Isn't it interesting..


.. how you hardly hear about European student associations in most American universities? That an Indian student association is the first thing you hit when you land there? (I was never that lucky, since Yale doesn't have one - the closest we get to one of those is a South Asian thingie, which includes everyone from Afghanistan to Korea - yayy, we're broad minded!)

I put that question to a couple of people today, and they came up with rather weak arguments about the French not getting along with the Italians or the Spanish - and how Indians identify much better with fellow Indians. I call *BS* on that, because the points they mention about diversity in terms of culture, food, region, climate and language exists in India too - Kashmir and Kerala couldn't be more different.

So what is it that makes desis abroad flock together, sometimes to the extent of having a very limited set of views about the country they live in and the people therein? At times, I get phenomenally irritated at this attitude which unfortunately exists in most people - they won't even TRY to involve themselves with local festivities, expand their social circles to include the locals and give a damn about learning how a different culture exists. Do they REALLY identify with each other more than Europeans would? Given that there might be a certain nationalistic identity which we have that the europeans don't - not for lack of wanting it I guess, because thats what the EU is all about - does it really contribute this much?

Moving to extra academic stuff - how many European caucuses do you see in the American Senate? How many people - with the exception of possibly the Polish - try their hands at furthering their country's needs at the altar of what used to be the oldest democracy in the world? Even here, the Indian caucus and lobbyists for random causes or the other in India surprise me with their sheer numbers. From random web searches on the terms "European Student Club/Association", the only place I could come up with in about 5 minutes was MIT and Columbia. Searching for an "Indian Student Association" on the other hand brought up about a gazillion results from every part of the country.

Hmm.

13 comments:

iz said...

In a way it's really amazing how we all flock together. In other ways terrible. In Thailand, every Indian we met was running around like a headless chicken for Indian restaurants. And would head for all the Indian enclosures. Makes you wonder why they travel at all!

That Armchair Philosopher said...

hahaha, very true, that. i forgot to mention why everyone HAS to eat at Indian restaurants when they travel.

headless chickens? really? :)

Scritch said...

we are fools.

Although it depends.
Indian Associations are always full of lame-ass girls who talk about marriage, hubbie hunting or babies.

But then after you've been away from home a long time, going to an Indian restaurant whenever you can makes you feel less homesick [I think]

hedonistic hobo said...

Good question though to be fair my Uni based in the UK had a Scandanavian Society and even an Iberian Society. So question really is why are they lacking in the States? Is it perhaps because the number of desis in American Unis far outnumber the Europeans who admittdedly have better or just as excellent universities to access and perhaps cheaper ones back at home? Or maybe it's a race thing. As Indians we stand out more immediately, in a physical sense. Whereas with Europeans, even though their culture is quite far removed from the abjectly lacking culture non-culture of the Americans they're all still mostly caucasians. Interestingly I never heard of any Ruski society or Eatsern European Society but the Greeks had their own clique as did the Chinese, the African-Caribbeans, the Africans, the Latino Society. I was an honorary member to at least 4 of these but never a member of the Desi society. Hah! I know it's oddly racist of me but I just avoid BBCD's and ABCD's like the fucking plague.

hedonistic hobo said...

OOoo on the race issue, clearly ace would be relevant in the UK as well but having travelled and lived in both UK and the US I feel it's a way bigger problem across the pond. Here ethnicity if of greater significance,in a healthy kind of way than race. Or maybe I have too sanguine an opinion about race relations in the UK. Perhaps I am. BBCD's here are typically migrants who arrived much earlier than the wave of migrants to the states. They were also less educated than the wave that hit American shores. They're sense of disenfranchisement and dissociation is just as relevant as that of inner city kids in say Washington DC. I guess coming from an International Relations department not only was I bound to meet students from all parts of the gloebe I was also destined to meet people who wanted that experience. Still in London and in the shop which is where I get to interact with all kinds of people I don't think I can sense any kind of racial tension. Nothing

By the way the Europeans do have a fucking Caucus it's called the European Union! :) And even though Kashmir is comepltely different from Kerala there is still a notional sense of belonging to the same country. It's not the same thing as belonging to the same continent because that really means nothing.

Hmm well that's my two bit. It's an interesting question though.

Szerelem said...

God I never eat Indian food abroad....i just dont get that.
And umm I am not part of any desi clique and I think I have terrible rep because of that. And the fact that my closest friends arent Indian. I am considered a stuck up bitch type but whatever....

Something to Say said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Something to Say said...

I guess its our herd mentality. Or maybe safety in numbers. Or this pseudo sense of 'I am superior (read ancient) civilisation'. Or maybe all of it put together.
Having lived in Quebec - where European culture is really dominant - I must say the Frenchies, Greeks, Italians - these guys are really proud of their culture, history, art, civilisation, language - too - probably as much as we are. And they do have forums in colleges too - forums that allow them to interact with their kind. Maybe it does not exist here - and one wonders why.

viksit said...
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That Armchair Philosopher said...

@scritch - might agree with you there about the foolish thing. in fact, i'm going to reply to wannabe punkster's post on women. but yes, all they're interested is in everything hubby related, babies, et al - AND YET, nothing is overt. you like A, you'll never tell A. instead, you'll go back to india and get married to Z.

as for the homesickness being alleviated - pfffft. no way. i would go only because the spicy food is a good change from meh-ee-can and szechuan.


@hobo - good point. race, possibly. we do stand out. or maybe is the culture shock which a lot of people face. to be really honest, i never did feel a *shock* of any sorts ever. things are just the way i expected them to be, no big deal. but its entirely possible that these societies are formed by people who DO experience these changes, and need a support group to deal with it. and maybe it becomes a vicious circle - more people join these to feel at home, ad nauseum. bah.

and yes, ABCDs I avoid myself, their lack of identity if pitiable. but whats even worse is the bunch who try to ACT as if they've always been here, complete with their fake accents and i'm-cooler-than-thou attitude towards everyone else. sickening, really. i've never really been part of desi cliques myself, and i think i'm a better person for it - not to sound biased.

as for racial issues - i've been involved in a bunch of international relations groups and courses myself, as part of a couple of projects and plain interest - my circle of friends ranges mostly from the EU (western, with a sprinkling from the east)- and they have no issues at all. they have an outlook which (cliched but true) transcends boundaries of all sorts.

as for the caucus - hehehe, i did wonder who would raise that point first.. and maybe you're right about the national identity, but i don't know - theres something somewhere that doesn't quite add up.

@szerelem - know what you mean. really.

Snake Anthony said...

My policy is to not hang out with Indians with whom I would not otherwise hang out with in India. I choose company based on common interest areas and homesickness isn't one of them. While I endorse communal and/or national cultural activities (food, film, festivals, music, whatever) that take place at Indian student societies etc and frienships that may result , I was sorely disappointed to find that most Indians at my school stick together because they are afraid to venture out of their comfort zone. I wouldn't judge them poorly for this alone (not everyone is secure and confident) except that they possess a shockingly limited and bigotted view of the outside world.

As for diasporic Indians, I try not to be too harsh about their confusion or lack of identity because I don't know what its like to be them. The ones who think of themselves as superior to us because of their, ahem, 'foreign' upbringing, I treat as furniture. However, the ones who bother me are a small but certain breed of diasporic Indians who claim to be 'enlightened', 'cultured' and in touch with their roots. They consider themselves authorities on India, the culture, the politics, the people and the future of India, and authorities who are superior to Indians from India because they have a Western spin on things. I despise their arrogance and have actively countered their half-baked opinions and incorrect factual knowledge of the happenings in India.

Yup, this is what I think.

That Armchair Philosopher said...

@snake - hanging out with people with common ground is most apt - but sometimes, you might not have that option. i've seen that happen rather recently, where after moving from one side of a continent to the other and transitioning from school to work highlights that!

that said, i couldn't agree with you more!

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