November 24, 2010, 7:12 pm


 Malayalee families migrated to the United States, which has assimilated the cultural  tradition of many different people from all parts of the world, have problem in adopting   that culture. The reason for this may be attributed to their  high esteem  for their own culture. Contrary to American  culture,  they are familiar with a culture where elders are respected and parents are considered as Gods by  children. The atmosphere of the family is congenial to their growth  as they are properly directed and loved by the parents. Also, they are punished for their mistakes to avoid recurrence  and strict discipline is imposed on them. In the United States Malayalee/Indian  families want to introduce the same pattern of life back home. Therefore, there are serious issues between the youngsters and the immigrant parents.


Children born and brought up in the United States  are  in a dilemma as they are   placed between two cultures. The Indian parents who  think that their culture is unique will be disturbed if their children   tend to lean to western culture. They fear that every identity personal, ethnic or national will be faded or lost because the children living in the Unite States  do not think  of themselves as Keralites or rightly speaking Indians; they would fully assimilate in to the melting pot of American culture brushing aside their origin and pedigree. Therefore parents will try to mould their children in to Indian culture without understanding the ongoing psychological problems within the youngsters. Is it totally wise for the parents to insist their children to follow completely the Indian tradition at every instance in a different society? Are we honoring the dignity of  the new generation or suppressing their free thinking. What happens when our innate behavior is restricted or controlled? We will be behaving differently and unusually. The natural qualities of  human beings develop  along with time. However, proper directions can facilitate growth and development.


Most of the immigrant families in the United States  regardless of their race and nationality might be debating with their high school children as to what would be the choice of their future studies. Most of the time parents and children do not agree on their choices. There might be cases where children acceded   to their parents’ pressure which lead them to chaos. Is it advisable to pressurize the children to adopt our culture and inflict our  ideas  that bridle and jeopardizes  their natural thoughts? Here is a story by Anton Chekhov that reveals  the diversion in a cat  when   it was  placed  in a situation not in conformity  with its natural instinct. 


“ When My  uncle Pyotr Demyanich  was about to leave for the High School where he taught Latin, he saw that the binding of his grammar book had been nibbled by mice.  His hat was also nibbled  the previous day. Fearing that  they will  have a feast on his clothes, he discussed the matter with his cook, Praskovya and suggested to get a cat. Praskovya brought a cat. He said the cat was not very good as it was a silly little baby.  Mr. Demyanich   thought that  any thing can be accomplished by training and suggested training for the cat.  The cat did not pay much attention to this conversation. It blinked and lay curled as if in deep thought.


While retuning from school Mr. Demyanich  went to the local store and bought a mouse trap. He prepared the bait to trap the mice and engaged in correcting  his students’ homework. He heard a sudden clop. A tiny and  shining mouse  was in the cage shivering with fear. Being happy in succeeding to catch the mouse, he shouted Praskvya to bring the cat. When the cat was put in front of the mouse trap it looked bewildered and hastened to run away. Mr. Demyanich exclaimed, “the cat is afraid of mice.” Then he advised the cook to hold the cat in front of the mouse trap so that the cat can catch the mouse  when it was released from the cage . But the cat remained and dull  and let the mouse  escape. The same thing happened second day. Mr. Demayanich roared  with anger and ordered the cook to whip the cat. When the third mouse was caught  the kitten stood shivering with fear in front of the mouse trap. Mr. Demayanich grew furious and shouted to throw the cat away from home.


A year  passed. The cat became wise and calm. One day  he was looking for romantic adventures in the backyard. He heard a rustling sound and saw a mouse moving around. His fur bristled, he arched his back, he hissed, he trembled over and gracefully ran away. 


I felt  myself in the ridiculous position as the cat when my  uncle taught  me Latin. When someone mentions an ancient classic instead of being moved with enthusiasm,  I remember my uncle’s gray and sallow face. I grow pale, my hair stand on end and like the kitten I take refuge in ignominious flight.”


It is an abridged version of the story by Anton Chekhov. The cat was not acting as it was expected to act. It was failing  in performing its duty. Can we blame the environment and the manner in which   the cat  was brought up for its non cat-like behavior? Was it because the cat was placed in state of trepidation and confusion which obstructed the development of   its natural qualities? At the sight of the mouse in the back yard  what flashed through  its mind  might be the frightening ill-treatment received when  it was a kitten. If  the children are compelled to imbibe something against their wishes viz choosing their career, selecting their life partner  or being influenced by external pressure in following the  culture not of their choice, probably they will act like Anton Checkhov’s cat . Let them think freely and independently and become a civilized citizen.  What distinguishes human from animals is the capacity to think logically which enables them to behave appropriately and avoid unconventional activities. If we cannot perform our duties and engage in activities which makes us human beings, we belong to cowshed where the only availability is hey, grass and water instead of sumptuous meal. Then we blame ourselves for  being trapped in the cowshed.


Listen to what Lord Krishna at the battlefield said to Arjuna who was about to quit the war seeing a mighty army against him lead by his  relatives and friends on the opposite side. “ How, have these

despair and self pity come upon you. Get up and fight.” Krishna further said, “Arjuna, you have such a valor in you because I live in you; all you need to do is to draw upon me and you can destroy the enemy completely.”


What transpires from Krishna’s words is that  there are challenges in our life and we should be alert and smart to face them and overcome them. How formidable the challenges may be, we can tackle  them with God’s love. Arjuna was feeling despondent, but we was reassured by God. Children growing in the United States needs a lot of help from parents  as they are facing situations which they may not be able to handle by themselves. However, if the parents bridle  their ideas and  plans about their future, they  may fail to develop the qualities endowed with them. Parents should create favorable

environment for them to develop  and  grow up with free thinking. Free thinking is  sign of civilization.