Cultural divide not as strong as it might seem
Published: Sunday, November 11, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
“So, how has your experience been so far in England?” I asked my friend Suresh, who had recently relocated to London from Bombay. We both had been to the same undergraduate school, hailed from the same part of India, had shared the same dorm room, loathed the same mess food for several years and pretty much shared most career ambitions. We had a lot in common. We even did poorly on the same tests.
“Well,” Suresh said, “the most significant thing I learned is that all of man kind shares the same red blood.” After I hung up that Skype call sitting in my new Dallas home, I suddenly realized that he had just put in perspective one of my own profound discoveries about the world: mankind, whether white, black, brown, American, African, Hispanic or Asian, share the exact same sense of humanity.
In the initial weeks after my arrival in the U.S., I surprisingly found, that some of my closest friends were non-Indians. The nature of my home being next door to SMU had in fact facilitated my quick companionship with one of the closest friends I may have ever made: a hefty, ingenious German exchange student at the Cox School of Business.
Stefan and I were literally from different corners of the world. We hailed from different kinds of family systems and of course had mother tongues that we here mutually exclusive in an almost mathematical sense. We arrived in the U.S. with different definitions to so many things in this world. Stefan had probably never seen slums on the scales of the ones in Bombay, while I have never been to one of those wild parties overflowing with beer,that he talked about nostalgically from back in Deutschland and Barcelona.
And frankly, we were both taken aback when we found that we could still have so many similar experiences here. That we could share the same opinion about so many things we saw around us. The intriguing part was, these opinions had taken root and shaped our thought processes in such disjoint settings, despite vast differences in our cultures, upbringing, experiences and education. Some examples are the times we would get annoyed at the whimsical weather of Texas and when we would have congruent urges to go on long drives in the outskirts of Dallas. I realized that although we may define some things in different ways, we surely understood the same meaning.
And so, when I went over to stay with my American “Foster Parents” briefly during the summer, I remember an Indian friend eagerly asking me about how exciting it would be for me to observe an American family’s “ways of life” up close. I thought very hard about it, because their way of life didn’t seem alien to me. Yes, they had unusual routines and yes, they wore shoes inside their home unlike any traditional Indian household. Despite these slight changes in mannerisms, I found that we could all sit down in front of the TV and laugh at the same joke, gasp at the same sights and be enthralled by the same world around us. It was exciting, but the excitement was in finding out that the world might as well have been flat all along and I wouldn’t have noticed at all.
Sunil is a graduate student in the Lyle School of Engineering.