«The third generation of Indians in Britain Cultural identity and cultural change Vorgelegt von: Abgabedatum: 16.10.2008 Judith Frübing 1. Gutachter: ...»
Ravanan: … most *…] Tamil parents bring up their kids not to smoke or drink or take drugs, so I mean I know one of my friends, he was smoking wheat and then when … Veeran: Yeah, that’s … Ravanan: … his mum caught him she ended up crying *…+ and then she hasn’t actually talked to him for like two weeks.
Veeran: Yeah, that sort of thing doesn’t happen. I mean I don’t smoke or do any of this, if I did that’d be… Ravanan: Yeah, we don’t. Yeah, yeah, […+ it’s almost… In general, religious affiliation depends on the family and their degree of attachment to a certain temple or religious group. Parents and grandparents take their children and grandchildren to temples and encourage them to take part in religious activities. Several interviewees like Rajesh and Ranjitham reported to have been taken to the temple by their parents. There they incorporated religious customs, values and norms.
… my parents, *…+ they like to get involved in the temple and for me at young age I was always brought to the temple *…+ and I was always made to *…+ partake in it.
And, because I been brought up, I’ve grown up in that environment, now even in this age I don’t, it almost feels weird not to go on to the temple on a certain day or Frübing, 54 *…+ for celebrations not to get involved. *…+ I can honestly say that the person I am today is really from getting involved, being around people who are likeminded as well. *…+ Some people may say: *…+ “With the traditional values, how can you integrate into society?” But I‘ve really found that *…+ you learn so much from the people around you and it has definitely had a positive influence on me. (Ranjitham) Here the 22 year-old points to an important correlation. The close affiliation to a temple and to a religious community offers a way of integration into an ethnic subgroup in which religious and traditional norms and customs are valued and encouraged though various temple activities. This creates a common identity because of shared experiences and the difference to others (Stopes-Roe 1991: 163). Further the feeling of belonging to a religious group sustains ethnicity and ethnic identity (Hutnyk 1997: 5). The difference between temple life and English everyday life is underlined by Ranjitham, who reflects about her
I think for me also it was just because it is so different to the world. *…+ There are the days of the week, I’ll be at school or be with friends of different backgrounds and to come to the temple and just see the things differently, it was just a different atmosphere. *…+ It was just so different and I enjoyed that as well. *…+ It’s just that social, it’s that buzz that you get from coming and that’s what I enjoyed as well and that’s what has really for me even at that stage I enjoy taking part. (Ranjitham) Because religion offers guidance, security, meaning and a stronger sense of identification, religiousness leads to a closer affiliation to the Indian heritage and its values and norms.
Thereby, religious affiliation reinforces ethnic pride and a reaffirmation of cultural roots (Ghuman 1999: 52, 71-72). In this context, Pradeep is a good example as he rediscovered his
Indian heritage though religious affiliation. Also Veeran states:
It’s also like at festivals. It’s also like a chance for our family to get together and also go back to our roots, like Thaipongal and New Year. They are like a time for the family to get together and also share our roots. (Veeran) Religion and religious affiliation of young British Indians thus has a great effect on the retention of Indian values and norms. This has to do with the close connection between ethnicity and religion. Hindu religiousness is closely attached to an emphasis of history and origin, as well as on cultural and social distinctiveness (Abramson 1979: 6-7). For this reason many immigrants have become more religious in Britain as “the cultural awareness of Hindus has been sharpened in an alien cultural milieu”. (Vertovec 2000: 107). Many authors Frübing, 55 have stated that religiousness decreases in the second generation as a consequence of language difficulties with the religious texts, prayers and songs and a lack of English language publications and offers. Traditionally, systematic religious education is not part of Hinduism.
Therefore, Hindus have had a lax attitude towards religious nurture, and youngsters were said to have little knowledge and understanding of religious rituals and philosophies (Dwyer 1994: 187-188, Ghuman 1994: 53-54, 144).
The results from the research showed that this has changed significantly. Though prayers and songs often remain in Sanskrit, the youngsters in the Sai Baba Centre as well as in the Pandava Senas know the texts and could also explain the meanings. The reasons for this change are a significant improvement in religious education and materials, of which the youngsters make use. Especially the teenagers of the sampradaya sample therefore showed great enthusiasm towards Hinduism. Interest in religion, a vital and constituting part of Indianness, is generally high (Appendix 6.3).
The Indian homeland A visit to India is a “holiday *as+ a mixture of fantasy and reality, an emotional uprooting and a re-rooting time”, Bhatti states (Bhatti 1999: 125). Almost all of the interviewed youngsters have already visited India. My findings affirm that their memories and impressions are very positive and generally strengthen ethnic identity and affiliation to India and its cultures (Korte 1990: 256). The findings further confirm that visits to the subcontinent and contacts to relatives there result in an increased interest in news from India and its neighbouring
countries (Gillespie1995: 115). Pradeep made the most vivid description:
I was very small. When I first went, I was about eight, so in fact I loved, the first time I went, I absolutely loved it. I mean I got sick a couple of times but it was like mindblowing coz it was my uncles wedding *…+ and it was most amaz…, it was puh. It was … it was unbelievable, especially coz, yeah the girl he was married to was [from] a very well-off background. So it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my life up until then. (Pradeep) This very positive experience in childhood may have influenced his personal connection to India for the rest of his life. Despite having kin in India, he does not have a particularly close relationship to them. Nevertheless, his family owns a flat in New Delhi so that they “…sometimes just go off for like four days”. His grandparents have a strong wish to return, to which he also adheres: “I’m very keen to go back, so they’re waiting for me to finish. When Frübing, 56 [my grandfather’s] health gets a little bit better *…+ we’re gonna go hopefully.” Pradeep’s longing to return, which is so real that it can no longer be described as a myth, confirms that the idea of return does not hinder integration into the British society (Stopes-Roe1991: 182).
I have already mentioned that Pradeep’s family is very well-off. He went to a renowned public school where he played Rugby. His mother lives a western way of life and he was brought up completely in English. Similar to religiousness the prospect of return offers security and orientation. Thus, cultural change and interethnic contacts become easier because there is no fear of loosing culture (Stopes-Roe: 183). However, despite being apparently well integrated into the British society, Pradeep has emotionally detached himself from Britain, its culture and society. He has turned towards religion and India. I will consider this matter in detail, later.
Apart from Pradeep none of the respondents wants to live in India. The pupils and students gave the same reasons for staying in England as the ones who took part in earlier surveys.
First, they consider Britain to be their home because they have been brought up here and have never lived somewhere else (Ghuman 1994: 69, Stopes-Roe 1991: 167, 171) Thus, they do not feel accustomed to life on the subcontinent. Referring to corruption Ravanan states “I don’t like the system” as the first reason not to live in India. Second, several interviewees gave very practical reasons for staying in the West such as social and personal security, standard of living and education. This has also been explored by other researchers (StopesRoe: 184). Ranjitham argues that she could not give up her “modern things”; this implies an image of India which is characterized by a certain backwardness.
All three interviewees in the Sai Baba Centre have been to India and Sri Lanka several times.
Not having any relatives on the subcontinent, Ranjitham makes the journey “to see *her+
There was a world youth conference [at the Sai Centre in India] last July which I took part in. *…+ If I could I’d love to go to India more often. *…+ Whenever I can I try and go *…+. The last three times I have gone, have been purely for pilgrimage basis and because of that I’ve just felt more calm, more relaxed, and you know that’s the sort of lifestyle that I prefer to lead, but I definitely enjoy going to India whenever possible. Like the culture, it is a way of kind of touching on the roots really and it’s nice there. I enjoy it so. (Ranjitham) Also Ravanan’s and Veeran’s last visits to India had the purpose of seeing their guru. This
also served as a as a substitute for going to Sri Lanka, their “homeland”:
Frübing, 57 I haven’t been *to Sri Lanka+ in like four years or something because of conflict. But yeah, we still go to India because its, if you go to the south, it’s really similar to Sri Lanka. (Ravanan) Particularly, the boys at the Sai Baba Centre were conscious of Sri Lankan nationality and felt a great attachment to the island. When filling out the questionnaires, some boys complained that the statements only mentioned “Indian” and some even corrected it every time. Thus, they are very proud and mindful of being Tamil. None of the girls made similar comments showing that boys are more politicized. Ravanan, who has kin in India as well as in Sri Lanka, revealed a better knowledge of both countries. In contrast, Veeran held unrealistic and idealizing views. His entire family lives in the West and is cut from Sri Lanka though political insecurity. Being scattered all over the western world his family exemplifies the notion of diasporic or transnational families. Veeran’s idealized images probably repeated his family’s longings for the homeland. His views often lack realistic judgement of the situation on the subcontinent. Hence, Veeran regarded Sri Lanka as a place where traditional values and morals were followed and where negative aspects of western cultures did not exist. Having more experience in the country, Ravanan knows that Veeran’s diasporically romanticised picture of the island does not mirror reality. In contrast to his friend, he is more able to consider things critically. Consequently, the boys repeatedly started to argue about the retention of traditional values in Sri Lanka.
Veeran: In Sri Lanka there aren’t cigarettes. There’re a lot of things… Ravanan: There are cigarettes. They smoke.
Veeran: Well people don’t smoke that much.
Ravanan: They do!
Veeran: They don’t! I don’t think they do but there’re a lot of things in England that aren’t in … Veeran tries to prove the moral, spiritual and traditional pureness of the Sri Lankan population in contrast to a morally depraved England. Here, smoking and dating girls at pubs and clubs are considered to be harmful western habits. Ravanan tries to scatter these romantic notions but repeatedly gives up because Veeran is unwilling to reconsider his views.
Veeran: In India you don’t have girlfriends and boyfriends. If you go to Sri Lanka or India you don’t find boys and girls in the street like in pubs or anything. There aren’t pubs and there aren’t boys and girls… Frübing, 58 Ravanan: There are pubs!