Asha Naidu ashanaidu at HOTMAIL.COM
Sat Dec 19 18:53:28 UTC 1998

This is a book about Indian first generation emigrants and their
children growing in an alien culture.

Thank you for the reference, I will try to follow it up.

The kids refuse to visit Hindu temples once they are 10 or more.

Please clarify - is this a description of the kids in the book you are
referring to?

As a trained refuge worker in the UK, now living in the US (with
training in social work among others) my observations are as follows:

1. The religious leanings of first generation Indian emigrant children
may be influenced by the time when their parents emigrated. I use time
in the sense of the 1950's, 1960's 1970's etc.. Indians migrating to the
west (US, UK and other European nations) during the 50's, 60's and 70's
were relatively (as compared to the recent increase in migration of
computer experts to the US)fewer in numbers. The children of these
Indian immigrants often attended schools that had a majority of white
children and few formal or informal support structures that disseminated
information/guidance regarding their religion and culture. In those
decades (50's, 60's &70's) - there were far fewer Indian Temples,
mosques and even grocery stores than there are today. Parents tended to
be busy struggling to settle down in a new country and culture. As these
emigrants adapted in their individual ways to their new countries they
struggled to transmit their culture to the younger generation. These
early emigrants slowly arranged to build the temples, mosques and
cultural associations that now exist in European countries as well as
the US. The children of early immigrants, may have faced racism in
schools where their religion and countries of origin. They may have been
less valued and respected than during the eighties and 1990's when
awareness of these issues is much higher everywhere.

These children (now adult) again sought their identities in their varied
and individual ways. Some as depicted in the book by Sunaina Maira and
Rajini Srikanth, may have refused to visit temples. Others as per my
observation (including my 15 year old son and his Indian friends) visit
the Livermore Temple and other US Temples. The now adult 'children' of
Indians who migrated west also make use of Indian cultural organisations
in their adopted country to find life partners. Some children moved
temporarily to India, studied in India during their teens and married
young men and women from India and moved back to their respective
countries (US or European). Some children including 2 in my immediate
social circle grew up and are working for shelters in the US out of

2. More recent Indian emigrants in the US and some of the European
countries have benefited culturally in the sense - that they and their
children have been able to gain immediate access to temples and Bal
Vihars - since earlier immigrants had established them. For example, in
California where I live most relatively recent(4-5 years)immigrants go
to temples with children over 10 (who also go to Bal Vihars) and learn
about the Hindu religion and culture. There are some children who may
turn away from their religion either temporarily or permanently. Of
those who turn away permanently - some do so out of disbelief in all
religion - and may or may not change their opinions later. This is a
part of a painful process of identity formation  - which also happens to
Indian children in India.

               I have heard a description:
               a) ABCDs - American born Confused Deshis
               b) Oreo cookies - brown outside, white inside
               (derived from the Chinese term -
               bananas - yellow outside only, but white inside)

Yes, I too have heard the description you write of above. I have also
heard nasty descriptions of Indians living in India - from Indians
living in the US. I dismiss both these kinds of descriptions (whether of
Indians or their children in the US or of Indians in India) as
simplistic generalisations and crude stereotyping that ignore the
variety of individual experiences that shape the equally valuable
cultural and religious identities of both groups. I also believe that
Indians living in India and people of Indian origin living out of India
are people who cannot be pigeonholed as their problems and achievements
are complex and often individual.

"The Needs of Children" by Mia Kellmer Pringle reprinted in 1993 by
Routledge has been published in the UK, USA & Canada & describes in a a
brief way some of the difficulties faced by ethnic minority children
in a majority culture that is difficult from theirs.

The point I have perhaps laboured overlong to make is - that the book
you have refered to (by Sunaina Maira & Rajini Srikanth  - may represent
a valid description of the religious identity (or lack of it) of some
Indian children abroad. It cannot however claim to represent the
religious identity of all children of Indian origin living abroad. Nor
can it be related in any way to uninteresting stereotypes like

"I have heard a description:
               a) ABCDs - American born Confused Deshis
               b) Oreo cookies - brown outside, white inside
               (derived from the Chinese term -
               bananas - yellow outside only, but white inside)"

Unless ofcourse you are quoting from the book - in which case I still
stand my position.

With warm regards

Asha Naidu

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