A few weeks back I bumped into an old retired gentleman in a cafe. He was South African Indian like myself and we got to chatting. I really like chatting to older folks because they have interesting insights about the world.
I listened to him intently for long while. He spoke about his kids and how proud of them he was; how he had raised them to become doctors and lawyers; and how they had moved to various countries around the world.
He spoke of his annoyances with modern day living and his appreciation of his new granddad role in life. It was great just sitting back and hearing the stories.
But as I listened to him, I began to notice idiosyncrasies. I began to see massive disconnects between how the generations engage with one another.
He complained of something; something that really irked him.
He didn’t like that families were disconnected now, and he railed about how the modern generations moved away, and forgot their sense of community. He didn’t like that this new generation with their new found wealth had become materialistic.
And therein I saw the problem.
A massive focus in Indian communities is educating your kids so that they can have better lives. Previous generations of Indians have done this diligently. The current generation have now acquired their degrees and wealth based on their parents hard work.
This resulted in the new generation moving away from their communities after getting qualified. The moves are usually to big cities in other provinces or in other countries.
With this comes the obvious loss of connection with communities they grew up in, and the adoption of other the norms and cultures.
So this is the problem; the things that the older generation complain about, are the things they helped inadvertently build. It’s a weird irony!
The older generation empowered their kids with education, but not with cultural, communal or generational awareness.
These are unintended consequences of us not fully realizing the extent of our actions.
A Potential Solution
I personally think that we as South African Indians can do better.
We maintain the aspects of our culture that are superficial, but have little awareness of the core values of our culture. Eating a curry, dressing in a saree or listening to banghra music doesn’t make us Indian.
I believe there are more important parts of our culture in tandem with education that are crucial; things like Ahimsa, vegetarianism/veganism, yoga, meditation and whole host of things I probably don’t know about.
As I deepen my Veganism, I see the clear connection with it and eastern philosophies.
I see that the practices of Hinduism like Yoga, Mediation, Ahimsa and Vegetarianism have got immense value.
These core tenets of Eastern culture should be deepened and reinforced between the generations because that commonality never gets old. It never goes out of vogue and never ceases to be useful. I reckon that the best way to deepen connection between the generations is to instill the core parts of our culture, to pass on teachings that will never change.
We need to clearly identify the core parts of our cultures, keep and teach that. That will be the stuff that binds generations together irrespective of what ethnic group you belong to. Everything else is just noise.
When we prepare our kids for better lives; lives better than what we had, what exactly does that mean? Are we being short sighted in how we prepare the next generation?
Hinduism has got four thousand years worth of wisdom and teachings. What parts will always be relevant and should be carried forward, among the new things that need to taught.
The things that are worth keeping, are also the things that bind us together.