A post on Neeraj’s blog opens up an interesting debate on Identity – the issue of growing up in one country, migrating to another and rasing a child in a new culture…

But what about my son? He’s not American. Unless I invest a lot of time explaining the very rich cultural intricacies of his country of birth, he’ll be in no-man’s land for the rest of his life. The missus pointed out that he doesn’t even look American. If he stays in America, his ABCD (American Born Confused Desi i.e. Indian) counterparts will probably be black belts in Bharatnatyam, Carnatic/Hindustani music and would know the operational details of organizing satsangs. I can’t teach him these things because I don’t know them. If we all go back to India, it’s going to be spectacularly unfair on him. India’s cultural heritage isn’t something to be scoffed at and it isn’t something you can just pick up as you “go along”. There is no “hit the ground running”. It’s a slow burn, melding into the fabric of the country one day at a time.

As it turns out, the author has decided to adopt the braver choice…

If he does grow up in America, I need to steel myself for the moments when the influence of his adopted country and his peer group will clash with what I’ve been taught to dislike or disapprove. It won’t just be a generation gap I’ll battle, it will also be a cultural gap.

But I’d rather be the parent who accords his child the right to take a stand and then engage in debate, rather than obfuscate his sense of identity with a hybrid, meaningless amalgam of cultures and then be responsible for his disillusionment.

As I read through the post, it occured to me that on a more generic level, the issue he has written about is similar to many more that parents face – even those that haven’t migrated to a foreign land. And, that is : “Should you allow your children to live Life on their own terms or not?”

It is great that, as a parent, Neeraj is aware of the complexities involved and is willing to take the path less trodden, even if he doesn’t have all the answers yet. Like him, me and the mrs. have also chosen to tread that path. That is why we encourage both our children to ask questions and think for themselves. That is why we don’t dumb down our answers when we speak to our children. That is why they are both turning out to be precocious little humans.

Yes, it takes more energy to field their questions, rather than taking the easy way out. Yes, they are turning out to be more assertive and strong-willed than their peers. Yes, there is a good chance that their ways will diverge from our’s when the time comes, and we may not be able to do much about that. But, if it helps them cope with what Life has to offer on their own terms… if it makes them better individuals… it would all be worth it.

May the force be with us all.

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