I have just one word for this weekend's article; It's an eye-opener. (and may be that's two words) It comes from a very young energetic and brilliant mind, Ashish Mohanty of Minneapolis. Ashish is younger to me; but if words are wisdom and wisdom is age, he'd be way too older to me. So honest are the ideas expressed by Monty, I was not at all surprised, when the reviewers described the article as; a freshness like that of the first day of spring (Amitabh Mishra); After finishing the article you are left with a feeling as if you have just taken a brisk morning walk! (Sujata Pradhan); My morning started nicely (Debasmita Misra).
I had no choice other than to quote the reviewers. I, myself, am no writer; but I was left with no words. They (the reviewers) used up all the words. (even my spell checker did not know couple of the words)
I feel really fortunate and proud to present you this article. Let's listen from Monty.
surjit sahoo (10/20/95)
My name is . My nickname is Monty (don't bother to ask; it is a long story) My parents, who are just the best, are Saroj & Shreelekha Mohanty of Naperville, Illinois. I have way cool younger sister named Sunita.
I was born in Cuttack, Orissa in 1975. I came to the U.S. in 1978. I lived in Toledo, Ohio till 1988 when I moved to Minneapolis. My parents moved to Illinois last year but I decided to continue my education at the University of Minnesota. I am a junior majoring in computer science and industrial psychology at the University of Minnesota. I just interned at CNA Insurance in Chicago in the information technology division this summer. My career goal is to either eventually go to law school or otherwise to pursue a graduate degree.
Ok! Ok! Enough said about me. What follows is an article detailing the so called Indian experience I have had, living in the U.S.
Between 1978 to 1983, I was totally immersed in everyday American culture. Life revolved around watching Saturday morning cartoons (it still does!). A trip to the toy store was a must every week. I must have made my parents crazy with my bratty antics. Thank god they did not pack me up and send me to Timbuktu! Basically what happened was that I completely lost any identity that I had with Orissa or India for that matter. I only knew how to speak English in comparison to knowing only Oriya about four years earlier. Then came my first reality check which was like a splash of cold water on a sanyasi meditating on the side of the road. You know what I mean :-)
We made our first pilgrimage, I mean visit, to India in 1983. I was not really in a culture shock because little kids are naturally curious about new experiences. I asked my parents about every little thing that happened. I loved shooting rubber bands at those damn lizards on the walls. The first thing that opened my eyes when I was there was a servant boy that we had at my grandpa's house. I loved playing with him. However what I felt sad about was the way that he had to work doing manual labor meant only for grown-ups. I didn't know that his family badly needed the money. Aside from this unnerving part, I had a grand time! I was the best man in my mamu's wedding. I was afforded all the sweets and luxuries that I wanted by my doting grandparents whom I love. It was not really that big a deal to me to see the splendor and sadness of India at the time.
After three months of time in Orissa, I came back to my home. Life continued as normal for the next eight years. What was meant by normal was that I was being challenged constantly to keep a balance between my Indian roots and my Westernized life. My parents tried their best to give me what needed the most, their love and affection. My grandparents from both sides came every other year so that I could keep a daily contact with them. They tried to get me to relearn Hindi & Oriya which I resisted with the brain of a donkey! Why I did that to this day I don't know! My grandparents would still give me loads of Gem candies and Amar Chitra Katha comics which I loved and still love till this day. I think I gained must have looked like a pumpkin with all of those chocolates in my mouth. These years of my life basically set me up for the crucial time of my life when I realized which identity was more important for me to maintain.
My high school years was the time that I experienced real growing pains mentally as well as physically. I first became aware of the perspective some people had of India when I started high school. My teacher in my East Asian studies class told us to remember Calcutta as the Armpit of the world. When my teacher said that it piqued an interest in me that I never had before about India. I decided that I had to learn more about my motherland no matter how deplorable the conditions were. Do you know what I found out? My teacher had based his observations of a single book without bothering to consult another opinion. He had allowed himself to only to read about the negativity in all things without considering the positives. I told myself I wouldn't allow myself to be this naive. I mean can we literally call some other country some asinine name? I certainly hope not. I believed from then on about giving anything the benefit of my doubt.
At this time I mentioned earlier I was beginning to resolve the conflict of which identity I was truly. It all began when I made some Indian friends in high school. Till then I had never had much of a chance to interact with other Indian youth because there were really no other youth around. I had this one particular friend who was totally pro-Indian. Anything he said either ended with .... because India is awesome or India kicks ass! I didn't think I was even half as crazy about India like my Gandhian-disciple of a friend. I almost half expected him to wear a loin cloth and begin fasting!
My friend and my biased teacher were instrumental though in getting my identity resolved. I fully realized that by my senior year in high school, India was my homeland and that I had a duty to it even if I lived in America. However I could not eradicate my American traits just overnight or anytime for that matter. I had to appreciate the best of both worlds and be thankful to God for giving me everything that I had.
The appreciation I had for Indian culture only intensified when I visited India again last year. I saw the beauty of the high rise buildings and the squalor of the slums right next to it in the middle of Delhi. I saw pretty (Mama Mia!) women walking in their fine dresses while some old and destitute beggars lie in the gutters literally dying. The majesty of the Taj Mahal was just unreal while the public hospital rooms with overworked doctors rushing to save the many people dying was saddening. I realized that this was what made India so beautiful. It then dawned on me when I was at the Taj Mahal that One cannot truly appreciate the beautiful till one has seen the hopelessness & despair.
"Never be ashamed of the negatives of the world, think only how you can fix it!"
P.S. I am relearning Hindi by taking a class on campus. My teacher is a Bulgarian. Imagine that! A Bulgarian teaching Hindi to an Indian in America. Only in America can this happen! :-)
I was really thrilled to meet many of you who attended the OSA convention in Minneapolis. I thought the Variety Show both nights and the youth dance were just terrific. Kudos to the organizers!! Congratulations to my Udja (TARA PRASAD DAS) for winning the award. No reward is good enough for the hard work put in.
If you want to chat with me send me mail at:
Monty Mohanty [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Check out my WWW page at URL:
I hope to hear some comments if my article covered any new ground or was it a new perspective.
"I think, from now on, I'd always try to find both negative and positive side of an issue before passing any judgment. Thanks Monty! You taught me, how to think, all over again." myself (surjit)
"Monty, I was virtually in tears after reading your article. The feelings you have imbedded in it are great. We all feel strongly about Orissa and India. However, I never realized how strongly kids feel about their heritage even though they have been deprived of the actual experience from their child- hood. I must salute. I feel proud that your parents have done their best to inculcate these feelings within you. My morning started nicely. Thanks for the article." Debasmita Misra
This is a very witty article written with a extremely well- balanced mixture of humor and acute perception. An article which will keep you glued to your computer until you have finished it. And amazingly, despite of all the jocular puns of self derision, easy bantering and youthful sanguinity, at the end it leaves you in a pensive mood with a thought or two to mull over.
You realize that a great positive result does not have to be necessarily triggered by a positive event. All you need is an open fresh mind and viola! - thou shalt undiscover the treasure and wealth of truth and beauty!
And as far as our country goes, to fall in love with such a country you do not need be born and raised in it as long as you take some time to acquaint yourself with it.
And you do not even have to be an Indian to fall in love with India, such is its candor and such is its grandiose. Such is its splendor and such is its innocence. Such is its beauty and such is its simplicity. Such is its naivete and such is its complexity. Such is its enigma and such is its forthrightness. (And I am getting obnoxiously rococo.)
I particularly am reminded of and would like to mention the book 'My India' by Jim Corbett, the famous Hunter and the greatest animal lover. The kind of unpretentious love that you can feel oozing out of this book (and many of his other books) makes you gasp, catch your breath and stand in awe of a country so grand and a person so great!
Though you get the feeling that the article was written in a rush, it is an article full of dreams, promises and hope and light. After finishing the article you are left with a feeling as if you have just taken an a brisk (extremely hurried!) morning walk!
It is very interesting to note that the author's parents unlike many choose to teach him the American way of life. They gave him a freehand in forming his opinion about the Indian culture rather than impose anything. Such occurrences I believe are rare as most Indian parents are known to impose the traditional values while in a very open society.
I am surprised that in this day and age (Internet, WWW etc.) teachers in school can give such misleading information about India. No wonder most Americans have very poor opinion about India. The author has shown great maturity in trying to strike a cord with the Indian culture even though he was brought up in this materialistic oasis. There is nothing more I can say about this very well written article. In fact the article has clarified some questions I had about the upbringing and emotional training of ABCD's :-)
This, then, is truth, seen by a young mind still torn between two worlds. One promises materialistic fulfillment, the other threatens to expose the stark realities of an ancient and proud land overburdened with population and seemingly insurmountable problems. The struggle to establish an identity goes on without respite; the author seeks an answer from each event, each experience that this person undergoes.
The author seems to have been blessed with an unique opportunity to eke out an identity for himself, having been exposed continually to two contrasting cultures from childhood. Has he achieved his goal? The article does not seem to have provided an answer. However, his wide-open eyes have recorded events for us with an amazing clarity. Perhaps the greatest achievement of this article has been the lack of an intention to be judgmental about the relative merits and emulation-worthiness of two contrasting cultures.
America is a free country; it has no culture, yet it has so many cultures. It has no significant historical burden to carry, and the fundamental exhilaration from having everything in plenty still continues to drive this society. Does not America struggle for an identity? There is enough reason to believe it does. Who is an American? Is there anything such as a "true" American at all? Why does America face these questions? Because it is a young country. Questions are as natural to youth as flowing downstream is to water. Just as America grapples with its identity, looks within itself to discover answers, the author carries on a parallel, symbolically analogous struggle within himself. Both are wonderful processes; they provide an abundance of experiences for the rest of us to savor, enjoy and learn from.
You may post your comments to one of us:
Surjit Sahoo (email@example.com)
Debasmita Misra (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sidhartha Mohanty (email@example.com)
Asish Mohanty (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Your comments are always welcome...
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