My grandfather, together with his family moved to Australia from India in 1971, and now there are four generations of my extended family currently living in Australia. Coming from an Indian cultural background, and being born and raised in Australia creates a sense of dual identity and it’s quite complex.
Looking at this, I wonder if I am able to customise the cultures I identify with, where I can decide what parts to adopt and what parts to abandon.
Like in all cultures, Indian culture has its own unique positive qualities, and it is quite endearing to be affiliated with it. These positive aspects include incredible varieties of food, fashion, the movie industry, family bonds, diverse sub-cultures and faiths, celebrations as well as a rich and fascinating history.
There are many admirable aspects of culture, however there are also negative aspects too. I think it’s important to be aware of what these negative aspects are, and perhaps even pick and choose what parts of the culture to adopt, and which to abandon.
There are many negative aspects or practices of Indian culture: sexism (patriarchy, misogyny), discrimination over skin colour (ie, fair and lovely), social expectations – living your life by what other people will think (judgemental attitudes) and an aversion to change and blindly follow outdated rituals and traditions, no concept of privacy and herd mentality.
These are the main ones, not to mention taboo topics like sex, gender mixing and saying what you actually want.
There are so many problems that arise from the negative parts of culture. Not being raised in solely Indian culture – I am able to be part of it and also look at it from an outside perspective.
I begin to question why is it the way it is, to have an acute awareness of perpetuating issues that come about from following such ridiculous rules. The idea of people living their life in fear of what others will think of them, whilst may seem normal to some people, is baffling to me.
Lately, I’ve been reading up on the concept of ‘acculturation’ which looks at a process of cultural and psychological change that results from having other cultures influence it. Having a dual-identity means you’re not really sure whether one culture dominates the other. Am I Australian with a little bit of Indian, or, am I Indian with a little bit of Australian influence.
Being raised not to follow Indian tradition so strictly and adopting more of an Australian multicultural identity has made me into the person I am today and I’m really grateful for that.
However balancing my Indian-ness with my Australian-ness is difficult, at the end of the day, one will dominate the other.
I believe culture is not static, but it is in constant flow as it adapts and reforms. It is possible to give up harmful practices, but not the essence of the culture itself. There is no fear of losing your culture by not following the negative parts of it.
My Australian identity absorbs my Indian identity as a very small part of who I am. Therefore I do believe, in order to maintain a connection to my cultural background, I need to make an active and conscious effort to pick and choose which parts I want to adopt and which to abandon.
(Courtesy Australian Muslim Times AMUST)
Mobinah Ahmad is a Sydney based third generation Australian of Indian heritage having studied at the University of Sydney with BA, BSc, MA (Digital Media & Culture). She is a professional social media analyst and currently completing a Masters in Islamic Studies while at the same time working as Multimedia Journalist for the Australasian Muslim Times AMUST.