Chapter Bay areas has the largest concentration of Indian

II: Culture Hegemony

            In Chandrakant
Yatanoor’s India’s Contribution to
American Heritage, he illustrates that cities like New York, Chicago, Los
Angeles and San Francisco Bay areas has the largest concentration of Indian
immigrants. Each city has more over 150,000 residents of Indians. Among other
cities New York has the largest of about 250,000 Indians. Indians settle in
different cities as, large office going people, some sprout up everywhere to
sell saris, every fifth doctor, every third computer expert, every fifth
engineer and motel owner are Indians. Information technology has its firm root
in California. It has the greatest population of Indian millionaires than
anywhere else. Being the brainy people Indians has umpteen numbers of opportunities
in US.

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            It is often said that immigrants poses a culture threat
to National identity. Immigrants have their own histories, customs, traditions,
values and ceremonies. They come and settle in the host nation with all those
values imbued within them. The citizens of host Nations feel that immigrants
abduct their job opportunities and poses security threat. So the Western countries
bring the anti-immigrant policies and possess cultural hegemony on the
immigrant culture. Cultural hegemony may appear in different aspects, in this
novel Portable Roots hegemony exists
in the form of “influence” (the influence of American culture on minority Tamil
culture). The young generation who were born and brought up from their
childhood in the atmosphere and culture which are totally alien to their own
culture are become the victims for the culture-clash and they are affected
psychologically by tossing between the alien culture and their own culture.

it put down roots, the seed grew rapidly. Nourished by the soil, air and waters
of the new land, it grew into a splendid tree. For it learnt that the
Panchabhutas ? water, fire, air, earth, akasha (space) ? nourish life anywhere
in the world. For the Atma of all is the same: a drop of water in the infinite
ocean. (Epilogue. PR, 263).

People of different
nation attempts to fix their roots in any place wherever they go they adapts
its climate, food, culture, values and political policies. It is easy to people
who were born and brought up in one part of the world when they go to other
part of the world for business, higher education and boundless job
opportunities, to adapt other nation environment and culture without giving any
crisis to their own culture. But it is totally different in the case of
children. Children begin to adapt the alien culture as their own culture
because they are influenced to that culture. This kind of influence creates
cultural hegemony which makes them to dominate the culture of their own with
the alien culture.

 The problem in this novel is the same; the
main character Gowri is the embodiment of every Indian young generation who was
born and educates there in US is influenced by the American culture and values she
think in American point of view. Other young generation sees their own culture
as ‘barbaric’ and the beliefs as ‘stupid’. They begin to think as American, act
as Americans and live as Americans.  The
youngsters who live in India are now becoming the predators of Western culture
who hunts for the thirst for different cultural values which benefits them. Through
whom the Western culture intrudes into National culture. The minds of Indians
are becoming the prison to Western food, clothing, values, and ideas, even to
the social media and websites, which have the full control over human mind.

this novel Gowri questions her mother the belief of Hindu tradition that:

her brows she asked saucily, “Mom, I have a question. You say that I shouldn’t
wear shoes in this room. But it’s all right to wear slippers. Why is it that
your gods like slippers but not shoes?”. . . “Don’t the white people pray in
the churches with their shoes on?” (PR, 18-19).

Now in every country
the young generation questions everything which are insists by the elder
people. Like Gowri every young people who thinks in scientific way and the
Western impact raises contradictory question “why?” to everything. This
questioning attitude leads to the crack between the parents and the children.
This creates tension and problem in the novel as well as in the real life. She
also enquires that, “That is totally stupid, Mom. Just because someone is older
than you, you have to listen to them even when they are wrong?” (PR, 74) this
becomes the common and big question among youngsters.

don’t like idli either. I can’t understand what’s so wonderful about that taste
of idli. If I say, how about fixing me a sandwich with cashew nuts and chutney,
my mother always says, ‘Hey that is not good enough for tiffin’. For any
special occasion they insist on idlis, vadais. Somehow they’re supposed to be
superior. Lumpy idli, high-calorie vadai…yuck! Instead it would be nice to have
hot dogs or hamburgers. That way we can at least enjoy what we eat. (PR, 55).

Food habit plays a
vital role in every country. Food habit of people differs from each other
according to their climatic and body condition. Even though the immigrants,
migrants from different parts of the world accepts the food of the host nation
some prefer their customary food.  But
now both the Indian immigrants in US and the Indian citizens entice towards the
western food habits. For the past few decades the American restaurants like
Dominos, McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut sprouts every nook and corner of the
world and providing all junk and western food. Those restaurants create a
complete reformation on the food habit of other nation.

an Indian citizens both boys and girls are fascinated towards the clothing of
Western culture. To them the traditional sari and half-sari are out of use and
the traditional food become ‘yuck’. Gowri says, “Pavadai! Oh no! If would just
make me trip, expose my midriff. …” (PR, 50) who are influenced by the western
culture prefers the western outfits like skimpy nightie, baby doll dress, hot
pants, miniskirts and short dresses which are not customary in Indian culture.

            Gowri who views the world in American point of view the
custom, tradition, value, belief of Indians are become dirt stuff and she sees
everything through that alien culture. She expects, being in US everything
should be in American way Sivasankari portrays her as a modern young girl who
questions the patriarchal belief of Indians and she thinks that the American
way of living is the right way of living. She tells to her Mom that, “In all my
American friends’ homes, it doesn’t matter how rich they are, husbands always
help their wives in the kitchen, do the laundry and all the chores themselves
in a natural way. But that never happens in Indian houses.” (PR, 68). This
attitude of being equal and helpful to the wives is now prevailed everywhere in
Indian society. The leverage of western culture transmits the Indianan view of
patriarchalism. This American point of view may be constructive for Indians but
in one or the other way it dominates the Indian culture.

            Not only Gowri clout towards alien (American) culture but
other characters like Sushmi, Babbulu who are Indian youngsters influenced
towards the American culture. The concept of dating is not common in Indian
culture. But being the children of Indian family, that too having the parents
who want their children to follow their own Tamil culture in US, they emphasis
dating. Gowri says to Mythili that, “Hey mom, I totally forgot. Guess what,
Mike asked me if I could go to a movie with him. I said fine. Tomorrow evening.
My first date, Mom.” (PR, 20). The other two girls Sushmi and Babbulu date two
different boys at the same time. Ambika who is the mother of seventeen year old
girl being the married woman she accepts the western culture of living who
breakups the eighteen years of marital relationship with her husband Narayanan
and decides to live with Steve, boss of Ambika. In India Hindu wives believes
‘Though he be as hard as a stone, or as useless as a blade of grass, still he
is your husband,’ (PR, 28). Still today this belief prevails in husband and
wife relationship. But in the case of Ambika who plays the role as the Indian
wife and mother she turns towards the American way of living without any
concern about inevitable consequences.

            One or the other way the majority culture or the National
culture dominates the minority or the immigrant culture. Even though India is
an independent country the culture of Western countries intrudes into our
Indian culture in the name of influence or clout or leverage. Indians who are
much more attracted towards the alien country’s boundless employment
opportunities and its educational systems they flee towards those foreign
lands. Indian Immigrants who are conscious about their own culture, allows
their children to work part time jobs as baby sitter and delivers new papers to
every house. Parents who becomes hindrance to their children to live American
life but allows their children to live American life which are constructive to
their children.