INTERESTS & VALUES
The South Asian Diaspora is vibrant and vocal, especially in global media. Representing their cultures wherever they go, what are the hurdles South Asians face and what continues to drive them?
The South Asian Diaspora faces numerous challenges but remains resilient. Will that always be the case?
The word ‘Diaspora’ was acquired from a Greek word, which means, ‘a scattering.’ But the word also implies that the group of people, who are scattered away from their homeland, will ‘gather’ together in the form of a new community in a foreign land. The South Asian Diaspora, that is, expatriates from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and the Maldives, spreads from the U.S., Canada and Europe to the Middle East and to Malaysia and Hong Kong in the Far East.
It is intended here to study one aspect of their psyche, namely their passion to express themselves through the media. They write newspaper blogs, letters to editors and also participate in TV talk shows. However, since such communities are dispersed across the globe, it is hard to discuss their individual activities separately. But there is one major factor which is common to all of them. They all have very strong bonds with their homeland and equally strong feelings for their traditions and culture.
As described by Robin Cohen, this connection often helps in establishing ‘transnational bonds,’ through writing books and articles. Many South Asian expatriates have tried to strengthen their solidarity with their homeland and their traditions by writing about them and in their defense, resulting in a strong bond between them and their homeland.
One crucial difference between South Asian societies and the South Asian Diaspora is the fact that the former have generally become indifferent
towards the situation in which they are placed. Over the past few years, South Asian countries have suffered a series of natural disasters, affecting their lives and their economies. At the same time, socio-political evils such as corruption, religious feuds and political instabilities have also contributed in the development of an impassive and detached exterior as a defense mechanism. On the other hand, the South Asian Diasporas are comparatively more sensitive. They tend to focus on every minor issue and that motivates them to write. For example, they meticulously discuss every religious riot in their homeland, whereas the locals are simply relieved at the fact that the riots are over and that they can resume their normal daily activities.
At times their views often appear to be rather partisan, tilting frequently towards the positive aspects of the situation in their homeland. They often try desperately to present a polished image of their country. They also indulge in detailed debates regarding the ways to improve the political, economic and social situations of their homeland, something that the South Asian societies themselves now consider a mere fantasy. Although they realize that their nation has been enduring bitter trials for a long time, their writings serve as a ray of hope. Moreover, it also symbolizes their effort to remain connected to the years of dismay, de- spite the distance between them.
Violence in the name of religion is also a common phenomenon in South Asian countries. In reality these are sprung due to almost every other reason apart from religion. The overseas population is repeatedly seen defending its nation and religion, if not its government. They consider absolving their nation as an obligation which they owe to their compatriots.
In contrast to this, many also write in order to establish themselves as a different and separate entity, in order to escape the humiliation of the heinous deeds of violence committed in the name of religion back home. They seem to be in a state of denial, desperately trying to break all connections from their homeland and simultaneously trying to blend into a foreign land. Some responses may also result from the desire to maintain peaceful ties with other communities in the land of their current residence. A famous example can be the statement by the President of Bradford’s Hindu Cultural Society, who claimed “what happened in India, has nothing to do with us,” after the brutal consequences of the events in Ayodhya in December 1992.
In addition to these reasons, the Diasporas are aware of the fact that they have a well-defined market, where their writings will be viewed and appreciated by a larger and more diverse
One crucial difference between South Asian societies and the South Asian Diaspora is the fact that the former have generally become indifferent towards the situation in which they are placed.
group. They realize the significance of their opinions and perspectives and hence share them with the world to either upgrade their nation’s reputation or to liberate themselves from the shame of the acts of violence and corruption in their homeland.
Another reason could be the fact that the Diasporas are often not fully integrated into the society and are still largely marginalized. These attitudes give way to feelings of ‘Us’ versus ‘Them.’ Their writings serve as a weapon to fight back and they make their arguments and perspectives heard. Even if it does not bring about any change, at least it serves to give vent to their feelings.
Some are more inclined to writing about ways to preserve their unique cultural, social and religious identity in a different environment without jeopardizing their relations with the foreigners. Some are also acutely aware of their need to alter their cultural consciousness in order to blend with the western world. They tend to write about the changes their communities must undergo to survive in a foreign land, especially when it comes to language, food and attire. In this way they assist their own communities, as they understand each other’s queries, hesitations and confusions. Their communities also helplessly witness their children willingly adapting to the western lifestyle, despite their efforts to make them adhere to their own cultural and religious values.
These are serious issues, which the South Asian Diaspora is facing today. By raising these issues in their blogs, articles and books, the expatriates have created a social network of their own. This provides them with a sense of belonging to their new homeland.