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In the Peerbagh manifesto, you’ll see our love for desi storytelling. Our mission is to challenge dominant colonial narratives that continue to plague our world today. Language and culture are inextricably linked together. Losing one often means erasing the nuances and cultural context.

Challenges for third-culture kids

Raising third-culture kids (who grow up in countries different from their immigrant parents) comes with tough choices. It creates a real issue of cultural assimilation versus asserting heritage with pride. Language assimilation was often a colonial tool to suppress other less-dominant cultures. And this continues to be the case, in South Asia, and in the West.

Children who have a different cultural heritage or spoken language at home may report going through “silent periods” in schools. Many struggle to fit in, many switch accents at home and school with immigrant parents. There’s a sense of silent rebellion or ridicule about immigrant-parent accents.

How often have you heard a variation on a highly ignorant rant? Non-native English speakers are not [creative, smart, amazing] enough. Our children are absorbing this message today!

A colonial legacy and a cultural pandemic

Even kids in Dehradun living in South Asia absorb this imposed love for dominant languages or culture as the only way to success. They take it from 200 years of colonial rule and whitewashing, where communities were forced to speak in English, and ridiculed for being too native. It’s the mystical east versus the logical west narrative. Go to an online retailer in India. Indian clothes, cuisines, or cultural expressions on websites are named “ethnic.” They sound exotic more than local. How did we not catch this?

This is not a uniquely South-Asian problem. Any minority or marginalized community has faced these issues. And they all matter. Ultimately, it’s a question of raising culturally humble, confident children, who value diversity. Inclusion is an intentional action, but belonging is an outcome. What are you doing to address this cultural pandemic?

Diverse storytelling offers hope

As a parent or an educator, if you’re not thinking about this actively, you may be in your bubble. To put it more bluntly, you may be benefitting in a non-equal world. Dismantling systemic pillars of racism and colonialism is work. And it is urgent. We simply can’t go on with this narrative.

Delhi or Lahore was not built in a day. We are starting where we can. We are building a community at Peerbagh, hosting workshops with children (Katha featuring South Asian stories). For educators and parents we have a tools workshop (the Blue Sky featuring storytelling techniques from South Asia).

We hope that these tools enable us to encourage ourselves and those around us to own our diverse stories, reconnect our nostalgic souls. Most importantly we yearn to start saying sukoon without needing italics. Surely, it is time to celebrate our culture just as much as we adopt and build new ones.

“If the preservation of other cultures is given the same importance and value as spreading English is currently receiving, the language can be an addition, not a replacement, to a naturally evolving culture’s array of nuances.”

Anna Corradi, Brown Political Review, 2017 (here)

Will you join us?