When I was about 8 years old, I used to spend a lot of time on my Commodore 64. I was pretty adept with the thing, but there were some things that were still beyond my abilities. So I would sometimes ask for help from a kid who was a little older than me (he was 14, that’s old!)
Like me, his parents were first-generation immigrants, born in India. His brother actually has the same first name that I do, Anil. He also faced that tension unique to second-gen kids, where the intrinsic clash between our parents’ culture and our own becomes almost unbearable. When combined with the usual generation-gap strife of adolescence, it makes for a tough transition into adulthood.
Anyway, that’s a lot of rambling. What I keep thinking about in regards to this kid is that Indian culture is predicated (in regards to child-raising, at least) on decisions being centered on the family, the group, more than the individual. (Of course, I’m speaking in vast generalizations, but bear with me…) And American culture is famously individually-oriented. Lots of good aspects to both cultures. The only bad part? They are largely incompatible visions of how a family should work. Hence, tension.
Okay, so it’s a nice rant on the perils of being a bicultural youth, but what does this have to do with the kid who used to help me with my Commodore 64? Well, I found out yesterday just how much trouble he had been having with navigating the gap between the two cultures…
He killed himself. He was 30 years old.