To Be ABCD or Not Be ABCD

The acronym ABCD came about 2 or 3 decades ago. America Born Confused Desi – not a real badge of honor for many second-generation Indian or desi Americans. Times have changed, the world is smaller and a more accessible place today than it was 30 years ago, yet the acronym has stuck around. 

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Growing up I remember meeting some NRI family-friends and their kids visiting India, most feeling like fish out of water or feeling awkward during conversations where their accent or an attempt to mutter a few words of Hindi was made fun of. I am sure they couldn’t wait to get out of most situations and go back to the comforts of their own homes abroad.

Cut to today – the internet may have shrunk the world but for better or worse I my kids are branded – ABCD. 

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The eternal question from the well-wishers when I visit India is, “So how will you make sure your kids will not turn out to be total ABCDs?” Or some variation of that. ‘Do you speak Hindi with them?’ ‘How do you teach them Indian values’ etc etc. My reaction to such questions is usually vague, not because I do not have a concrete answer but because I know that no matter what I say, my kids will never be Indian ‘enough’ and I am totally okay with that.

Actually here in US, I have seen people divided on this topic. The discussions range from Sunday Hindi school at local temple to, I don’t care whether my child speaks a word of Hindi. I am somewhere in the middle. I must admit that I have not done a great job of teaching my little ones Hindi yet, but, they are exposed to the Indian culture as and when we feel appropriate.

My husband is big on Indian music aka Bollywood film music and the girls are picking up some very interesting dance moves from their daddy. 

I go back and forth on exposing the kids to Bollywood as it hardly paints the true picture of India. Moreover, India for me is more than a place, it’s an experience that I lived for over two decades of my life, I still have a lot of India in me. For me most films go from entertaining to annoying in a matter of minutes! Exposing my kids to Bollywood in mini-doses of music is ok but cultural learning has to come from elsewhere.

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 I am more ritualistic and traditional in the combination hence the festivals and other cultural stuff is my department. Good thing that we have a circle of desi friends that comes together during festivals such as Diwali and Holi. 

We love dressing up in our Indian garb and fineries for Diwali and enjoy dressing down and getting dirty for Holi!

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I am also a big fan of books from India or about India. There are books written by fellow moms in US which explain the importance or significance of Indian culture and rituals and there is also a monthly subscription box service for all things desi!

My girls love their homemade food with a touch of cumin and other spices, their dosa rotis and idli cakes (as they like to call them) and of course they look forward to their annual visit to India. Which I feel is the best way to expose them to the values I feel closest too. I really don’t care but about tags and acronyms I take a lot of pride in my Indian roots and cultural heritage. I just hope I do a good job of exposing my girls to the values that have made me what I am today. Rest is up to them to choose what they want to do with it. 

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On a side note, I think they look really cute in their lehngas and other tiny Indian outfits, love mama’s bindis, bangles and mehndi so I secretly hope they both grow up to be Indophiles! 

Written By Divya Kumar