I just came back from a rousing intellectual conversation with Ram–D’s roommate. I was waiting for a mocha at the coffee place in Hillman when he, also in need of caffeinated liquid joy; approached me. After the initial pleasanteries we sat down to the real business of dissecting the world’s problems.
Ram is a recent Indian immigrant and is getting his kicks in public health. It was nice to sit for a minute and swap ideas on first and second generation Ghanaian and Indians in this country. He told me that from his viewpoint, ABCDs (american born confused desis) and IBD (indian born desis) tend to stay separate for two reasons:
1) ABCDs see IBDs as poor, provincial country folk not worthy of their association
2) IBDs see ABCDs as conflicted by an inferiority complex secondary to their inability to reach the status of their parents.
See, you’ve got these high achievers in India who–in order to make it into the system here–pushed themselves to the ultimate. They gave up pleasures, worked long and hard hours so that they could make the transition to this American life wherein their children would be comfortably ensconced to carry on the pride of the parents. Their enthusiasm, strict guidelines and often impossible expectations have now transferred to their children who are caught between filial piety and individual destiny. They are children of over-achievers; not necessarily over-achievers in and of themselves. And now–they must compete with the constant comparisons their parents lay on them between themselves and cousin so and so from India; or worse yet–their own parents.
Then in turn, you’ve got the ABCDs who; having been raised with American amenities; look down on Indian provincials who come here without any clue as the the culture of American life. Perceived as backward, stumbling “country-folk” without social graces; the ABCDs look down their noses at their country cousins. And so the twain do not meet.
On my side; there are the early-1970s Ghanaian intelligentsia and the recent 1990s Ghanaian get rick quick proletariat. The early 1970’s marked a prosperous time in Ghanaian history with the cedi ranking pound for pound with the dollar. Ghanaian intellectuals were emigrating to the states for the express purpose of acquiring higher education so as to return to Ghana and enrich the nation. Well, flight lieutenant J.J Rawlings changed that with a violent coup d’etat that rocked Ghana. Many of those intelligentsia never went back, but continued here in the states to raise children with strict expectations of success–mostly through education. I am one such child.
There are many of us–successful 0 and 1st generation Ghanaian kids–doing well in medicine, engineering and business. We hail from a different ideology than the current boom of Ghanaian migration that consists of not just those who wish to secure educational prosperity but many who are here (il)legally to amass as much money as possible and then go “home”. Unfortunately, many of them do not realize the intensity of life here in the states is much different from that in Ghana, and often not fully informed as to the rigors of American life–end up in menial jobs with no immediate plan or possibility of returning as the conquering hero/ine.
We talked of more but this entry is long enough as is and I have to get back to studying….
A good conversation always stirs me!