Thursday, 21 February 2013

Sustaining a multicultural heritage

An interesting article in the New Indian Express highlights the plight of Indian women of 2nd or 3rd generation based in the US and their struggle to balance their inherited Indian culture (from their parents) and their adopted one abroad.  The articles reports on a talk given by a Professor Salli Vargis of History at Georgia Perimeter College.  It really applies to all Indian women abroad.  It is a fact that the 2nd or 3rd generation are usually much more integrated than their 1st generation parents.  The article highlights how pressure to retain values from the mother culture often leads to conflict at home.

It is important on the one hand for the parents to accept that their offspring will inevitably integrate with the adopted culture to a far greater extent than them.  Resisting this is futile and only leads to exacerbated conflicts and further rejection of their home culture, a futile pursuit that is contrary to their original aspiration: that their children retain and embrace their inheritance.

On the other, 2nd and 3rd generation Indians need to be aware of the incredible gift they have inherited.  Having a dual-culture is the most precious aspect to their life, for it is a formidable arm for adaptation.  I speak from experience as I myself have a multi-cultural background, having been blessed with both Indian and European roots.

How can these women (and men) nurture their this gift, yet remain true to who they are?  There are now a growing number of online services that allow Indians abroad to stay in touch with their roots.  I would like to highlight a project on which I am involved, an online performing arts service that provide professional courses on Indian classic dance as well as singing and music instrument.  Ambalam, is a company based in Chennai that has a long experience in teaching performing arts in the heart of Kalakshetra Colony, where the famous Kalakshetra art centre is located.  Their web-site, eAmabalam, provides a wide range of courses which anyone with an internet connection and a computer can sign up for a course.  The courses are very detailed with extensive notes and video footage.  Weekly Skype sessions are on the program to 'Meet your teacher' through which the student can post videos of their own progression and get detailed feedback.

Amabalam also maintains a cultural portal, SaMaaGaMa, on varied aspects of performing arts in India, their roots and the intricately linked culture of the arts with society as a whole.