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Are We Blunting Our Children’s “India Advantage”
Perhaps that indescribable magic behind iconic Indian origin professional managers, academics, professionals, entrepreneurs on the world stage and at home who have acknowledged this India Advantage as a key ingredient in their becoming successful global Indians.
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One stark social contradiction that can be seen often in affluent metropolitan India is that as the world moves into an Asian or an Indian century, a section of society seems to be unwittingly eroding their children’s natural “India Advantage”. An advantage that is the unique alchemy inside homes during growing up years that combines an ethno-cultural way of life with the modern and contemporary. A way of life that gave strong foundational roots to build a successful career anywhere in the world. And which perhaps is also that indescribable magic behind iconic Indian origin professional managers, academics, professionals, entrepreneurs on the world stage and at home who have acknowledged this India Advantage as a key ingredient in their becoming successful global Indians.
Contrast that with being globally aware and locally ignorant which seems to be the new normal. It is not uncommon to routinely encounter suave young adults, intelligent and worldly-wise but clued out about most things Indian. An ethno-culturally incongruent section of youngsters with speech and thought aligned virtually to a distant world. A world where Connecticut and Birmingham are pronounced to near perfection but Calicut and Birbhum draw a blank and thoughts drift amidst alien shores without at least one firmly anchored locally as a foundation and in doing so perhaps inadvertently frittering away that crucial India advantage.
Since early personality is largely shaped by parental influence at home, providing children with a simulated growing up environment alien from their immediate and natural could potentially put their child’s future at risk. Cultural incongruence can misalign personality make one pretentious and adversely impact career. And in any case if India is where much of play will happen then what better natural advantage than the knowledge of pitch condition and lay of land to win at the game.
Media, technology, globalization, changing social attitudes and busy working parents are commonly attributed causes for this cultural incongruence. All undeniably correct but shouldn’t part culpability be shared by the growing-up environment at home because that after-all has a disproportionate impact on developing a young mind. Much at home seems designed to simulate an alien environment that transports a child’s imagination to a world that is different from what they exist in. Picture books have unfamiliar characters, devices stream AV content from foreign lands, pop-icons and role models are distant, food and socializing norms are westernized, holiday destinations are abroad and even festivals are imported.
But it is not as much the imported which poses a risk but the increasingly conspicuous absence of the other, the local, which has the potential to blunt that critical India advantage. This significant other was an informal lifestyle ecosystem made up of a variety of ethno-cultural reminders during growing up years. Vernacular communication, copies of Amar Chitra Katha lying around, depending on where you came from, a P.L Deshpande, a Feluda or a Premchand beckoning from the bookshelf, a Gita, a Kural or some other spiritual books peeping at you from the pooja room and that constant trilogy of festivals, food, and attire. A Sitar or a Tabla in the corner and daily rituals like Arti and Sandhya Vandana added a distinct flavor and LTA restricted to anywhere within India and holidays to towns where grandparents or the family deity lived or to some pilgrimage center contributed to geographical awareness.
This local flavor at home during growing up was an essential ingredient in the alchemy that made up the unique India advantage. But that alchemy seems disturbed. The imported has edged out the local inside homes and which is perhaps the main cause for spawning a globally aware but locally ignorant section of youngsters.
Can a virtually acclimatized lifestyle inside a western cocoon yield dividend? For excellence in the virtual can well be below average in the real. And real India in the Indian century with its opportunities will be hyper-competitive and demand excellence. Expensive college fees abroad or buying into expensive immigration programs can only offer temporary insurance to escape the cauldron of intense competition that is India. But a confident awareness of ethno-cultural roots is perhaps the firmest launchpad for take-off into the heat and dust that will be the Indian century. After all, so many Indian and Indian origin achievers have used it for a successful launch. Why not give the same benefit to our children from early years.
Because in the end for success it’s all about originality over imitation, natural over pretention, and individuality over personality. To remain connected with your deeper roots as you soar tall. And like starships have the advantage of ground control as they explore the universe, let your child have the India advantage as she finds her place in the world. It is her natural advantage. She was born with it. Let’s not take that away from her.
The author is a business strategist. He tweets as @vikramlimsay
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.