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Anyone Hindu? Wondering about roommate...

brainomaticbrainomatic 152 replies11 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 163 Junior Member
edited September 2006 in Parents Forum
Hi:

My son got his roommate assignment today and it appears that he will be rooming with an Indian American who quite possibly follows the Hindu religion. We are not at all opposed to this, but what we do need to do is educate ourselves since we are Lutheran and are not knowledgeable on the Hindu religion.

I have been reading as much as I can on Hinduism to see what kind of a "fit" their contrasting lifestyles might provide. As best I can tell, it is quite possible that the roommate will be a vegetarian, which is fine as long as he doesn't mind watching my son eat meat on a pizza, etc....

Has anyone else been in a situation like this and have any advice to offer? We don't want to be disrespectful to his roommate and his lifestyle, but my son doesn't want to have to completely alter his either. Also, my son has a girlfriend he has been dating the past two years. I'm not sure how that fits with Hinduism. (I know I sound naive here, but we just have so much to learn.)

Is anyone on here Hindu? Do you have anything to share that might be helpful to my son? We live in a town of only 1,000 people, so my son has lived a very sheltered lifestyle compared to most of you on this forum. Accordingly, any and all advice/info is greatly appreciated.
edited September 2006
81 replies
Post edited by brainomatic on
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Replies to: Anyone Hindu? Wondering about roommate...

  • NorthstarmomNorthstarmom 24049 replies804 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 24,853 Senior Member
    I strongly suggest that you and your son read "The Namesake" by Indian-American author Jhumpa Lahiri, who won a Pulitzer for an earlier work. "The Namesake" is a fictional book about the life of an Indian-American youth, including his college years. It provides lots of insight into Indian culture. Here's a link to info: http://www.reviewsofbooks.com/namesake/

    A movie based on the book is also scheduled to come out this year.

    My S, who just graduated from h.s., has a couple of friends who are Indian -- Hindu. We have had some over, and have eaten out with one friend and her family. All ate pizza. None expressed any concern about whether we had meat on our pizza. I didn't notice if they ate meat or not, but clearly, they didn't do anything that made me feel that I needed to adjust my eating habits.

    S's friends have been happy to share information about Indian culture.

    The only major differences I've noticed between them and S's friends who weren't kids of immigrants were that the Indians were much more likely to be expected by their parents to major in the sciences or engineering so as to get high paid jobs after graduation.

    I also have read that Indians are among the most educated of immigrants to the U.S. Many are engineers, doctors, etc., and from what I've seen appear to do financially very well here.

    My impression was that S's friends' parents wanted them to date and marry Indians, but the kids tended to follow their own paths (whether or not their parents knew), including finding ways of participating in the usual American dating customs.

    I also suggest that you post on the High School and college board to get viewpoints of Indians.

    If your S's roommate comes from a large city, the cultural differences of a small town person living with a big city person may be much stronger than the differences due to the rommate's being of Indian descent while your son is not.

    Considering that India will soon been the most populous nation in the world, your S's getting an inside view of Indian culture might end up being quite a plus in terms of his future career prospects.
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  • drsarahdrsarah 577 replies34 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 611 Member
    Wow, it's not like they live in different countries. Do you think the Indian roommate is doing research on white Lutherans? I highly doubt that...I think you should skip the research, and skip the books, and just act normal. It's not like you're doing research on an exotic species or something. Plus, the key is Indian-AMERICAN. Do you normally do research on every new culture you encounter?

    Man, this is a weird thread...
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  • NorthstarmomNorthstarmom 24049 replies804 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 24,853 Senior Member
    drsarah,
    As an African American, I don't see anything wrong with the OP's thread. She apparently hasn't been around people who are of Indian descent before, so wants to learn about their culture and wants to find out what it might be like for her S to have a roommate from that background. Indeed, from what she posted, it sounds like she may not have been around people who aren't white Americans from her part of the country.

    I would far rather see this kind of post than to have a post saying that the S is trying to get a new roommate or plans to live off campus so as to avoid having a roommate who is from a different race or ethnic group.

    One of my former mentees, "M," had a bad experience with a white roommate when my mentee, who is African American, went to Michigan State and got a white roommate from a small, rural area. M was from Detroit and had a very sophisticated background that included years of classical violin. "M" had gone to a very integrated school, and was comfortable among people from a variety of races and backgrounds.

    However, when "M"s roommate saw her, the roommate never spoke and the roommate's parents literally looked afraid. Within days of school starting, the roommate had found a way to get a new room.

    "K," an African American female, whom I also mentored, had a bad experience with a white roommate at a small midwestern college in a very small, very white town. Her roommate kept asking her questions like whether K's brothers all played basketball and whether K only liked rap music. Meanwhile, K also had had friends from a variety of races and also had traveled abroad.

    Consequently, I think that what the OP did was good in that she is admitting her lack of knowledge about Indian culture and she's doing her best to learn about it. She doesn't deserve to be the object derision because of her post.
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  • drsarahdrsarah 577 replies34 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 611 Member
    but i don't see how worrying about the roommate taking offense to her son eating meat pizza is going to bridge a gap (if there even is a gap to be bridged). To me, it seems like most kids today look beyond the whole culture thing, and base their friendships on things like music, girls, sports, whatever....

    This topic reminds me of a modern day version of "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" or "Bride and Prejudice" or something...like American boy meets the Indian savage or something....

    I dunno, but am I the only one who thinks this thread is strange (and I'm not taking this personally or anything, as I am not Indian...I just thought it was weird after I read and reread it).
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  • NorthstarmomNorthstarmom 24049 replies804 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 24,853 Senior Member
    Note this part: "We live in a town of only 1,000 people, so my son has lived a very sheltered lifestyle compared to most of you on this forum."

    My guess is that she lives in a place similar to my hometown. I grew up in a village of 6,000 where I was the only black student in my entire h.s. class of about 500 students. The only other minority in my class was someone whose parents were from India. Everyone else was white.

    In the whole school, there were only a total of 5 African Americans out of 1,500 students. There were no more than 8 Asian students and possibly one Hispanic student.

    People who live in places like that may have had no chance before to encounter people who are different from them. Consequently, they will understandably have some very basic questions including about people from other cultures' eating habits.

    IMO it's far better to do some research such as asking the questions on a forum like this than to insult the roommate by commiting some breach of etiquette or asking questions so basic that the roommate may feel that he is being made fun of.

    Meanwhile, from what I've seen, most kids today have close friends who are of their own racial or ethnic group. It is still very rare to have students of middle or high school age who hang out with a very diverse group of friends. In some cases, they attend classes with a diverse group, but that doesn't mean that they socialize in very diverse groups. The same is true of adults. Many adults work in diverse companies, but when it comes to weekends, they hang out with people of their own racial/ethnic and often religious background.
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  • dobiesk8rdobiesk8r 100 replies0 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 100 Junior Member
    Northstarmom, The Namesake was the best book I have read in years. In addition to providing a glimpse into a different culture (for me, anyway) it's just an incredible read. It just grabbed me.
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  • somethingnewsomethingnew 81 replies4 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 85 Junior Member
    Well, I'm Hindu (though I'm female) but um, there's really not much that's strange about us. We're generally brown, though not always, and we do worship multiple gods, but you probably won't hear about that during normal daily activities. We like peace and happiness much like anyone else. Boyfriends and girlfriends will likely not be a problem, because young Indians are about as liberal as any normal American could be, but your son should check with him, as he would with any roommate (if she'll be sleeping over or anything). Um, we dont kill cows? So eating beef is a big nono, but some people do it anyway, and it certainly isnt a problem if someone else eats it.

    Yeah, we're pretty normal. Don't worry too much about it, I'm sure they'll get along, there's nothing strange or exotic going on. :D
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  • Msserendipity00Msserendipity00 4 replies3 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 7 New Member
    As a South Asian American and a Hindu, let me set your mind at rest. First of all, most Hindus are NOT vegetarians. And in many families, the parents may be vegetarian while the children are not. So its hard to predict your son's room mate's food preferences. We are vegetarian and so is our daughter, but she is an exception both within our extended family [in the US and in India] and our circle of Indian friends. Though our daughter does not eat meat, she has no problems with others around her eating whatever they want.

    I would be careful about generalizing about South Asian experiences from books. There are so many cultural variations among this group that your son may be better off going in without any preconceived ideas of his room mate's background.

    Having said that, a couple of things that did upset my daughter - friends lying on her bed with their shoes on [ that's a no, no in most Indian families I know] and room mate sorting dirty laundry on D's bed.

    D got along very well with her room mates and they have been together through Junior year.

    If you have any more questions or concerns, I'd be happy to allay your fears. Your son will be fine.

    drsarah, I once had a student in a class that I taught, who grew up in a small town in the Midwest. He had never travelled far from home and his first experience interacting with a person of color was at the University. He made the announcement in class one day, that the day he arrived on campus he felt like he had "landed on another planet."

    The OPs experiences are not as unusual as you think. I understand her concerns.
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  • holycowholycow 49 replies15 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 64 Junior Member
    Removing shoes before entering your living space is standard practice throughout Asia. I am surprised that a lot of people in N. America do not adopt this sensible and sanitary habit. My US born D has lived in Asia for most of her life and will attend university in the US this fall. I know she'll be grossed out if her roommate does not take her shoes off when she comes into the dorm room.
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  • simbasimba 5783 replies309 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 6,092 Senior Member
    I agree with DrSarah. This is a weird thread. Act normal, the way you would act as if the person was from Utah, Texas or Florida.

    My son had a spanish room mate and currently has a chineese and a russian jewish boy as room mates.

    I think keys to be a good room mates are: (1) having the same sleep cycle (most important), (2) Give space - don't be nosy, (3) Don't try to force your beliefs or try to convert, (3) don't discuss politics, unless you have the same ideology (In general Indians are left leaning), (4) Say it out if something bothers you - e.g. if the guy starts chanting Hare Krishna every day @ 3:00 a.m. (5) Live together, but don't live together.

    Also, you say your son has a girl friend. Don't expect three people to live in the same room or expect his room mate to become invisible at odd hours on demand.
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  • jimbob1225jimbob1225 3418 replies39 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,457 Senior Member
    Your son's roommate was probably born and brought up in the US. So he should be a LOT more like your son than you imagine. He's not FROM India. Indian-Americans kids are just like their Caucasian peers.
    It's not usually very evident if a person is Hindu. The roommate might not eat beef, but that won't affect your son at all. Religious differences shouldn't be a problem. In fact I'm surprised you even consider it an issue. In any case, most college-age Hindus from the US don't worship openly, so it won't be a problem. My college-age Indian friends can drink and socialize like the rest of them! (Not saying that's good :)...)
    The only thing I can imagine is the thing about wearing shoes on the bed/in the room.
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  • achatachat 2113 replies33 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 2,146 Senior Member
    Like Simba, I am Hindu too. As far as I know, Hinduism is a tolerant religion...and don't see the religious fundamentalists in India as an example of being Hindu. As Simba said, all you have to worry about is the roommate's sleep cycle.
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  • micromommicromom 199 replies2 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 201 Junior Member
    brainomatic,
    Are you sure his American-Indian roommate is a Hindu (you said "possibly")? Not all Indians are Hindus. He could be a Baptist, in which case, both boys can have a great discussion about baptism - immersion vs sprinkling :-)
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  • JHSJHS 18300 replies70 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 18,370 Senior Member
    Yeah, my son has a lot of school friends with South Asian ethnic backgrounds and names, and very few of them are Hindus. Many are evangelical Christians, some Jainists, some Sardar (Sikh), some Muslim, one is basically Jewish to the extent she is anything. India itself is very religiously diverse -- there are dozens and dozens of different religions, although Hindus are the majority, and there is a lot of diversity within religions about the level of observance and actual practices, just as there is here (you would not know a whole lot about anyone if all you knew was that he came from a "Catholic" or "Jewish" background -- the range is just too wide). When you then layer the American experience on top of that, there is NO WAY to predict anything important about a kid based on his last name. I commend the OP for wanting to do the right thing and to be culturally sensitive, but the right thing is to be sensitive, period, to the actual kid, whether he is an Indian-American or he comes from the next county over (or both).

    (My true story: When I got my freshman roommates' names, one of them had an address in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington D.C. that essentially guaranteed he was African-American and relatively poor. Which turned out to be true, of course, but he had also spent the past five years at Groton, where he had been a house proctor and captain of the football team. He was into black-and-white photography and The Grateful Dead. His friends included a bunch of kids whose fathers were fixtures in history books and The Wall Street Journal. He was a complex guy with a lot on his mind -- the Anacostia part was hardly irrelevant to who he was -- but his actuality defied any prediction I might have made.)
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  • micromommicromom 199 replies2 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 201 Junior Member
    Jhs,
    Great post. Among the Indians that I know, there are Baptists, Methodists, Anglicans, Lutherans, Pentecostals and yes, some Hindus. My predominantly white Baptist church supports a missionary TO India who is Indian-American and whose family is very much American. You can't even tell a person's religious background from his/her name. For example, I know people whose last names are Abdullah and Hussein - they are evangelical Christians!
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  • mathmommathmom 32044 replies158 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 32,202 Senior Member
    I agree with the other posters - while there's no harm in learning about the Indian subcontinent in general, I expect the future roommate will be very Americanized. No telling what religion either as others have pointed out. My freshman year roommate with an Indian sounding last name turned out to be from Bangladesh, living in Paris with a German mother attending the American School of Paris. I think she was officially Muslim though she didn't practice. (Amusingly I'd asked for a non-smoker who spoke German and had traveled.)
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  • StickerShockStickerShock 3712 replies69 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,781 Senior Member
    "Having said that, a couple of things that did upset my daughter - friends lying on her bed with their shoes on [ that's a no, no in most Indian families I know] and room mate sorting dirty laundry on D's bed." I don't know of ANY family of ANY culture that would approve of this! YUK!

    You can't guess anything about the roommate by his surname. I would imagine if the kid isn't "Americanized" and has special issues and concerns, he would have clearly expressed them to the college and requested a roommate who would meet his expectations. Sounds as if this kid is not too worried about the religion or culture of his roommate, so your son shouldn't stress about it. Simple common courtesy goes a long way.

    It's more likely than not that this kid's religion is something other than Hindu. Some of the most traditional Indians I've known (arranged marriages, diet, teaching their kids only Indian dialect until they entered school) were Roman Catholics. I believe only about 1/3 of Indians are Hindu.
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  • JHSJHS 18300 replies70 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 18,370 Senior Member
    A lot more than 1/3 of the population of India is Hindu. The figure one sees most often is about 80%, although there is a lot of politics in the definition of what is Hindu (e.g., Hindu politicians will count Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jainists as "Hindus", although those groups probably define themselves separately). There is no formal hierarchy in Hinduism to define clearly what is and is not Hindu, and I suspect the term means even less than "Christian", which covers a gamut from Albanian Orthodox to Catholic to Presbyterian to Methodist to Pentacostal to Latter Day Saints. In other words, a lot of variation even before you start looking at variation WITHIN the identifiable groups. But under any definition, Hindus are certainly the vast majority of the population of India, with Muslims representing about half of the rest. (Although India's formal name is Bharat, inside and outside of India the term "Hindustan" gets used a lot more often.)

    However, some regions of India are a lot less Hindu than others. Kerala, where a lot of ethnic Indian families around here came from, is about 60% Hindu and 20% Christian. Punjab has a large Sikh population. Religious minorities, especially Christians, may feel relatively more comfortable emigrating to the US, as may also be true of families including different religious backgrounds. Also, thanks to the way the British Empire worked, and to the normal pattern of sophisticated trade centers on the coasts vs. more traditional interior, religious minorities are probably overrepresented in the more affluent and educated strata of Indian society, which probably also means that ethnic Indian kids in college here are disproportionately non-Hindus (although plenty are Hindus, too, of course).

    There is a movie, American Desi, that I heard about from a Pakistani law student a few years ago, and that represents a pretty Indo-centric view of "ABCDs" (American Born Confused Desis) ("Desi" is a term that, among other things gets used to generalize all people from the Indian subcontinent). I gather that it is pretty popular among Indian and Pakistani kids. It is a pretty sweet, innocuous comedy about a diverse bunch of American-born and immigrant ethnic Indians at a US college, and the difficulties they have deciding how "ethnic" to be, as well as getting along with each other, and dealing with the fact that many of the other students don't understand that they are not a monolithic group. It's an Indian film, so of course the moral of the story is "India is great!" (don't worry, America is great in the movie, too), but the nuances along the way feel about as true to life as you're going to get in a glossy teen movie. (Cool soundtrack, too. It sort of straddles the line between Bollywood and Hollywood filmmaking styles -- no one bursts into song, but there are some substantial music-video type interludes.) Anyway, it's not a waste of 2 hours, you could probably get it from netflix, and it probably gives a better short introduction to the issues some Indian-American kids may deal with than reading up on Hinduism would.
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  • brainomaticbrainomatic 152 replies11 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 163 Junior Member
    Thank you to everyone who responded. You answered a lot of questions that I had. My biggest concern -- and the reason that I started what some of you consider a "weird thread" -- was I didn't want my son to do anything to offend his roommate. I am happy to know about the shoes, etc. and will pass that along.

    I learned on the internet that the roommate comes from a community that is highly-populated with persons following the Hindu faith, so I merely wanted to be respectful (and more knowledgeable) in the event that he is. We have no intention of trying to get a different roommate. I think the ethnic diversity will be a wonderful experience for my son. If you felt I was being judgmental or prejudicial, that was NOT my intention. I'm sorry if it appeared that way.
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  • mathmommathmom 32044 replies158 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 32,202 Senior Member
    No possibly naive, but not judgemental or prejudiced.

    BTW if you want to see another fun movie try Missippi Marsala. A love story between Denzel Washington and a young Indian American woman.
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