|Photograph from Times of India news report dated 1st Dec 2012|
We Indians are in the news again - for the same reasons! For violating child protection laws as parents. I remember writing about this in a post at the beginning of the year ( Jan 30th ). Not even 12 months have passed and there is a second case that is being highlighted in the media.
While the reasons mentioned in the last post about the need for countries like Norway to be more sensitive to differences in culture with regard to child rearing practices still remain, I think it is also time we take a look at ourselves. No, I am not going to preach about child rearing practices because I would not call myself an exemplary parent in any way.
What I think needs to change with us is how we should understand the expected behavior in a new environment. I find that it is not just child rearing practices that one can fault us with in a foreign land but our general behavior leaves much to be desired! We want to live abroad and enjoy the benefits that life there brings without making an effort to integrate with the culture of the place. We have some jingoistic notions about “Indian culture and traditions” and keeping them alive!
The above notion is something that I am seeing more among those who go on work visas for a few years. Most of them are married by the time they go there, many are also parents. They are originally from small towns and even within India their exposure can only be said to be “limited”. So you can imagine how they might behave when they go abroad!
Speaking in loud voices and criticizing everything western ( food, climate, culture of the place – just about anything!) we probably attract a lot of unpleasant attention. There are many European countries that do not like Indian tourists because when we visit those countries we do not provide opportunities for their tourism to earn revenue. We even carry our own food – thanks to our notions of purity and pollution!
I remember my trip to Canada in 2007. During my onward journey I had an awful time trying to ward off the attention of a persistent man who wanted to know where in Chicago I was staying and which IT company I was employed in . The flight was connecting to a Chicago flight via London . It did not occur to him that maybe I was not going to Chicago at all! Ofcourse , for my own safety I let him think that way until I lost him en route in London. The travel from London to Montreal was a dream in comparison- I did not have to hold my nose inside the toilet or pretend to sleep just so I would not have to get into unwelcome conversations- pleasant stewards / stewardesses of the same airline. My sympathies were with the crew that flew in the Indian sector! When we are in a group our behavior is at its worst but when the number is smaller I guess it is more tolerable! If I as an Indian found my fellow countrymen/ women so terrible as companions for eight hours in an enclosed space, one can imagine what people of other nationalities think of us!
About the way we handle our children, I can only say that we encourage them to behave exactly like ourselves! I am yet to see children of any other nationality behave as badly as ours do in public! For example, we fail to realize that not everybody may be appreciative of a child kicking his legs about while sitting on an upper berth of a train and hitting the head of a co passenger on the lower berth!
Our children do not learn civic sense from us. We travel in expensive cars but roll down the windows and throw out litter on the road. When we do this at home no one cares! But when we do this abroad it is not the same- people frown!
We think that getting good marks is the be all and end all of education! Unfortunately it is not. We push our children towards academic performance while ignoring their basic good behavior and values.
We refuse to mingle socially with people of other cultures freely- I don’t know if is a lack of confidence or a feeling of superiority! No wonder there are “ Indian Ghettos” all around North America! I guess with enough Indians in these places the local populations have also learnt what to expect from us and may therefore even be staying away!
It is about time that companies that send people for short assignments on work visas give cultural orientation to their employees and teach them to behave in an acceptable way in the country they go to. They should also be told of the consequences of such actions so people take them seriously!
When we travel or live abroad we must realize that we have to learn to integrate with the society there and follow their laws. I guess, the effort itself may be very stressful if you come from surroundings where your exposure to anyone or anything , outside of your immediate community is limited. As a IT professional if all that you have seen are only Bangalore, Hyderabad or Chennai, you might find living in a place like .. say Norway very stressful and this may transfer to children whose problems may increase ( as in this case where the child had a bedwetting problem)
It is important that we learn to integrate in a foreign context and understand their laws well enough. If child protection laws extend to parents we need to follow them and be careful because the consequence of violating them seems to be the loss of one’s child who may go into foster care as we are jailed.
While not justifying anything to do with bad parenting, I can only say that the issue in India is that we become parents to fulfill a biological responsibility and not because we want to become parents. Therefore in most cases we are not emotionally ready to cope with the parenting demand. This coupled with the stress of being located in a new environment results in our taking it out on each other or the child with terrible consequences!
I strongly believe that putting a child in foster care if the parents cannot care for it properly is not a solution to the problem. But I also realize that countries like Norway believe in it strongly! I guess the better option would be to deport such people back to India. And while they are considering deportation they can expand the scope of the offence and include other typically bad Indian behavior- unless someone deprives us of the opportunity to make money we will probably not change the way we are !