You might have heard of the acronym ABCD (American Born Confused Desi) used for Indian-Americans raised by parents who emigrated from India who are confused about their identity. The confusion stems from the conflict between the American culture encountered outside home vs the Indian culture and values being taught at home. ABCD is not a very kind label.
However, a much more widespread condition is that of IBCD (Indian Born Confused Desi)! Actually this blog restricts itself to IBCDs born and raised in Hindu families.
I was an IBCD until not too long ago! I grew up in India in the 80s and 90s in a Hindu family. I went to top CBSE schools and an ‘ivy league’ engineering college in India — a privileged upbringing and best education by any standards. However, nothing in my education at home or in school exposed me to the philosophical underpinnings of the Hindu tradition. At an individual level, Hinduism for me was effectively what RM calls ‘transactional hinduism’ and at a community level it was about festivals and rituals. And at the political level it was about caste, cows and Ram mandir. In effect, a lay Hindu in India is completely unaware of the deep philosophical basis of the Hindu tradition. And if you add to that the idea that origin of modern science and technology in the west involved rebelling against religion, you end up with the mindset that I had just out of college. Forget being proud of my heritage, I had become cynical about it and at best I thought of it as a glorious past which belonged in the past.
The important thing to note is that I was not an outlier – most of my highly educated Hindu friends had the same attitude.
The target audience for this blog is IBCDs.
Just for fun, here are a few more tell tale signs of an IBCD:
- Has heard of Manusmriti, but not Mandukya Upanishads. And of course hasn’t read either!
- Does not know the difference between western concepts of faith, religion and soul vs Indian counterparts of shraddha, dharma and aatma.
- Does not understand that the western idea secular thought is not a prerequisite for scientific temper.
- Does not appreciate that Indian philosophy framework can naturally absorb evidence and ideas from modern science.
- .. <additional inputs from readers!>