The Parenting Debate

Sarita Sarvate and Amy Chua (“Tiger Mom”) seem to miss the critical importance of the social and cultural milieu in which children are parented (Let Children be Children, March 2011). The same parenting style that works well in family-centric cultures such as in China or India may not work so well in an individual-centric culture such as in America. Whereas a person’s identity in the family-centric Chinese society is inextricably intertwined with that of his family, even a young dependent child in America is deemed to have a fully independent identity.

All children need some discipline because their natural instinct is to seek sensory gratification and avoid any discomfort. In family-centric Asian cultures, parents have always defined and enforced such a discipline. In the United States, the responsibility for such a discipline apparently shifted in the 1970s from the parents to school teachers and sports coaches. The teachers, however, are often ill-prepared and ill-equipped for this responsibility.

Although too much discipline (or pressure to succeed) can make some children defiant, depressed or discouraged, too little discipline can likewise make some children into school dropouts, drug addicts, or juvenile criminals. To be really effective, parents need strong social reinforcement for their parenting style whatever that style may be. When children see their peers experiencing similar discipline as themselves, they are less likely to be defiant or depressed.

Being a driven mom like Chua is hard work. In family-centric cultures, raising good children is viewed as a long-term investment in the social, emotional, and financial future of the family. On the other hand, in individual-centric cultures, especially one where people rely on government support (e.g., social security and Medicare) in the old age, raising children itself may be viewed as an onerous or nonessential enterprise.

Indeed, with ever-increasing emphasis on individualism, and with more women pursuing serious careers, birth rates in the United States (and Europe) are falling to all-time lows. If this trend continues, highly individualistic cultures and communities may become largely irrelevant to this parenting debate.

Vijay Gupta, Cupertino, CA

What Makes a Hindu?

Reading through the perspectives (Time to Stop Assimilation?, March 2011) and Q & A (The Impact of Hinduism on the West, March 2011) articles, I find it curious how much investment is made in the word “Hindu” by your writers. I suppose such a designation of Indian culture, accepted by its adherents, bespeaks of their liberality and sense of philosophical security which allows for varying angles of perception regarding reality … and even themselves!

Dharma is not something one applies upon a person; it is something that flows from within one. Herd designations are simply inappropriate. Personality types and stages of spiritual advancement (like acquired education) can be found across religious, racial, national and even gender classifications.  That is whyvarna and ashram best assess the qualifications of an individual and are totally non-sectarian.

And this is why the caste system of India is corrupt. Rather than perceiving the universality of Sanatana Dharma, some who claim to be Hindu see caste as something inherited and parochial. Wise people of any religion understand that all beings have a relationship with God—an atheist, too!—as a part to the whole. Who but the “Hindu” has such an ideal idea as their principal principle?

Roy Richard, Culver City, CA

Preserving Hindu Culture is Important

I fully agree with Amit Majmudar (Time to Stop Assimilation?, March 2011) that we need to preserve Hindu culture here in the United States. Concerted efforts in literature and the arts is one way. We need much more than that. What we need is a Hindu advocacy group or groups. Hindu culture is being misrepresented and ignored knowingly and unknowingly. One example is how Hinduism is being depicted in the text books throughout the country. We have only one Hindu advocacy group now in the whole country, the Hindu American Foundation (http://www.hafsite.org) doing yeoman’s job in this area. We must support organizations such as this one.

Just building more Hindu temples is not enough. It appears that we support building more and more temples and neglecting the main issue. Who will go to these temples in another 50 or 100 years if Hindu culture is not maintained and nourished here?

Subru Bhat, Union City, CA

Donate to India

This is in reference to the article (Should Desis Donate Locally or to Causes in India?, March 2011).

The story goes that once devas (holy men), rakshasas (devils) and humans went to the Prajapati (the Creator). He blessed them with the syllable “da.”

The devas took “da” to mean daman (control of the senses), the rakshasas daya (kindness), and the humans daan (donation) respectively.

According to ancient Indian traditions, every earning person must donate 10 % of his/her income to religious or social causes. Out of the four ashrams(stages of life), three—brahmacharya (studenthood), vanprastha (retirement), andsanyasa (renunciations)—survive on public donations. The second, grahastha ashram (the life of a householder), supports the other three ashrams through donations, consequently it has been rated the best amongst the four stages.

I believe NRis should first donate to their motherland (janmabhoomi) and then to their country of work (karmabhoomi).  After all, if a person is not born, he can hardly be expected to work.

Madan Lal Gupta, Sacramento, CA

Congratulations on 25 years!

My heartiest congratulations to India Currents for completing 25 years!

In recent years, with the economy going south, and the print media being particularly affected, India Currents has done a commendable job of holding on to its own and thriving in such a challenging environment.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that India Currents has been one of the pillars of the Indian diaspora in the region.

I have always appreciated India Currents’ resolve to eschew the sensational and the trite (the usual masala!) in favor of substantive, respectable, and inspirational content that is socially relevant and needed.

We have enjoyed our partnership with India Currents for content syndication and for the Katha Fiction Contest which has now become an annual tradition that diaspora writers look forward to.

Here’s wishing you many more years of success and service!

Parthiv Parekh, editor, Khabar

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