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Kavitha Dispatch

It's a Small World After All!
June 7, 2000

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This is only a small part of my family!
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Here in India, family is an integral part of life and community. By American standards, I come from a gigantic family - I've got over 60 cousins! But for India, this is perfectly normal. I always loved coming to visit India as a child, to see how my cousins had grown, to hear old stories from my grandparents and dress up in all the fancy new clothes my aunts and uncles would buy me. It always amazed me how much all our relatives kept track of our lives in America, how they all knew about what we were doing and what we were studying. Even when years went by since our last visit, I would be surprised to find recent pictures of us that my parents had sent them hanging on their walls.

Vocabulary

globalization - to look at things with a global, or international, perspective, whether it's pertaining to economy, culture or society

Free Trade - trade based on the unrestricted international exchange of goods

grapple - to come to an understanding about something

I remember when I was younger, whenever I would visit India, we always brought a suitcase full of presents for everyone... nailpolishes, tapes, walkmans, toys, jeans, watches, sneakers, you name it! My relatives would always be full of questions about America, about the music, TV, and life in general.

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The Maharaja Mac and McAloo Tikka bring a hip, young crowd to McDonald's, while small, local Indian fast-food restaurants go out of business
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They all talked about how they wished they could visit. Nowadays though, things are different. We don't bring the suitcases of presents anymore...virtually anything you can get in America is available here now too. My cousins no longer dream of life in America, they can watch it on Friends, or MTV or on the latest Hollywood flick playing at the cinema hall. When I was younger, I remember the only sodas available were Thumbs Up cola and Gold Spot Orange Soda, now all of a sudden there's Coke, Pepsi, Sprite, and Fanta. Gold Spot doesn't exist anymore, and Thumbs Up now says 'A product of Coca Cola' on the side.

LEARNING LESSONS OLD AND NEW

I love to visit my family here, but I have to admit that there are times that it makes me very sad too. Sometimes, even when I'm surrounded by cousins, uncles, great aunts and family friends, I feel alone. We speak the same language and we are from the same family, but often they just don't understand me. For example, they do not understand what I'm doing with my life now. In India, it is highly unusual for a girl to be single at my age. My aunts and uncles arrange marriages for our cousins by the time they are 24 or so, and I'm 26--Way past my time! Once a person has completed their degree, they are expected to settle down and get as high a paying job as they can find and start having children. Volunteering with a project like the Odyssey is something completely beyond their scope of reality. Now, my cousins may be hip to the new trends in the world of computers and communications, but my aunts and uncles are definitley not! They don't understand what the Odyssey does, and I have to admit it's really rather frustrating to hear them speak of the Odyssey as a little trip my friends and I are taking around the world with little computers. Most of all though they don't understand how I can travel for so long without seeing my family. I tell them that I miss my parents and my sister a lot, but that the internet has helped a lot in keeping in touch. The other night though, my Buji auntie and I were talking, and it all finally clicked with her. I was telling her how my sister and I can chat through the internet and send each other pictures of where we are and what we're doing. She was amazed and told me an old story from the great Hindu epic the Mahabharata. The story has it that the God Krisna gave his sister Subhadra a present one day--a special box. Whenever Subhadra opened this box she could see the face of whoever she was thinking of at the time and communicate with them. This way Subhadra could know how her beloved husband Arjuna was even when he was far away in travels. Buji auntie was amazed how I could chat with my loved ones and even see them through my little box, my laptop computer. "All these things were in the universe already. They've been spoken of for thousands of years and now we're rediscovering them. From Subhadra's box to your Internet, the world keeps recreating magic."

These are all results of globalization. For many years after India finally got independence from England, it closed its borders to most foreign companies, in hopes of supporting local businesses and becoming self-sufficient. In fact self sufficiency was one of the prime themes of the fight for independence as people like Gandhi started to spin their own cotton and make their own salt instead of buying overpriced goods from England. In the past 4-5 years though, the Indian government has joined with the rest of the world in welcoming 'Free Trade' and opening its doors to globalization. It is really amazing to see how fast it has been changing things. My cousins here in India now know more about Hollywood and American music than I do. While my sister and I admire all the beautiful Indian clothes and enjoy eatingall the yummy Indian food, my cousins prefer wearing Levi's jeans and T-shirts, and joining all the other 'hip', 'modern' kids eating at McDonald's. 'Globalization' -- What does this word that is thrown around all the time these days actually mean?

Does it mean that local businesses go out of business so American companies can come in? Does it mean that my cousins will forget all the wonderful traditions of India trying quickly to become as western as they can?

On the surface it seems that globalization is kind of like turning the world in to one big America. But there are many other aspects of globalization too. While my cousins and countless other Indian youth grapple to become more and more modern and western, my sister and I come back to India to learn from its ancient wisdom, to leave behind the fast-paced culture we come from. Every year Westerners flock to India in search of a different way of life, a way that has been ruling life here for thousands upon thousands of years. While we come here to learn yoga or ancient Hindu or Buddhist philosophy, my cousins are learning about the latest model computers and spending all their money on new CD's from the west. It's really rather funny to see. East and west rushing past each other in search for something different.

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Gandhi's dream of self sufficiency is becoming obsolete in this fast-changing world
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Globalization doesn't necessarily have to be a bad or destructive trend. I realize that I'm a product of globalization too. My father was the first person in the history of our family to not only leave our state of Andrah Pradesh in southern India, but he was the first to leave the country as well. I was born in the United States, but was able to return to visit my large family in India every few years.

Map
I'm so thankful of the privelege globalization has brought to my life. The privilege to have learned and benefited from two so very different cultures, to have been able to have certain choices and opportunities that I never would have otherwise known. The Odyssey's World Trek could also be seen as a product of globalization. Hopefully we can all continue to learn from each other as the world continues to grow smaller and smaller, and gain a mutual appreciation for the different things we can gain from different cultures. That way maybe globalization really will be a mutual sharing of cultures from around the globe rather than an entire globe conforming in to one culture.

Check out what Andrah Pradesh is like right now!

Kavitha

p.s. - Please e-mail me at ...kavitharao@bigfoot.com
 

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