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Confucius Say (To The NRI)

Confucius Say (To The NRI)

January 06, 2011

Being an NRI is pretty much like being an Indian - just a fancier term.

Confucius say: ‘Man who leave motherland but leave heart behind, might as well not have left at all’.

Ok I made that up, Confucius didn't say any of that. But I am pretty sure he would have if he had seen the older generations of NRIs. They were the loyal sort. The sort who still dreamed of open blue Indian skies (and the occasional accompanying bird shit) and of pastures green and steaming hot food on thalis. They craved for the ultimate Indian experience and not just to fill up their albums with 'Exotic India Vacation Pics'.

That was a few generations ago, when Rajnikanth hadn't resorted to wigs yet, when he was still playing the hero...Oh wait, he's still doing that. So ya, when Rajnikanth hadn't resorted to wigs yet. Let’s leave it at that :)

The older NRIs resorted to great lengths to ensure that Indian-ness thrived in their homes, however far they were from their motherland. Indian festivals were celebrated, Indian dishes were cooked, the mother tongue was spoken and stern glances delivered on any slack towards things 'foren' and hence 'not good'.

But nowadays, a lot of NRI parents are on a systematic raid to eradicate any last sign of Indian-ness in them and their descendants down to the last melanin cell if that was actually possible. 'Passing on your heritage' is a thing of the past and something to be shuddered upon.

Enter wise man Confucius again who has pondered greatly upon this predicament and composed three insightful maxims which pretty much sum up the situation.

Confucius say: ‘Woman who is ashamed of her heritage, has nothing to be proud of in herself’.

The woman in question is NRI-through-marriage Mrs.Patel. She wears her mangalsutra on a thin gold chain and still touches her in-laws feet back home. She is seen shopping at the local Indian shop buying ‘sabji’. Along with her tags her teenage son wearing that perpetually bored expression that teenagers manage to master. She is muttering to herself wondering which ‘aloos’ to pick telling her son she will cook ‘Pot-tay-toes’ (inserts nasal tone in an attempt to sound American) for dinner. But Mrs. Patel gives a frosty-nosed stare to the poor bachelor who ventures to ask her ‘Are you Indian?’ and if she could guide him on which masala to pick? MDH or Sarah’s?

She hurries off looking as disturbed as if he had initiated a discussion on the merits of red versus black lingerie.

Confucius say: ‘Child who know not his mother tongue, is better off without his mother’.

The family in question is Mr and Mrs. Patel and Junior Patel at an Indian function. Someone asks something in Hindi to the son, eliciting a blank expression.

When did not knowing your mother tongue become an achievement? Such blank expressions on the son’s face are rewarded by an affectionate ruffle of his gelled hair and satisfactory nods from the mother. Usually the mother will titter softly and say, “Oh! All his friends at school are non-Indians you see”.

And my question is: And his parents are……???

No one is asking you to recite the Sanskrit vedas, but knowing the usual pleasantries is the least Mr and Mrs. P could teach their child.

Confucius say: ‘Man who speak through nose, must have a really ugly mouth’.

When you start replacing your kesari bhath in the morning with oatmeal then that’s called being smart and reduces cholesterol. But when you start speaking overnight through your nose, then that can be either extreme idolism of Himesh Reshammiya or you are turning into just another wannabe with an annoying accent.

Accepting and embracing other cultures is a wonderful sign of brotherhood but shunning your roots and trying to be what you are not is a wonderful sign of stupidity. You choose. Let me end this by quoting one more from the wise man himself.

Confucius say: ‘Man who is wannabe today, will remain wannabe for many moons to come’.

So beware!


  • Sangeetha
    15.08.11 01:10 PM
    Is it just the NRI's?.. What about urban Indians living in urban India? They are WORSE than NRI's..!! From Mummy's and Daddy's dominating the scene and no more "amma" or "accha" ( for mallu's).. why are we pointing our fingers at NRI's only?
    90% of Expats and NRI that I have known in big cities like Bangalore know much more about their "roots" and appreciate the Indian spirituality and culture, than the new "yanky" made in India youth.
    Regarding accents, it is "normal" that one tends to pick up the local accent.. be it American or Mallu or Bengalurian.. !! So that does not mean that you are loosing your culture.
    Believe me.. those who seem to be 100% Indians.. those who wear sarees and salwars even in other countries, may not know half what other Indian women in jeans and skirt might know about India. It's a question of "how you think " i.e. your true knowledge of Indian culture and not what you "show" externally.. as dress or language.
    But on the whole agree that we should "never" let go of roots.. be it Indian Indian's or NRI's.
    Am an NRI and married to an Italian and half my family is married to Italians.. So you can imagine the cultural chaos that we are facing.. But believe me it's GREAT because we are now a part of two different cultures and instead of giving up one culture, we got to learn another culture too.
  • Liz
    15.08.11 03:04 AM
    Great article Maria, truth expounded with humor worthy of PG Wodehouse. I'm an NRI mallu proud of my heritage too.
    I've found something else interesting; when most people speak foriegn languages the accent of their mother tongue comes to the; example if a Mallu, Tamilian, Andhra or Gujju person speaks English, the tones, pronunciation etc are all like their mother tongue.
    Vice versa, children who learned to speak western languages speak their mother tongue with an english accent.
    I've found that the NRI's in the US are the best in passing on heritage. Their kids speak and read the local lingo and puts a lot of the other NRIs in other countries be it UK, South Africa, Malaysia etc. to shame...
  • Noel
    10.01.11 03:41 PM
    hey maria chechi... another really cool article :) u know.... when i went off to India from the UAE to finish school... i found so many NRI's there just like you described... proud of not knowing how to speak their mother tongue (i.e Malayalam)... I mean whats there to be proud of??!! And even their parents appear to be proud of that... as though being Indian and knowing Indian languages is something bad!!!! Even though my at first my malayalam wasnt up to scratch then (but after 4 yrs in Kerala now its awesome :) ) i was ashamed when i made mistakes..... I wish people were proud of what they had instead of going after something that is not theirs...

    And another thing i observed when i came to the UK... there are lots of us mallus here... you should listen to how some of them try to imitate the English accent... U'll laugh your ass off... trust me.. Y cant they talk normally with their own accent?? there are very few mallus I know who do that....
  • Maria
    10.01.11 02:09 PM
    Thank you for the feedback. I have come across so many 'lost souls' who really don't know what culture to accept and ist really a messy way to live
  • theReader
    09.01.11 12:04 AM
    Confusedcious say "Everything has its beauty but not everyone sees it."

    The beauty of this post is in it's message.

    Thanks for the article.
  • Rajiv
    08.01.11 09:09 PM
    Its not just about NRI but any expats. Its not just about brown and black people as immigrants but also white people who are settled abroad.

    I have spoken to a couple of white friends (english) who were located in far-east / middle-east etc. Though they enjoyed being abroad, however they missed their shepherds pie, their sunday roast, their winters, etc. It comes as no surprise that those brought up on the staple diet of 'parathas, idlis, etc' switch to sandwiches and cereals. Some of such products may be healthier and I don't mind changing some of my habits which no longer appeal to me.
    The dignity of labour, low emphasis on the class system are some of the many pluses of western society. Of course there are some not so pleasant things about western world too. However I can have my pick of what I want to choose.

    I am happy to adopt to things which I appreciate and enjoy being at home both when I am chatting with my english or desi friends or my relatives.

    The extremes on both sides doesn't appeal to me, i.e. going overboard in proving that I am truly Indian or truly a brit at heart.
  • Amit Joshi
    Amit Joshi
    08.01.11 07:21 PM
    Ha ha nice article. Actually it really made me remember the year I spent doing my Masters at Leicester UK. Leicester as everybody knows is filled with Gujjus (I am one). And my experience is that most of the current generation of NRIs including their children (some of them were my classmates) neither actually manage to integrate well with the society at large nor they are able to maintain their true identity as Indians and as Gujjus. They are kind a people lost in transition hanging between two diverse culture with no clue whatsoever about which path to take. I guess it's better if NRIs learn to appreciate their heritage more than they do now and they really need to make an effort to join into mainstream society as well. Otherwise all desi born overseas will always remain confused :)

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