kids: Born in America, brought up in India
Phoenix, August 17, 2005
NRIs - they have a love hate relationship
with America. They love it for what it has given them;
they loathe it for what it is giving to their children.
Indian Americans love the unfettered freedom of America,
but when their kids start loving it too, they panic.
The nightmare begins when the son comes home drunk
with a tittering blonde on his arm. Or when the daughter's
skirts never reach below her knees.
There is a constant tug of war between Indian-American
parents brought up on curry and cricket, and their
children born unto beacon and baseball.
When an Indian kid turns 13 in America it is the
parents who show more dramatic signs of change. Suddenly
Indian culture, Indian cuisine, Indian cousins, all
become glorified in a vain effort to insulate the
child from the decadence of an American adolescence.
The result is a generation gap - a rift that widens
with every passing birthday.
Most succumb. Many keep trying desperately. While
others have started taking the safer way out - packing
their progeny off to India for a "desi"
This is where the new breed of Indian international
schools step in with their "east meets west"
mottos, rigorous routines, international affiliations,
million-dollar facilities and ingeniously designed
"Next Gen" five star schools all over India
have found an infallible USP to market themselves
abroad - "Desi culture". These schools package
Indian culture, values, language and ethos for an
eager clientele of Indian parents abroad.
Most schools are being promoted on the Net through
attractive web sites, while others have roped in community
newsletters and newspapers. Parents are ready to pay
exorbitantly to buy Indian values for children whose
only exposure to their motherland comes through an
occasional Bollywood flick.
- Shaila Mulji, a real estate broker in California,
very recently dropped off her younger boys, Ankur,
11 and Keval, 13, to a residential school in Bangalore.
She was becoming very dissatisfied with the attitude
they were developing as a result of their American
schooling. "I don't want snooty kids who think
they are above the rest. I want them to learn about
humanity, Gandhi and non-violence, about learning
to create peace and harmony in the world. It is very
important to me that they get a good feel for how
spiritual India truly is." Mulji says.
It has not been an easy decision for the Mulji household.
"Their father still goes into the back yard to
cry, but in the long run this experience is going
to make our boys mature, independent, rooted and focused,"
- Arvind Patel has sent his son Raj Patel, 13, to
the Jain International Residential School (JIRS) in
Bangalore. He was inspired by a friend whose child
went to a residential school in India and came back
"very mature." He'd like to see the same
change in his son. Patel also feels the overall educational
standard in India, as compared to the US, is better.
"As much as we wish to instill Indian values
in our kids, the outside pressure from school, peers
and television is much too great," he says.
The Jain Residential School with its promise to "empower
students to be compassionate and responsive to Indian
culture and heritage," seems like a safe bet
for the Muljis and Patels. The school claims to "rejuvenate
the existing education system by integrating the most
relevant and meaningful features of the ancient Gurukula
with the best of the scientifically designed modern
systems enlivened by psychological and educational
The International School, Bangalore (TISB), one
of the oldest international schools in the country,
has about 700 students of which nearly 30 per cent
are NRI. According to KP Gopalakrishna, chairman,
National Education Trust, which runs a clutch of eight
"elite" schools including the TISB, "Indian
professionals abroad want their children to benefit
from the same educational system that enabled them
to compete with the best in world." Gopalakrishna
cites a couple based in San Francisco who wanted their
son to study in India so that he stood a better chance
to appreciate south Indian classical music and cricket."
- Keval, Ankur and Raj are enrolled into the athletic,
academic program at JIRS. Their day begins at five
thirty in the morning with meditation and yoga and
ends at ten in the night with prayers. One of them
even told his mother, "We pray so many times
through the day, there is hardly time to talk."
But Mulji is not complaining. "The kids just
don't have time for mischief."
However, it is not just books and prayers all day
long. Free from the pressures of a narrow academic
curriculum, these schools offer an attractive array
of extracurricular activities. Music and dance, art
and craft, sports and games come in a myriad variety.
The schools also offer languages such as French, German,
Italian or Spanish instead of compulsory Hindi or
regional languages. They have frequent field trips,
including adventure camps and outstation tours, national
and international trips. Keval and Ankur are all set
to go to Australia this year.
- Joginder Pal has been in the US for the past 25
years. Both his children, Sumit Munjal, 15 and Ronika
Nirankari, 16 are in residential schools in Deheradoon
and Missouri. Pal is very happy with the way his kids
are turning out, "away from the bad influence
of American classrooms, drugs, obscene clothes and
unmanageable independence." After two years in
India they will come back to enroll into colleges
for higher education. Pal, however, feels, once the
Indian foundation has been laid there would be lesser
scope of them getting spoilt. A beaming Pal declares
that his daughter plays the harmonium, sings beautiful
bhajans and learns Indian classical dance.
If these schools sound like the perfect place to
bring back kids from abroad, there is a catch. The
fees are exorbitant compared to regular schools, ranging
from Rs 30,000 to Rs 2,50,000 ($700 to $6,000) a year
for Indian kids. NRIs pay almost double the amount.
Some schools demand hefty down payments for admission
in addition to the tuition charges.
Much of the schools' budgets, ranging between Rs
10-75 crore, are deployed into expensive buildings,
labs, halls of residence and sprawling sports fields
and gymnasia. JIRS, constructed over 125 acres at
a cost of Rs 72 crore, offers virtually every sports
and games facility including cricket, astro-turf hockey
fields, football fields, mini golf course, six tennis
courts, a roller-skating rink, horse riding and compulsory
micro-flight flying lessons.
Likewise the GD Goenka World School situated in the
picturesque foothills of the Aravalli Hills in Gurgaon,
boasts a 17-acre, five hole trainer golf course, CCTV
surveillance, background music, cable TV, 100 per
cent power backup, and broadband connectivity.
These international schools usually follow the IGCSE
curriculum affiliated to the University of Cambridge,
England. Teachers are routinely sent abroad for training
and paid salaries ranging from Rs 3 lakh to 12 lakh
Despite widespread euphoria surrounding these havens
of discipline and Indian culture, there is some brewing
criticism of management styles. Parental involvement,
particularly active PTAs (Parent Teacher Associations),
which are almost fundamental to the US system, are
completely missing here. Though the glossy brochures
promise parental involvement, most discourage PTAs
and permit minimal parent participation. In particular,
the highly remunerated CEO-style principals are rarely
accessible to parents.
Mulji's little boys are allowed to call home twice
a month and email once a week. She complains that
despite frequent requests JIRS has not facilitated
a meeting with the teachers. The teachers' track records
and qualifications are also not made public. "
In the US, the kids' teachers know the parents personally.
We are like friends participating and offering positive
feedback to our children's upbringing." Mulji
All in all, this quick-fix trend to mend wayward
teenagers has many Indian Americans excited. But not
all parents are comfortable with the idea of sending
their restless adolescents to five star schools, seven
thousand miles away. It would, however, be exciting
to watch this new global generation - born in America,
brought up in India.
comments on this article or
you have any news:
NRIinternet.com will put up as many of
your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that
all e-mails will be published. We reserve the right
to edit comments that are published.