Asian NDSU students show cultural changesSome of Preetanjali Prasad’s aunts and uncles chose to have as many as five children each. “Four daughters and then a son, and then they stopped,” explained Prasad, a 20-year-old woman from India who attends North Dakota State University. “Five kids and they’re done, just because they were waiting for a son.”
By: By Kristen M. Daum, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
FARGO — Some of Preetanjali Prasad’s aunts and uncles chose to have as many as five children each.
“Four daughters and then a son, and then they stopped,” explained Prasad, a 20-year-old woman from India who attends North Dakota State University. “Five kids and they’re done, just because they were waiting for a son.”
In contrast, Prasad’s parents broke from India’s cultural tradition and the wishes of her grandparents in having only two children — and two girls at that: Prasad and her elder sister, Pushpanjali.
It was in many ways atypical in her culture — and even among her relatives — but Prasad’s family represents a generational shift occurring within parts of Indian society.
The Asian country ingrained in tradition is in some ways breaking away from the past —specifically in how daughters are treated compared to sons.
Traditionally, Indian families have preferred sons to daughters because they carry on the family name and can improve the family’s status and wealth.
Girls in India are often viewed as a burden to their families because of expensive dowries a bride’s family must pay upon an arranged marriage.
In some areas of India, this mentality leads to severe discrimination and mistreatment of girls.
While the problem still very much exists, some families are beginning to divert from tradition.
Prasad’s family stands as an example.
“Personally, I have never felt any discrimination from my parents, because we are the only two daughters and that’s what my parents wanted,” she said.
In India, families are inherently close-knit with a special emphasis on respecting elder family members. Some parents will pressure their children to bear sons, despite what nature decides.
“My grandparents actually asked my father and my mother to have a third child,” Prasad said. “They wanted a boy. … but it was good on my father. It was his decision that he actually told his parents, ‘No, I just want two kids.’”
But because of her parents’ decision, Prasad and her sister had opportunities other girls their age might not have had – such as the chance at an education, including the ability to transfer to NDSU and pursue their studies in America.
Prasad’s sister, Pushpanjali, already graduated from NDSU and is now working in Duluth, Minn.
“It’s part of his boldness and courage that both of us are here in the U.S. all by ourselves and our parents are back in India,” Prasad said. “He never stopped us in whatever things we wanted to do in life, in things we wanted to learn. He really made us independent.”
Both Prasad and fellow NDSU student Kiran Bhat Kashi, 23, agree that improved education among the Indian population has made a difference in how girls are treated.
When Kashi visits his home in India, he said he notices the change in societal thinking – especially in the more urban areas.
“People who move to bigger cities, they’re more open-minded about having children and don’t care about their sex,” he said.
Kashi grew up with the unique perspective of being the only child of an empowered and well-educated mother.
Kashi said he didn’t receive preferential treatment as the only son, because of a mentality instilled in his mother by his grandmother.
The only girl among her brothers, Kashi’s grandmother was required to stay at home, while her siblings attended school, Kashi said.
“There’s this bias that exists: The girl child remains at home,” he said.
But when his grandmother had five daughters of her own, she ensured her girls wouldn’t be treated as she was, he said.
“My grandma stood up and said, ‘My girl child will be educated,’” Kashi said. “It was an achievement for my mother to go to college. She was one of the few women her age that got to go to college.”
Kashi’s mother passed on that sentiment to him by promoting gender equality within their home.
Since his mother was a Hindi teacher, Kashi remembers his home in India being frequented often by children – but when school was in session, he was treated no differently than his peers.
“The society is built in such a way that girls are generally the people who take care of the man,” Kashi said. “But my generation didn’t distinguish.”
Kristen Daum is a reporter at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.