Indians In America, Juxtaposition Of The Cultures

Indians In America,
Juxtaposition Of The Cultures

*by Maharaj Kaul

Many KPs were already living in U.S. and Canada before the onslaught of the politically induced religious militancy in Kashmir but with it more of them poured in and will continue to pour in, as U.S. is an outstanding refuge of the politically persecuted people. This short article is about how the emigrated Indians will be confronted by the cultural divide between America and India. Culture is the axis of the social and personal lives of most of the human beings. Therefore, understanding it is imperative for the new arrivals.

India is considered to have a continuous culture for over four thousand years. A lot of the early periods of which are unauthenticated and even the recorded parts have many loose ends, making a coherent history of the whole difficult. But we know that it is strong and pervasive into Indian life. Hinduism, the dominant religion of India, is the main vehicle of the Indian culture. Hinduism is much more than a religion, it is a way of living. It is deeply enmeshed with the day-to-day lives of Indians. So much so that many people believe it is not a religion in a conventional sense. The panoply of gods and goddesses and a vast spectrum of mythology propel it to its intended ends. Young people in India are often not clear what the major messages of their religion are but they follow it nevertheless due to its awesome presence. But one of its clearer messages is other-worldliness. This world is linkmaya and gods are playing a lila with the people searching for the ultimate reality. Among the other well understood features of Indian culture is cohesiveness of the family; respect for the elders. Industrial age is still settling in India. The long commutes, nuclear families, high pressure at work, and social isolation have started to descend on the India scene. The more advanced stages of these conditions leading to alienation, loneliness, stress are already present in some parts of India. This tearing of the Indian cultural fabric is in progress. But even with this India has a culture distinctly different from the one existing in U.S.

When a typical Indian arrives in U.S. his first reaction is to be impressed by the largeness of the scale of operations here: transportation, highways, buildings, etc. At work he is struck by the high efficiency of operations and easy informality among the workers. In the neighbors he sees friendliness and warmth. Another aspect of the American life that stands out is the people’s drive for hard work. What drives these people to work so hard? An easy answer to this question might be that the economic system they live in forces them to do so. But why have they made their economic system such while other countries have accepted less demanding systems. The American system was created by its people and they believed in high profitability, which among other things needs high productivity. Also, work has a value besides the work being done, that of the functioning of the human spirit in the cause of good, healthiness of mind and body. Work is the central axis of the American life. Not only does a person have to spend a lot of time on it but also because of the prevalence of the high productivity it tends to be demanding, therefore, tying a person’s happiness to it. Materialism is an accepted part of American culture. People talk of money as if it the greatest goal of life. Properties, stock trading, interest rates, financial market standing, etc. are of intense interest to most of the Americans. The high marital divorces rate is another dimension of the culture which may dismay a newly arriving Indian. As will the high rate of teenage pregnancies, drug addiction, and crime. Families are nuclear and no special status is given to the elderly. Christianity, the dominant religion of U.S. does not go into the details of its adherent’s life, unlike Hinduism. Christianity wants its followers to follow its ideals but how they do that essentially is their choice. Sex is much more casually taken than it is in the Indian culture. This disturbs the new Indian immigrants.

But besides the bleak items in their culture there are brilliant features and values Americans have created in it by their beliefs and hard work: individual liberty, religious and political freedom, a colossal economic engine; all of which provide opportunities to people to fulfill their dreams. That is why this place is such a magnet to the immigrants world over. After many of years of living in U.S. some Indians become unhappy with its culture. But the cultures all over the world are in flux, as the industrialization of the humanity is inexorably progressing.

As India’s economy is rapidly changing its culture is also undergoing change. After sometime the bleak items of American culture will also evolve in India. Divorce rates, teenage pregnancies, drug abuse, and materialism will invade its cultural fabric. Economics is the central shaft of modern human life on which almost everything is supported. Thousands of years ago life was much simpler and therefore the material and other needs were fewer , which made the economics relatively less important. Religions are also undergoing changes. Today’s man wants his religion to work for him. High idealism and fantastic claims of classical religions are becoming more difficult to accept by their followers today.
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The offspring’s of immigrant Indians are in a much better position than their parents because they do not, generally, have to undergo as much cultural shock and pangs of identity transformation. Because of their background they bring change to the American culture. Slowly, American culture is becoming more and more internationalized. In fact, it is the most internationalized culture in the world. The communication revolution is also affecting this change. Over a hundred years from now the world would truly be a global village.

*Maharaj Kaul all his life, has been intrested in understanding human beings: their history, nature, purpose of their being here, potential, and evolution of their thinking and religion. He has taken so far small steps in this direction but intends to continue his work till his last breath.
For a better perspective of his work, please visit his website:
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