Loss of identity, community and culture

Loss of identity, community and culture

EACH individual has an identity, belongs to a particular community and has a specific cultural background. Generally, a Malayalee has an identity that the person is born to parents or grandparents or great-grandparents who are from Kerala. 

When born in the US or Germany as the grandchild of a Keralite, the immediate identity is to be an American or German or Indian American or Indian German. 

Malayalee does not become a primary identity. It creates an identity crisis. Most of these second, third and fourth-generation Malayalees born outside India do not have any idea what a Malayalee identity means. 

Malayalee associations and congregations of Malayalee churches, temples and mosques are in most of these countries. Even in those assemblies, the participation of first and second generations is very limited. In other words, the Malayalee identity is lost among this new generation of Malayalees born outside India. However, their Indian identity remains because of their look and sometimes their names. 

We can belong to Indian Community, Kerala Community, Kottayam Community, Calicut Community, Hindu Community, Christian Community, Muslim Community, Nair Community, Catholic Community or Malayalee Community. 

If we live in Kerala, we can use some of these identities. If you live in North India, your identities are South Indian, Malayalee, etc. If you live in Tamil Nadu, you are a Malayalee. We do not lose our identity. We, the first generation Malayalees, who moved outside India and settled down in other countries, our main identity is Indian. 

Among the Indian community, we can be identified as Malayalee. Among Malayalees, we can be Christin, Hindu or Muslim and also Kochikkaran, Kottayamkaran, Thrissurkkaran, etc. Those second and third generations lose these identities and become German, American or English. The Indian or Malayalee community identity is lost.

What about culture? When I grew up in Kottayam in a Syrian Christian Mar Thoma family, I inherited the Kerala culture, Kottayam culture, Syrian Christian culture and Mar Thoma culture. I also inherited the great Indian culture. I live through that culture though living in the US for the past 50 years has lot of influence on my culture. Our children and grandchildren did not inherit the cultures I developed. They lost my cultural background and they have their own culture, much different from mine.

The new Malayalee community has lost its Malayalee identity, community and culture. We formed Kerala and Malayalee Associations, Cultural societies, Indian Associations, churches, temples, etc. to maintain our identity, community and culture. Did we succeed? NO. Could we succeed? NO. What can we do? NOTHING. What we did was for us, we wished and expected our new generations would be able to maintain our same identity, community and culture. It did not happen. How did it fail? Whom do you blame?

The fact of the matter is that we never thought of such an outcome. We the first-generation migrants thought that all our activities in Malayalee associations, churches, temples and mosques will be taken over by our children. It is not happening because they are growing up in a different country influenced by the local culture in schools, universities and social activities, while we were trying to impose on them our old culture of love, respect, jealousy, gossip, etc. 

They live in modern, advanced developed countries with people of other cultures and backgrounds. Our religious leaders also were trying to impose on them our traditions and values which did not impress them. The main objective of these religious leaders is to build their institutions in India, which we supported, but cannot expect the new generation to support.

What are we left with? Well, we can continue to enjoy our identity, community and culture, while participating in the local community and culture for the benefit of the new generation. America is called a melting pot because it is the country of immigrants. Originally the immigrants came from Britain, then came the Irish and then the West Europeans. By the middle of the 20th Century came Asians and Africans. 

The first-generation migrants continued their traditions and culture. As the new generations blossom, they melted into the US culture, which actually embraces all cultures, which is the reason why it is called a melting pot. People from all 190 countries are there in the US. Other countries do not have such a situation except may be Britain. 

I know that we have organizations, and both Government of India and Kerala have NRI cells; these only help people who return to India or Kerala to settle. Those of us, who have settled in other countries and died there have no benefits from these institutions. As we failed to preserve our traditions and culture for our new generations, these institutions also failed. 

Even though we are a generation who planted Malayalees in other countries we are going to become a lost generation, losing our identity, community and culture and losing our new generations to a new community and culture. Human life on earth continues, technological, scientific and other developments go on and communities and cultures thrive and we cannot predict what is going to happen tomorrow. So enjoy life wherever you are with love, friendship and community life.