Samarpana – I surrender!

Singapore celebrated the Asian festival of classical dance ( called Samarpana – which translates to surrender in English) recently and I happened to attend one of the performances. The two artists who performed that evening, were both stalwarts in their respective fields of expertise and the evening was a treat to anyone who loved dance and classical music.

When I first heard of the event through a friend, I was excited and began planning an evening with the family.

I decided that it would be a wonderful treat for my mother, who is visiting us, who is fond of classical music and especially of songs sung by TM Krishna, who was one of the performers of that evening. She attends the December kutcheri’s in Bangalore when she can and never misses TM Krishna’s if he is on the list of performers. She even follows him on twitter and sends him occasional tweets when she is overwhelmed with his renditions.

Then I included my husband in the plan when he confirmed that he was not travelling around the dates of the festival. Given his travel schedules that requires him to be an “out of town” husband many days in a year that was the only doubt I had to clarify. Also, the both of us had decided to improve the quality of our lives, by attending meaningful concerts when we got opportunities. For a long time, we have depended on eating out and watching meaningless movies as the only source of entertainment. Ever since we have moved to Singapore, we have had unbelievable opportunities to add the entire repertoire of theatre, musicals and concerts to our entertainment portfolio.

The last person that I wondered about in the list of ‘who- else-would –like-to -go-to-the-event’ was my 13 year old daughter. Here again, I was justified in assuming that she made it to the ‘should- go’ list, since she has been training in classical music for 6 years now and this would be a great opportunity for her to experience and possibly soak up some lessons about ‘on stage performance etiquette‘. In retrospect, I should have known better. She was upset that I hadn’t asked for her vote and the fact that she had no choice to opt out.

While I was trying to do something meaningful and enriching for all of us, I was acutely aware of how the evening turned out to be a mixed bag of emotions for the family.

First, my husband came back late from work (the event was on a Friday evening) and insisted on driving us there when I suggested that we hired a cab instead as I feared that we would miss the start of the performance, finding a parking slot at the venue. Then, I decided to wear a sari for the evening, in keeping with the theme of the event, which would be attended by people who valued tradition, who appreciated good music and dance. The foresight paid off. Every woman there was dressed in her traditional best, as though someone was going to individually size them up for their worth to be in the same hall as the performers. But I am digressing. It takes far lesser time to slip into a pair of jeans and a tee shirt than turn out in a sari, which added to the delay. (My mom was ready in a jiffy and was all set to go before any of us were.)

Then,  I had to oversee that my daughter wore something elegant as well. Friday being a week day, she had woken early for school. So an event on a Friday evening was not conducive to her sleep deprived mood, and definitely not for a classical concert which she was not keen to attend anyway. (This, when she is sure that music is her career choice). So you can imagine the time we lost.

Even though we did not have to wait long at the car park, the seats at the University Cultural Centre, National University of Singapore, were shockingly uncomfortable, pain in the wrong place kind. Two hours in a forward slanting, zero leg room space row (despite them being premium seats) did not contribute to the overall joie de vivre.

Nevertheless, the evening went well. We reached in time; the event began on time and went beyond the scheduled hour and a half. The performance was brilliant and the music mesmerizing. Soon we had forgotten the rush to reach, ignored the discomfort of the seats and got involved in the evening. My daughter (on whom I dared to keep tabs on) seemed happy with the compromise too, at least for the first 90 minutes of the evening after which she desperately tried to catch my eye!

We beat all odds and managed to spend quality time as a family that evening. The chances I took paid off. I will plan more events like this for the family….even though for now I say ‘samarpan’ !

Third Culture Kids

Third Culture Kids or TCK’s as they are called, refer to the children who who have spent a significant part of their developmental years outside the parents’ culture.I recently had an opportunity to attend a workshop that was targeted at parents of TCKs. My daughter is not yet one (we have lived outside of India only for a little over 2 years now) however I was keen to find out a little more about challenges such kids (especially teens) face in a society that is not their home.

Here are a few lessons I learnt at the workshop that was worthy of a share.

It is crucial for teens who move from their native countries to another culture, to understand that meeting teens from another culture is akin to meeting of tectonic plates! There will be cultural dissimilarities and a clash of who they are and who they need to become to belong.

It is also important for parents to recognize the fact that adjusting to a new culture is a process and it takes time. The effects of acculturation (cultural and psychological changes from being exposed to other cultures) will be seen in the way your teen eats, dresses and speaks!

I understood that the parent has an important role to play during the acculturation process, helping the teen assimilate, separate and integrate the new culture while preserving traditions from one’s own culture. By pointing out situations where similarities and differences between cultures can be compared and contrasted, adults can help teens understand and integrate new customs while preserving the old.

Then we had another speaker of repute, Dr. Lisa Pittman, a psychologist who works with children to study the impact of global mobility on children’s psyche. She shared some scary statistics of children who have emotional eating disorders because they don’t integrate well into the new society.

The third speaker was Rebecca Grappo, an educational consultant who shared her experience working with TCKs. The important message I got from her was that parents of TCKs have to comfort the child and validate her fears of adjusting to a new culture and not just be a cheer leader encouraging her to be a part of the new culture and promising that everything was going to be great.

The basic need for every human is to be recognized, to have a sense of belonging, connecting and identity. For TCKs, school is a place that fulfills not only the academic needs but also emotional and social needs. If these needs of the child are met in the new culture, the child then becomes resilient and fits into the society.