Friday, October 9, 2009

Aiyarisation and Universalism

This is written by Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyer, about himself. Published
in The Times of India.

In 1992, I wrote a book titled Towards Globalisation. I did not realise at
the time that this was going to be the history of my family.

Last week, we celebrated the wedding of my daughter, Pallavi. A brilliant
student, she had won scholarships to Oxford University and the London
School of Economics. In London, she met Julio, a young man from Spain. The
two decided to take up jobs in Beijing, China. Last week, they came over
from Beijing to Delhi to get married. The wedding guests included 70
friends from North America, Europe and China.

That may sound totally global, but arguably my elder son Shekhar has gone
further. He too won a scholarship to Oxford University, and then taught for
a year at a school in Colombo. Next he went to Toronto, Canada, for higher
studies. There he met a German girl, Franziska.

They both got jobs with the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC,
USA. This meant that they constantly travelled on IMF business to disparate
countries. Shekhar advised and went on missions to Sierra Leone,
Seychelles, Kyrgyzstan and Laos. Franziska went to Rwanda, Tajikistan, and
Russia. They interrupted these perambulations to get married in late 2003.

My younger son, Rustam, is only 15. Presumably he will study in Australia,
marry a Nigerian girl, and settle in Peru.

Readers might think that my family was born and bred in a jet plane. The
truth is more prosaic. Our ancestral home is Kargudi, a humble, obscure
village in Tanjore district, Tamil Nadu. My earliest memories of it are as
a house with no toilets, running water, or pukka road.

When we visited, we disembarked from the train at Tanjore, and then
travelled 45 minutes by bullock cart to reach the ancestral home. My father
was one of six children, all of whom produced many children (I myself had
three siblings). So, two generations later, the size of the Kargudi
extended family (including spouses) is over 200. Of these, only three still
live in the village. The rest have moved across India and across the whole
world, from China to Arabia to Europe to America.

This one Kargudi house has already produced 50 American citizens. So,
dismiss the mutterings of those who claim that globalisation means
westernisation. It looks more like Aiyarisation, viewed from Kargudi.

What does this imply for our sense of identity? I cannot speak for the
whole Kargudi clan, which ranges from rigid Tamil Brahmins to beef-eating,
pizza-guzzling, hip-hop dancers. But for me, the Aiyarisation of the world
does not mean Aiyar domination. Nor does it mean Aiyar submergence in a
global sea. It means acquiring multiple identities, and moving closer to
the ideal of a brotherhood of all humanity. I remain quite at home sitting
on the floor of the Kargudi house on a mat of reeds, eating from a banana
leaf with my hands. I feel just as much at home eating noodles in China,
steak in Spain, teriyaki in Japan and cous-cous in Morocco. I am a Kargudi
villager, a Tamilian, a Delhi-wallah, an Indian, a Washington Redskins fan,
and a citizen of the world, all at the same time and with no sense of
tension or contradiction.

When I see the Brihadeeswara Temple in Tanjore, my heart swells and I say
to myself “This is mine.” I feel exactly the same way when I see the Church
of Bom Jesus in Goa, or the Jewish synagogue in Cochin, or the Siddi Sayed
mosque in Ahmedabad: these too are mine. I have strolled so often through
the Parks at Oxford University and along the canal in Washington, DC, that
they feel part of me. As my family multiplies and intermarries, I hope one
day to look at the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona and Rhine river
in Germany and think, “These too are mine.”

We Aiyars have a taken a step toward the vision of John Lennon. Imagine
there's no country, It isn't hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for, And no
religion too.

My father's generation was the first to leave the village, and loosen its
regional shackles. My father became a chartered accountant in Lahore, an
uncle became a hotel manager in Karachi, and we had an aunt in Rangoon.

My generation loosened the shackles of religion. My elder brother married a
Sikh, my younger brother married a Christian, and I married a Parsi. The
next generation has gone a step further, marrying across the globe.
Globalisation for me is not just the movement of goods and capital, or even
of Aiyars. It is a step towards Lennon's vision of no country.

You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope one day you'll
join us. And the world will be one.


After reading through this- I have two pressing questions. Do all of us have it to embrace the firangs and their culture? Are we ready to break the shackles and move into in a different world, accept completely different sets of people? What about the famous Indian culture?
In the same breathe, My family has moved a little away from Tanjore :P I have a Spanish Sis in Law; My grandpa moved to Bombay God knows when, and my mom and her whole family of 5 grew up there.
This was certainly a very good read, like Amisha said, this can be used a Business Case on Globalization in Biz-schools!


Anonymous said...

Haha :D

My mom started it for my family, I think, by marrying a *gasp* North Indian. Oh and we now have a Pakistani bride somewhere in the distant reaches of our family.

Nice post. It makes me feel proud to be part of a global community in some way. :)

Harish Krishnamoorthy said...

Wat if we club the good/best thoughts; practices, policies; doctrines; disciplines; technologies of firangis and ours? And wipe out the unwanted craps from both culture/traditions; which wont help any of us.

The world has changed so drastically that one day we all will start 2 say that we all are the citizens of a Global Village. So its time to move on and try 2 "Do; Be and Think" for the best and make every1's life benefited.

gitanjali.j said...

The question is, WHAT exactly is the famous Indian culture?Is it 'Mera Bharat Mahaan'? Or is it wearing paavadai davanis? Or the girl-boy no talk, no date before marriage? Even you and me dont uphold this, Sandy!! So maybe, we ought to figure that out first :P

Krishnan said...

A good post!!!!

Looks totally FILMY...but i know its not...its like an Indian dream....

I believe just marrying some 1 of the different culture, race or religion doest not constitute as globalization or what ever....what did u learn & impart & impact u made on others makes the difference....

As this post goes..All his children have married foreigners & settled in foreign countries.....what have they done special that many others have not.......Do you any families that have married foreigner settled in INDIA?? sry to say i dont know even 1.....why it should be both ways na.....

We do work & live in a multi cultural atmosphere....I for 1 have friends who are Gujarati,Marathi & rajasthani's....i know most of their customs & like vise they know mine......similarly we make friends out side the country.....i seriously dont belive that u have to get married to break free of ur culture.....All cultures have + & -.......

Every 1 dreams ..... a few succeed after many hard ships & problems......Finally its for each of us to decide wether the DREAMS was worth it or not....

Please don't misunderstand me...I am not for or against Cross cultural marriages.....but different people have different kind of responsibilities & problems......So each of us Must think what do we exactly seek & please not jump into Hasty decisions.....

Satya said...

Hey dat made for some really cool read.

And like gitanjali says, culture is so granular dat its hard to piece the fluff together and define it. Almost abstract.

And in many ways I am happy dat there are still people around who refuse to recognise the concepts of boundaries and lines of geographical demarcation.

I totally digg it!!

vEnKy said...

Nice to read but i dont buy into anything what he is saying

Anonymous said...

a semi-goth punjabi gfriend,typical tamil mom n dad,my westernized ethiopian brain,italian taste buds etc etc...guess theres a cross cultural borderless luv story goin on everywhere ,wont be surprised if my son/daughter(future...far far away) gets married to a plutonian !!

VaishnaviHari said...

"Janani Janmabhoomischa swargadapi gariyasi" said Lord Rama in Ramayana. There can be only one mother and one motherland which is greater than heaven. One cannot feel at home everywhere.I don't agree to the author's views that on moving out of India and embracing other cultures you feel at home everywhere. Like mentioned in previous posts, are those who married foreigners settled in India? Did they accept India as their country?Globalization in general means big nation exploiting the resources and people of small nation. Similarly these weddings are such that where there are opportunities and resources people settle there.

sMileViL ;) said...

lol nice fun reading this :)

Meow said...

I am back to this post after a long time...good read.... why don't WE start?? :) We have to bring the change we want am I sounding sensible???