Unity Or Diversity

Sreenadh Jonnavithula

Indians in the United States are never united, it is said. As one Times of India article put it, there is "an alphabet soup of organisations in existence, representing many Indian states, languages, castes and creeds, leading to familiar jokes about Indian divisiveness". There are jokes about the fact that two different Telugu organizations (TANA and ATA) claiming to represent all the Telugu's in the US. Well meaning people lament this "divisiveness" and call for all Telugus, or all Indians, to be united.

It is not fashionable to step back and question why exactly all Telugus or all Indians need to be united. This whole concept of unity suggests a siege mentality to me. If aliens from outer space invaded earth, then all humans would probably band together to attack them. If Pakistan attacks India, then all Indians would be united. When Telugu interests are attacked, I am sure all Telugus would fight back as one.

But there is no threat to Telugu people. Isn't this the time to proudly celebrate our differences rather than attempt to create a standardized McTelugu person? Isn't it refreshing to hear the different dialects, taste the different cuisines, experience the different art forms of the various regional subcultures? And isn't it true that almost the only way of preserving these differences is to band together along with others from the same background?

It is no secret that most people would let their hair down and really get close only with people who share their interests and outlook. I contend this is natural, and in fact, beneficial. Trying to suppress this natural urge and pretending that all Indians are my brothers and sisters is silly. It is like the oath of celibacy - observed most often in the breach!

There are probably as many people in Andhra Pradesh as in the whole of the US. Do the Americans band together, treating everyone equally? Heck no (except, of course, when there is an external threat). Why do we expect all Telugus to speak in a monolithic voice, and act together at all time?

It is also pointed out that (for example, in that same Times of India article) that the younger generation do not have this failing. Coming to the issue of second generation Indians (i.e those born in the US), the picture does become a little murky. They clearly don't have the same background that their parents have had, and are (in my opinion atleast) used to being the odd ones out. They tend to identify with other Indians, who probably have gone through similar experiences. On the surface, it looks like they are more broadminded than their parents, since they don't distinguish caste, or language, but accept all Indians as soulmates. But this is not necessarily a sign of broadmindedness, they have just defined "their" group a little differently. Even cursory observation suggests that few of them really are as close with non Indians as they are with other Indians.

So, should all Telugu people, or all Indians, be "united"? No Way! We are all different.