Volume 96, Issue 82
Thursday, March 6, 2003

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Bridging the cultural gap in Canada

Batteries not included
Niru Somayajula
Photo Editor

As I travelled across southern Ontario this past Reading Week, trapped in a car with no one but my mother, I quickly realized how different the views of two people from the same genetic make-up can be.

I am first generation Canadian-Indian; a title I believe comes with a grey area of beliefs and expectations which are impossible to live up to.

Education is your number 1 priority. One is expected to complete multiple post-secondary degrees, all of which fall into three categories: science, medicine or law. To pursue anything else would cause such scrutiny, that it would almost not be worth it.

Once your education is complete, you are required to find a suitable partner to spend the rest of your life with. And, of course, they must be brown.

I grew up in a small town, where I spent most of my free time on a ski hill or in a band, which is unheard of in metropolitan brown circles. Dating a brown guy was impossible – there just weren't any. This left me with two options: either not date at all, or force my parents to deal with the situation at hand. I eventually chose the latter, but I know deep down they want me to follow in their footsteps.

The big battle every child faces is marriage. Marriage in the Indian community is a communal affair. Everyone believes they have a say in the matter, and want to be involved in every stage, from picking out a bride/groom, to deciding what to name a couple's first-born child.

One of the most difficult concepts for me as a first-generation Canadian has been the constant inquiries made by the entire social community on the stage of a child's "marriageability." It feels like my mother, with the aid of her friends, is trying to force my biological clock to start ticking. They don't actually want me to settle down this instant and make babies; but they want me to think about it, think about my future brown husband and my future brown babies.

Inter-racial marriage is an option, but it's definitely not desired.

For anyone with a prominent non-Canadian background, it's been drilled into your head that it's your duty to marry one of your own. If you choose not to, you're an outcast, and treated no better than a traitor.

My question is, why? Should it not be your duty to set yourself up for the most successful and happy union that you can achieve? And if that life should come with someone from a different background, does it not increase your knowledge and appreciation for other cultures and provide dual opportunities for future offspring?

Outcasting couples of mixed backgrounds not only decreases acceptance within multiple communities, but it also eliminates any form of education about family heritage and culture a child could experience.

The biggest reason families decide to move to North America is to provide their children with opportunities that they never had. Yet, I find it is those same people who expect their children to carry out their own lives the way they did – which, logically speaking, is just not possible.

Although I fully commend multi-faith marriages, I realize it's not for everyone. It's human nature to feel more comfortable with your own kind. It's the way we're projected most likely to succeed.

But people need to understand that inter-racial marriages are not the end of the world. Our part of the world is supposed to stand for free thought and expression. If we can't accept this now, where will society be in 100 years?

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