On Thursday two sets of Indian American parents made news. In San Diego the Nadipati’s were celebrating. Their 14-year-old daughter Snigdha had won the Scripps National Spelling Bee competitions for spelling a French word that no one uses in English language.
But looking at photo — the young girl with braces, and a sparkling face, being hugged by her father with a gray moustache, I could not help think that this was a major event in their lives.
|Dharun Ravi (L) looks on as his mother, Sabitha Ravi cries as
she reads her statement
A lot of hard work had paid off. And if the story was true, the father — Krishnarao used to test Singdha’s spellings when she was in kindergarten, then the photo was saying it was a win for him. He entered her in spelling bee competitions when she was a third grader. Otherwise how many eight-year-olds make such decisions on their own?
Closer home, in Middlesex County in New Jersey, another set of Indian parents were performing an act they never thought about when they first arrived in the US. They hugged their child — a 20-year-old gaunt looking Dharun Ravi and then left him in the care of the county’s sheriff. That afternoon Dharun was to begin his 30 days imprisonment for bias related crimes that may have caused his roommate at Rutgers University to commit suicide.
There are over three million Indian Americans in the US and most are not similar to the parents of Dharun or Snigdha. But I am generalizing in a broad way, when I say I cannot help think something is not working right in the parenting of many desi kids in the US.
According to the Scripps, Snigdha is a regular child. She collects coins, is a fan of Sherlock Holmes, plays violin and she speaks Telugu. But this young girl, who will perhaps soon appear on late night talk shows and may even get an audience with President Barack Obama, studied 10-12 hours on weekends and six hours on weekdays. Her childhood was lost in memorizing spellings of words she will never write or speak.
Some celebrate it as an achievement, but I have a problem with how obsessive Indian American parents become pushing their young kids to prepare for the spelling bees. I do not doubt that they love their children but 10-12 hours of studying words over the weekend is way too much for a young teenager.
Instead she could be enjoying her life playing sports, hanging out in malls with friends, having crushes on boys, reading romance novels, going for Justin Bieber concerts and seeing Shah Rukh Khan movies.
Even with that life, she could still be an A student and get admission in Harvard University. But Snigdha — like most other kids who go through the rigorous training for spelling bee contests, never had a choice in how she wanted to spend her teenage years. She just lived her parent’s dream.
Two weeks ago at Dharun’s sentencing his mother Sabitha wept, as she implored the judge not to give him prison sentence. She said Ravi was eating only one meal a day and had lost 25 pounds since his ordeal began. There was no mention of the fact that the day he was asked to leave his dorm, after his gay roommate Tyler Clementi’s death, Ravi still hoped to go out and get drunk with his friends.
I see the mother’s pain, but I wonder if Sabitha ever told her child that the world is full of different kinds of people, and that it is important to treat all human beings with respect and dignity? I wonder if Dharun — the product of the society we live in, but also a child of his parents, would have started the webcam in his dorm room, if he knew that Clementi was straight? Would he gone on Twitter and announced that his roommate was straight? These questions will remain unanswered.
This weekend will be very different for Dharun and Snigdha. He starts 30 days of revisiting his actions that hopefully will make him a better human being. Snigdha has a few more years to reclaim her teenage life if she seeks it!
So Nawazuddin Siddiqui is Aseem Chhabra’s new obsession ‘A human chameleon’ (PM, May 27). I can't say I disagree, Siddiqui has been impressive right from Peepli Live, where he played a serious-minded journalist to the hilt.
But I really enjoyed role in Kahaani with his overt cockiness and tough talk. His drama school background stands out clearly in all his performances, from his clear enunciation to his expressions. I hope Siddiqui is used well in our industry which has scant regard for pure actors.
Can’t wait for more of Nawaz
Until it was pointed out by Aseem Chhabra, I hadn’t realised that Peepli Live’s journalist and the tough-talking CID officer from Kahaani were one and the same. I can’t wait to watch more of Nawazuddin Siddiqui in his forthcoming film fest with movies such as Dekh Indian Circus. What a remarkable actor.
- Aabha Tilak
No more SRK?
I am a regular reader of Aseem Chhabra’s columns. I have noticed that the man has more than a passing affection for Shah Rukh Khan, which is why I was rather surprised to read his glowing praise for Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Although I have been a fan of SRK, it was high time we spoke of others too.
- Oindrilla Guha