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Introducing Good Indian Mom

IMG_0547Good Indian Girl is launching a new series called Good Indian Mom discussing how we can tactfully pass on Indian culture to our third generation kids. Check out our first post by guest blogger Indu Partha. If you have any specific issues/question please email us info@goodindiangirl.com. We’d love to hear from you!

by Indu Partha, @InduPartha

I was the sole brown face in a sea of white while growing up in Orange County. Nobody really knew where India was, and their questions about Hinduism all revolved around, “So, you worship cows?” or “Why do you wear a red dot on your head?” Needless to say, I didn’t go out of my way to trumpet my ethnicity. Being Indian was something I did on the weekends—Bharatanatyam, Carnatic music concerts, temple visits, and parties with all of the “aunties and uncles.” In truth, I didn’t really allow my classmates a glimpse of my “other life,” until my senior year in high school, when I had my arangetram. It felt almost like a “coming out” party. As I got older, I felt more confident and comfortable in my Indian skin, and didn’t think too much about my ethnic identity until I had children.

As a parent raising third generation Indian kids, I worried about my ability to raise “Indian” kids. Living in a smallish town as we do, I was concerned about the lack of a supportive desi community. We have no nearby temple, and Indian grocery stores are scarce. I had to figure out: What does being Indian mean to me?

My husband and I tried to promote specific friendships just because they, and we, were Indian. A few flourished, many failed. Our Indian names and looks did not guarantee a bond. Ultimately, we decided that having an Indian friend didn’t guarantee pride in being Indian. We put our time and energy into developing things we thought were special about our Indian culture: close relationships with family, a faith in God within the Hindu framework that was our heritage, a love and appreciation for the art/music/dance of India, and a strong work ethic. When we travel to visit family in California, we visit temples and pull out the Indian clothes we otherwise don’t wear very often. We allow our kids more freedom than our immigrant parents allowed us, but have a stricter parenting style than those of their friends’ parents. Our daughters are learning Bharatanatyam, and I think they are really benefitting from hearing “sa-re-ga-ma” and “dhit dhit thai” while spending time with other girls and women who look like them. A big failure for us?Language. None of our children speaks our mother tongue, despite the fact that my husband and I have the same one. It is hard to think that generations of Tamil speaking have come to a halt because of the two of us. That is a bit painful. I’m frankly not sure how to best tackle this.

The world has become smaller than it used to be. Being Indian is actually “cool” and exotic. In ways, it has been easier than I thought it would be to encourage my kids to feel Indian. They aren’t embarrassed to have their friends see them, or me, in Indian clothes. They invite classmates to our India Society events, and pray regularly at our home altar. Given what I am hearing about the “westernization” of India, I guess we haven’t done so badly.

Indu Partha grew up in Southern California with roots in Tamil Nadu. She is a Stanford grad working as an internist with 3 kids, 1 husband, while trying her darndest to have an identity of her own while doing the caretaking thing…patients, hubby, kids! You can follow her on Twitter at @InduPartha

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