple act of taking my son back home on frequent visits, has resulted in him developing such a strong Indian identity, that now I am the one who has to sometimes remind him to acknowledge his American side- and not forget the fact that he is born in New York and is growing up here. I must say his school, which nurtures national/cultural diversity of its students, has also helped him nurture his Indianness. He roots for Indian cricket team with more gusto than I do and gets very excited when Indian tennis players move to the next round in any minor/major tournment.

However, I now realize that "identity" and "home" are two different things. As much as my son is sure that he is Indian, I am not sure he is ready to call India "home"...yet. Or if he ever will be able to call India home, if he ends up living most of his life outside that country. I had a conversation with him the other day, after I watched the film. I said to him, "Tell me, if you go to college... in another town and people ask you, where you are from, what would your answer be." He didn't seem to have any doubt when he said," Of course I will say, I am from NewYork." Then I said, "What if I move back to India, once you are off to college. Would you still consider New York your home?" "Well", he said, "in that case, I will have to say that I was born in New York, but..."

So there you go...So much for my effort to save him from any "confusion".





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