New Emerging Trends In Indian Parenting In A Foreign Soil

Immigrants in Canada from the subcontinent find passing on Indian values to their kids daunting. They strive to make every effort to tie Gen-Next to their traditional home cultural practices.

WFY BUREAU CANADA: It’s a normal Sunday ritual. Amit’s parents are getting ready for their regular visit to the temple. While Amit is aware of this routine, he has other ideas sprouting in his head. The 12-year-old wants to spend this time playing soccer with his friends, maybe gaming on his computer, or just relaxing on the couch.

Amit’s parents immigrated from India a few years ago; their first child was born in Canada. As first-generation Canadians, parents Minal and Ravi remain deeply rooted in their cultural practices and are committed to preserving them for the next generation.

While Amit often switches from Hindi to English while talking with his cousins, he certainly feels more at ease with North American English. Born into a pluralistic Canadian society, it’s not a surprise that he swings from confident to confused about his Indo-Canadian identity. Who am I, and where do I belong? These are complex questions for many Indian-Canadian kids of South Asian descent. While many Indians try hard to make sure the family maintains a connection with the country of birth, others find it plain hard or simply give up. This may be due to a busy work life or even an obvious adaptation to the Canadian identity, which is far more convenient when you are living abroad.

The Indo-Canadian culture, distinct from that of India and other Canadians, has evolved over the last two centuries. Many young Indo-Canadians enjoy watching Bollywood movies as much as they enjoy Hollywood blockbusters. The cultural, religious, and linguistic diversity of India is intricately bound up with Indo-Canadian heritage.  There is a true array of cultural practices found throughout Canada, including those with the Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Muslim, Parsi, Christian, and Jewish communities in India. We encourage all communities to follow and practice their own cultures, languages, cuisines, and festivals.

Toronto-based insurance professional Kulvinder Sandhu says that passing on the Punjabi culture to kids has not been an easy task. Kulvinder and her spouse have been in Canada for the past 16 years. Both spouses spend time at home teaching their kids to read and speak Punjabi. They also enrol their daughter in Gurdwara School for bhangra classes and language learning. Kulvinder herself has been a volunteer in the Sikh community as well.

She specifically points out that a lot of personal effort goes into cultural upliftment. Parents need to spend time with kids, whether it’s watching native films together or even speaking their own language at home. Just spending half an hour on language exercises can do wonders. Sometimes, the Sunday temple or gurdwara routine may seem forced, but kids understand its importance when they turn 18 or 19. Kulvinder says the Punjabi community has contributed immensely to the economy of the country. Punjabis tend to retain their culture by organising public events like nagar kirtans or festivals.

Mahima Banerjee of Winnipeg says that passing on the heritage and culture to kids is not easy but doable. Banerjee participates in Bengali cultural activities on a large scale. Every month, the Bengali association organises plays, dramas, and recitations. Both adults and kids participate in such activities. Banerjee is a busy marketing and insurance professional who works mostly from home and has a flexible schedule. “I manage to participate frequently in such activities. It may be different for people with full-time shifts or both spouses working outside of the home,” she points out. Banerjee has been teaching her kids Bangla from a young age. She practices Hindi with her younger son. “We can’t really pressurise children to attend Sunday schools or cultural activities,” she adds. Banerjee is also part of the Bengali association in Winnipeg that celebrates festivals like Durga Puja, Rabindranath Tagore Jayanti, and Bijoya Sammelani.

Said Shivam Patel, 13, “I have friends of diverse backgrounds, but we all speak English. I don’t mind, though, going to Bollywood movies with my parents. I enjoy watching them and sometimes dancing to the songs.” Organisations like the Gujarati Association also play an important role in promoting their ethnic culture. With the active participation of its members, the society achieves its objectives through various social activities, such as cultural shows, annual picnics, Anand Bazaar (a food festival), and celebrating festivals like Navratri (nine nights of dancing) and Diwali (a festival of lights).

Similarly, the Tamil Association of Manitoba is working towards the social and cultural life of the Tamil ethnic group in Manitoba. According to Statistics Canada, a substantial majority of Canadians of East Indian origin feel a strong sense of belonging in Canada. While small, the proportion of Canada’s population who reported being Muslim, Hindu, or Sikh has more than doubled in 20 years. Dr. Suresh Maheswaran and his spouse Kanimozhi Maheswaran in Winnipeg organise prayers at the Hindu Society of Manitoba, Winnipeg. They point out how young people can be mentors to the kids at places of worship.

Bhaktimarga Swami, popularly known as The Walking Monk in Canada, promotes pilgrimage and has walked across Canada four times. He mentioned in one of his interviews that Canadian teenagers can play a role in holding kirtan and Bhagwad Gita lessons so that the younger kids can understand. As he writes in his book, The Saffron Path, Kirtan is a great way for kids to let off steam and have fun in a healthy way without using drugs or alcohol.  Kirtan is a “mix of mantra and madness, creating a release of good energy, a congenial bond, and the satisfaction of body, mind, and soul, he says in his book The Saffron Path, chapter 47, ‘Colorado Cool: Switching Roads’.

Many point out how important it is to maintain their cultural bond so that kids don’t feel out of place when they visit India. Small things like celebrating festivals together as a community or traditional get-togethers can keep them closer to their roots.

When Winnipeg resident Kavita Nair was young, she felt different at her school. She would see other children pass comments on her food. Today, she feels how important it is to maintain and build her cultural values at home and with her family. Kavita and her friends organise potlucks and cook traditional food on different occasions. They encourage children to communicate solely in their mother tongue by singing songs in their traditional language. The community also maintains its traditional clothing styles.

The Indian community has contributed to Canadian society in many ways, including in the arts, business, politics, and sports. For example, the Indo-Canadian community has produced many successful entrepreneurs and business leaders. In addition, Indian cuisine has become increasingly popular in Canada and is now widely available in many Canadian cities.

Family traditions and customs evidently pass down culture from generation to generation. Canada is home to a lot of Indians, and every year more immigrate as students, permanent residents, and workers here. Creating a familiar land away from the homeland can definitely be a helpful tool towards cultural assimilation for many.

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