Feb 112011

“Society exists only as a mental concept; in the real world there are only individuals.” – Oscar Wilde

One of the key differences I’ve observed and experienced as differences between the culture of my heritage and that which I’ve grown up in is the level of focus on individualism. Much in the Western and particularly American culture is based on the value and importance of the individual. Whereas in South Asia, the focus seemed to be on community, fitting in within a group or sometimes numerous groups, from the group we were born into along with ones based on specific religion, race and gender, for instance.

There were expectations of me based on being from the family I was from, along with an expectation of what a good Indian girl was supposed to be like, and one from the specific area I was from. There wasn’t much concern for me and my specific dreams and goals. The idea seemed foreign. In this regard, I’ve been proud to be “American” and to have been raised in an American culture.

I’ve embraced the concept of getting to know myself as a worthwhile endeavor in life. I’ve also embraced the American idea that I deserve to be as happy as I want to be as an individual. I like the American idea that I can have and do anything I set my heart on. I am not limited by any group I may be part of, including my gender or economic class. I love encouraging this concept with my children as well.

It is sad to think how much talent the world may have already been deprived of when individuals have suppressed their talents and interests for the sake of a group and its pressures.

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