Posts Tagged ‘joy’

Indian Independence Day – Celebrating 66 years of Independence

August 16, 2012

Each year around the 15th of August, it seems like I should be home – a small town in Bengal, in India. But for more than 10 years now, I call Birmingham my home. Why do I miss my native home around August 15? Well, because coming from a town that was extremely passionate about politics, a family that was very patriotic; India’s Independence Day was celebrated each with even more enthusiasm than some of our biggest festivals.

For us Bengalis, there is nothing bigger than Durga Puja. But in our home, it was 15th August that was the main holiday, the main festival, the main reason for celebration. This might sound even stranger because Bengalis have often been described as the “last British in India.” Most of us loved the English Raj times and the ways & culture of that period; but not my family. My grandparents were part of India’s freedom movement, and struggled with countless others as they held rallies and protested the tyranny of being ruled. Yes, it’s ironic now that I live in the very nation that ruled us, and even here, celebrate Independence Day with as much gusto.

It seems fitting that my generation of my family is now well settled in England, having made a great career & life for myself here. Come to think of it, this may never have happened, if we had not asserted ourselves and gained independence in the first place! So now, to be here on 15th August each year is all that more special. Not in a ‘in your face’ offensive kind of way, but just in terms of a karmic cycle.

But the memories of my childhood, and the way we celebrated Independence Day in India are something else. Sure one tries to recreate it here in England, but it can never quite be the same thing. My grandparents and parents are not here. And most importantly, that collective feeling of patriotism is missing, because the people are missing. I have, however, done my best this time to make my presence felt back home in India. I have transferred some money to my niece who is having a beautiful flag pole erected in our front lawn and buying a beautiful Indian flag. To me, nothing else will give my family, and me, greater joy.

So as India begins celebrating her 66th year of Independence, the Bondopadhyay family join in the celebrations, from Bengal, to Birmingham!

Do your children know the Real India?

November 11, 2011

There are many cliches associated with second and third generation NRIs. That they are too westernised, that they are out of touch with their Indian cultural ethos, that they are a confused amalgam of Indian and foreign, hence not quite sure of where they really belong. As a first generation NRI, and tough as it may be for me to admit; a lot of these aspersions, are true. Let me explain.

When we moved to the US from India, our children were young, very young. Sarah was two and Sumit was just born. As time went on, in a bid to fit in, and assimilate in society here in the US, we went out of our way, not to seem or behave too ‘Indian’. And in this desperate bid to be accepted abroad, all that was innately Indian about us, just fell by the wayside. My husband and I adopted a completely westernised lifestyle. And while that in itself was not such a bad thing, what we gave up as a result, was any shred of Indian culture.

We did not speak of India or our family back home. We did not actively celebrate any of our festivals, or occasions that we as first generation NRIs had grown up on, back home in India. To put it bluntly, we had divorced any and every notion of Indian-ness, so as not to seem alien; not realising that it was our own insecurities, not so much the peoples’ around us, that made us be this way.

The immediate fall out of this? The kids, who were brought up on a strict ‘foreign’ diet of values, culture, and lifestyles; making them inwardly and unconsciously, despise everything Indian! Today, when Rajat and I see Sarah and Sumit go about life as grown adults, completely disconnected from their Indian roots, harboring this unsaid but very obvious cultural vacuum; we realise our grave mistakes. And from our personal experience, we now wish to at least caution others like us, to not fall into the same superficial traps.

As a mother, it is very painful for me to see this, much more so, to admit it and talk about it. But we feel that we owe it to the many more Indian families that move abroad, that it is vital to bring up your children with a strong sense of their Indian heritage. To make them proud of who they really are, not shun it. Trips back to India to spend time with family, friends, and experience the country. If you can afford it, sending the kids to boarding school in India even, and at home, wherever abroad that may be, to proudly celebrate India, and Indian culture. These are things that are a must, to instill, and maintain a strong identity, so that your children don’t loose their way in the global village.

Ask yourself, do your children know the real India, and the answer will make you, take the right steps.

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