The flip side of cultural competency

It is hilarious. It is embarrassing and on the whole, it was a bad moment.

I recently met a fellow Indian who accidentally stumbled in my office while waiting for my American colleague. We started a conversation and my colleague came in and this is how he began his introduction: “We are fellow browns and I know him.” For a moment, I was shellshocked for here is a guy older and wiser than me, a doctor and engineer combined and a professor too!

Sometimes the most educated behave in the most illiterate manner. And, this was one of those classic moments when you feel like you got to run away…somewhere.

Before the party, let’s give!

Alumni from my old school, Sarvodaya Vidyalaya, have decided to hold a get-together after several years in Trivandrum. Former students from different batches are attending the event next month and they are  making plans to book resorts, identify menu items and enjoy the party. There is definitely cause for celebration, to thank the institution where it all began.

Unlike the West, where alumni giving is common, in India this is yet to take off. There is abundant wealth, but reunions in India are more celebrations that focus on “seeing each other after a long time.” The school acts as an emotional conduit that does not gain any benefit despite being the cause for the celebration.

I am unable to attend but would like to have my friends do something for the school or its occupants before they indulge in drinking beer and eating biryani. A scholarship for a student who cannot afford a private institution or a donation to the school’s lab would be extremely beneficial. Or, setting up a small endowment will help future students. There may be several other creative ways to give but the culture of giving to your alma mater is still nascent in India.

I think we should set an example. Other schools might follow, but we have to take the lead. At least in the name of those who sacrificed their time and talent in making us what we are today.