By Dr Shankar Tatvavadi
The importance given to values in Indian culture and lifestyle are widely praised in foreign countries. People abroad often express surprise that when families are breaking up all over the world, how is it that Indian families continue to live together as a unit for long! Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of England, when she came to India, praised the great Indian family structure. The pivot of the Indian family structure is the Indian woman.
The awardees with former Prime Minister, A.B. Vajpayee
She performs her duties in different roles?as mother, wife, sister, daughter and more. She is not only the binding force of the family, but is also responsible for ensuring that the future generation turns out to be cultured and obedient. She, in fact, acts as a cultural guard for the family. Today, the Indian woman is not confined to the Indian borders merely, but is also performing remarkably well in the distant countries abroad. Her role is evident when you see the many non-resident Indian families.
At present, non-resident Indian families comprise about two-and-half crore people, in around 125 countries. The Indians migrated in basically three groups: the first group went to Fiji, Mauritius, South Africa and the Caribbean countries, about 150 years ago, primarily as labourers. They belonged to the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Tamil Nadu. The second group, of Gujarati traders, migrated to African countries around a 100 years ago. The third group is of modern business-minded and technical experts, settled in Western countries like America and Britain since the past 40 or 50 years. This group constitutes people from almost all the states of India.
With changing times, the Indian woman abroad is accepting challenges from the outside world too, besides attending to her household chores. She respects Indian values and teaches them to her family. Some of them have never been to India. A few years ago, the experience of some Gujarati women is worth remembering. At a programme, when I told them that I had come from Kashi, one woman came to me and requested me to bathe in the River Ganga on her behalf when I returned to India. This shows how their heart is filled with gratitude for India and its places of pilgrimage. Recently, at the Pravasi Bhartiya Sammelan in India in January, people from Caribbean countries also expressed similar feelings.
The most crucial challenge the Indian woman faces today while abroad is how to protect the Indian identity from the onslaught of Western culture. Children and youngsters growing up in foreign countries miss the proper Indian cultural environment and fail to feel one with Indian values. Thus, it falls on the woman of the household to preserve the image of this new generation as well as her own identity and in turn, her entire family´s identity.