Hinweis: Die Prozentangaben in Klammern zeigen die Gewichtung der einzelnen Aufgaben.
- Outline the information about how the parents and their children experience their stay in India. (Text A) (30 %)
- Analyze the DVD cover (Text B) and explain to what extent it reflects ideas of Text A. Give evidence from Text A. (30 %)
- Choose one of the following tasks: 3.1 “I’m scared, Goggles […].” (Text A, ll. 19/20) Assess to what extent Sonia’s and Gogol’s reactions to India are typical of second-generation immigrants’ attitudes towards their parents’ homeland. (40 %)
3.2 Compare Mr. and Mrs. Ganguli’s homecoming to India with that of another immigrant character from film or literature who returns home to visit his/her family. Assess the way they cope with their situations. (40 %)
3.3 At a youth conference back in the USA, Gogol gives a speech discussing the experience of living between two cultures. Using his personal experience as a starting point, write the speech including your general knowledge about living in two different cultural settings. (40 %)
Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli travel with their children Gogol and Sonia to Calcutta to see their family. They want to stay there for eight months, not having seen their relatives for a long time.
At the airport, the four of them are heartily welcomed by obviously the whole family.
Ashoke and Ashima, now using their Indian names, seem to be very relieved at having arrived there, because she weeps and he kisses his brothers hello and holds their hands (ll. 15/16). This is not their typical American behavior, and thus scares Sonia. As soon as they arrived in Calcutta, her parents changed into different people: they are less reserved and more easy-going and confident, and at the same time with louder voices and wider smiles. This shows us that Ashima and Ashoke have completely assimilated into the Indian, into their original society. Here they really feel at home.
On their way to the family’s house, Gogol does not see anything completely new as he already knows the scenery; nevertheless, he stares at the buildings, at the people who behave differently to what he is used to: they are stuffed into buses and trams, they boil rice or even wash their hair on the streets. The way Gogol and his parents and sister look (expensive sneakers, American haircuts, backpacks over one shoulder) still represents the sharp contradiction between their life in America and life in India.
When Gogol and Sonia get ill at some point during their stay in Calcutta, nobody really knows what caused the disease: the air, the rice, the wind, the relatives steadily talking. But one thing seems to be clear for the family: the children, having being born in the USA, are not made to survive in a poor country (l. 32). Here we can see the differences between the attitudes towards life in the USA and in India.
When it is time to say good-bye, the parents are seemingly sad about having to leave their relatives; they look at photos of Gogol and Sonia’s grandparents as if Ashoke and Ashima are not sure whether they will ever come back to India. Finally, the Gangulis are taken to the airport by the whole family, all those who, over the last many months, have been friendly, hospitable and helpful to them, something which Gogol has deep in his mind. It is a matter of fact that every single family member waits at the airport and waves farewell. They are the people with the same family name, with the same roots and even the same life. This shows that Gogol knows about the importance of family and that he accepts their close ties. At the same time, he knows that his mother will sit silently on the plane, remembering the time they had in India, being sad about leaving the relatives behind. It seems as if she has lost something important. In contrast to her, Gogol is quickly able to switch back to his old life as he replaces ‘lingering sadness’ (l. 49) with relief when he concentrates on his American-style breakfast and an American film on the plane. He now is back in his American life, the life he is used to.
The DVD cover at hand refers to the film ‘The Namesake’, which is based on a novel with the same title. ‘The Namesake’ deals with the question of the cultural identity of second-generation immigrants. Here it is about Indians living in the USA.
The DVD cover is divided into two by the title of the film and a subtitle reading ‘The greatest journeys are the ones that bring you home’. The upper part of the cover shows a young couple, obviously of Indian origin. The facial expressions of both are serious and sad. She is leaning her forehead against his shoulder; he is looking down at her.
The lower part of the cover shows only the young man walking in the direction of the observer. To his right side, one can see the Taj Mahal, representing the long and rich past of India, while on the other side, one can see the skyline of New York City. Both pictures stand for the contradictions in the lives of the two protagonists of the film.
The couple in the upper part of the DVD cover is not happy. They do not seem to know where they belong, or if their relationship should continue. Thus, the lower part may be seen as a continuation of the thoughts of the young man, who now has left his girlfriend and isn walks along the virtual border between a traditional and a new life. As the subtitle implies, the young man is starting a journey which shall bring him home, but he is doubtful of where he belongs.
During that journey, he needs to find out what home means to him. Is it the country where he was born into the second generation of immigrants, or is it the country where his parents have come from, and where lots of his relatives still live? Family values play an important role in his life, so it is not easy to figure out what is most important.
The text at hand deals with both first and second generations of immigrants returning to their origins. The reader gets a first, interesting insight into their experiences in India, which unfortunately does not go very much into detail. While the text does not focus on a special character, the male protagonist of the film seems to be Gogol, the son, as he is shown on the cover. He is torn between the two contradictory worlds, and thus his cultural identity, because these aspects influence his life.
In the text, we can see parallels when, for example, Gogol is on the plane deliberately eating his final meal before having completely different food for the next eight months. He can watch his parents change into new people in India. For Gogol, this may not be easy to understand, because he is used to seeing his parents in their American surroundings. When the author describes the scenery with Gogol and his family being taken to the airport for their flight back to the USA, we find clear differences between India and America: the streets in New York would never be as empty as those in Calcutta, with just a single tram at night.
The contradiction which is expressed with the help of the Taj Mahal and New York may also refer to life in a poor but traditional country as opposed to a rich country. Gogol and his sister Sonia get ill during their stay in Calcutta, and no one knows the reason. But one thing is sure: They are not made to survive in a poor country. This means that in America, they would never suffer such illnesses because they are immune to viruses or bacteria caused by poverty.
All in all, one can say that the DVD cover evokes curiosity about the different aspects of life presented on it. On the other hand, the given extract provides some information that the reader could use to imagine the difficult decisions people need to make when they live in different cultures. Both cover and text reflect similar ideas on just one topic: diversity.
When Sonia addresses her brother Gogol, they both are in their parents’ home country, India, to visit their relatives. Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli are first-generation immigrants to the USA; their children are American-born. Unfortunately, the reader does not get a lot of information on exactly what the teenagers think and feel about India, the city of Calcutta or their family living there. Therefore, one needs to read between the lines.
Sonia and Gogol are used to life in the United States. They are dressed in American style, their haircuts are American, and they carry their backpacks over one shoulder. They know about the two contradictory worlds that meet at the very moment the Gangulis arrive in India. This seems to be a feeling which is not very comfortable, because everything around the teenagers is extraordinary, new, and somehow unknown. Their parents immediately changed their own appearance and behavior once they arrived in India, which surprises the children, and their relatives are around them all day long. On the other hand, Gogol and Sonia are obviously willing and able to live with their family, and to appreciate the closeness to people they only seldom meet.
In general, first-generation immigrants like Ashoke and Ashima have made the decision to leave their home countries because of many different reasons: a better economic status, better conditions for raising children, better educational chances, or to escape war and suppression. The Gangulis have made their way, Ashoke as a teacher at MIT. They are financially well-off, because they are able to go and see their family in their home country. They keep their ties to India, and have not forgotten the traditions and rituals of the place from which they originated.
In contrast to them, second-generation immigrants like Sonia and Gogol know their parents’ home country more from talking than from their own experiences. This may be the reason why many second-generation immigrants are curious about the country their parents have left behind. But they move to the homeland, not only because of personal but also professional reasons, since the home countries often attract them to make investments in their emerging national economies.
On the one hand, the people are curious and want to learn about their own ethnicity and cultural heritage. In their parents’ country of origin, they can be part of a life which they have not experienced themselves that intensely before. They feel involved in a mental and physical life, which may be different to that they have lived until then. This provides the second-generation immigrants with the chance to understand why their parents decided to migrate. In addition, they can find out about former generations and their destinies. All this is something basic that people feel: They want to know where they are from, which roots they have. Another aspect about the desire to learn about their parents’ homeland is the wish to economically support those who still live in underdeveloped circumstances. It is a matter of fact that second-generation immigrants are better off than their parents, so they can afford tom offer financial help.
Sonia and Gogol, still teenagers, obviously cannot provide any monetary support, but can offer mental support and understanding.
In contrast to the positive attitudes, one also needs to mention the negative aspects. People being raised in two cultures may feel torn, and may not exactly know where they belong. They have an everyday life in which they behave and speak like all the others around them, whether in school or at work. Their private life may look different, since at home they speak their parents’ language, live their values and follow their rules. This contradiction can, for example, be seen in the different ways of dressing.
All in all, finding one’s own identity is definitely not easy for people who live two cultures. They need to critically examine which values are important and worth being kept alive. Only to some extent can the reader learn about Sonia’s and Gogol’s attitude towards India, but we can hope that both will deal with their roots and make up their minds about their origins.
When Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli return to India to see their family, they do not need much time to adapt to the new, but at the same time familiar, situation. Seemingly within a very short period of time, they change their appearance into a more traditional one, they make a more open and less complicated impression. They enjoy being with their relatives, and do not really think of their life in the USA. The Gangulis are included into Indian life without hesitation, because they are not strangers but family members.
In general, homecoming from a place you have emigrated to may provide positive as well as negative feelings. The emigrants are welcome in their family, and everyone is happy to see them after a presumably long time. They give presents to their family; they talk about their life in the new country. They tell interesting stories about how difficult or easy it is to live at the other place. Thus the family in the home country can participate in this extraordinary life far away. On the other hand, the homecoming family learns about developments in their place of origin, they learn about progress and the changes that have taken place in the family, and they often provide financial support if necessary.
Negative effects of coming home to your country of origin can be seen in the attitudes the people there towards you and your personality. They may envy you for your success in a foreign country, your money, your profession, your family, your reputation there. You have made your way while they have had to stay at home, and cannot escape their life there. Those people probably think that you do not deserve what you have reached. They would not be able to give a reason.
Literature and films hardly deal with characters that emigrate and then return just to see their family. I remember once having read Hermann Hesse’s Die Heimkehr (The Return). In this tale, a rich businessman, Schlotterbeck, returns home to a little village in Germany after having spent decades in America and Russia to make his fortune. There he does not want to visit his family, who we do not learn anything about, but wants to settle down. At first, the villagers welcome him with open arms, hoping they can participate in his wealth, and want to include him in higher society. Not surprisingly, disreputation and envy soon mark the everyday life in that village, as the people do not really know what to think of a man who has left his home and returns as a rich man after such a long time. There must be something suspicious. Especially after he morally supports a widow who is not at all respected and accepted in the village, he is turned into an outsider. We can read about narrowmindedness and tolerance, about love and hate.
Of course, the Gangulis and Schlotterbeck do not share the same background or experiences. The latter returns home and wants to spend the rest of his life there. His family does not really matter to him in the story; it is more about acceptance and people being with each other. But in a wider sense, we can replace family and villagers, as the villagers are always very close, sometimes too close around Schlotterbeck, and thus influence his life negatively.
In contrast to that, the Gangulis return with pleasure to their family to enjoy being there and to show the close ties to their relatives. For them, it is normal to be around family and feel mutual support. They do not experience any unpleasant situation in which they have to justify their actions; they do not have to fight evil thoughts in other people’s minds.
To come to an end, one must admit that the characters chosen here are completely different, but have to make decisions for their lives which may or may not be easy to cope with.
We have come together to discuss different experiences of us young people who live between two cultures.
As you may know, my parents came to the USA from India many years ago, because my dad felt the USA could provide him with better chances to finish his studies and to work successfully. Well, he has made his way, and today he teaches at MIT.
My sister Sonia and I love our parents very much, as they have taught us values and rules to live by. We understand the importance of family; we appreciate the closeness to each other. But at the same time, we are American teenagers. We were born here, we go to school here, and we feel like typical Americans. You may ask who and what a typical American is. I can tell you that it is someone like you and me: we all love American fast food, we watch movies about America’s heroes, we dress in jeans and sneakers, we think about our future profession as well as about family and friends. We have started thinking about politics, and some of us get even involved. Our life is sometimes easy-going, sometimes difficult. We argue with our parents about the time to come home after a party, or about using the car. I could add more and more examples, but I am sure you know what I mean. We have our own mind, and do not really want to follow our parents’ ideals, but want to live our own life. If we make mistakes and fall down, we stand up and learn from our mistakes. There is no need for our parents to tell us what to do or not. It is about us.
Our parents took us to Calcutta to see our family. It was not the first time for me, but the older I get, the more I feel the immense differences between there and here. My Indian family is very much focused on the family itself – you can hardly find a moment where you are alone. They are around you all the time, and take care of whatever they think is necessary or important. Can you imagine, my parents changed their appearance as soon as we arrived there. Their personality seemed to be a different one as well. I felt that they were happy to be there, to be back at their roots, to live a more traditional life than that in America. I do not want to say that all this is bad, but in a way it was strange to me.
My American way of life gives me the possibility to freely decide what I want to do and who I want to be with, even if it hurts in the end. Not long ago, I dated a girl whose parents are proud of their family, which has been living in the US for six generations, and which came from Europe. How insignificant my two generations sound in comparison… My parents tried to tell me that there wouldn’t be a chance for us because of our different cultural backgrounds. A relationship with a girl from another ethnicity would not have any future. Her parents told her that people like me would try to force her to follow my religious attitude and to leave her own self behind. What nonsense they told us! But they did not stop telling us about our negative prospects. Wasn’t it just clichés? Finally, my girlfriend broke up with me, because she couldn’t bear such talk any longer. She thought there was probably some truth in it.
You know, living in two cultures has both benefits and challenges. We experience a great variety of customs and daily routine, of food, of religious or cultural holidays. We speak more than one language; we interact with people of American as well as of our parents’ nationality. This all widens our horizon and makes us ready to live in two cultures.
But please don’t forget the other side of the coin: You are confronted with prejudice and even racism because you don’t actually belong to any culture 100%. Speaking two languages can be confusing and provide problems with expressing thoughts clearly and understandably. Sometimes it feels like you don’t belong to any culture, because you want to share them both. When you are confronted with two different opinions on the same topic, how do you know which one is best?
Coming to an end for today, I would like to say that living between two cultures is not easy, but definitely a challenge you should accept. Let’s help each other to understand better what we can do to not focus on our cultures that mix in America, but rather to focus on the individual and his or her personality.
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