In India, the bricks of society are the family.: Becoming Minnesotan

Nirupama Misra, c.2006.
  • Name - Nirupama Misra
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview -
  • A child by the seashore, Goa, India, 2010.

    Asian Indian, Family, Gender Roles

    Essential Question

    Life in the Old Country: What makes a country a person’s homeland?

    Traditions & Values: What makes up “culture”?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    In India, extended families are normally very close.  In fact, it is common for grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, and cousins to all live together in the same house.  The children all grow up together more like brothers and sisters than cousins, and all of the adults work together to take care of all of the kids.  Family members support one another, and have a lot of respect for what it means to be part of the family. 

    To learn more about Asian Indian history and culture, visit our Asian Indian Community page.

    • Chapter 1

    Download Nirupama Misra 1
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    Narrator: Nirupama Misra (NM)

    Interviewer: Polly Sonifer (PS)

    NM:  We just went to India last winter, and I see with my children now, taking them, and they're playing with my cousins' children now, and in the same place I played with my cousins, and it's not that different now than it was twenty years ago for me, or thirty years ago for me.

    The play is more - it's just old-fashioned play, I guess, is the best way to put it. It doesn't involve a lot of toys and props, and children are much sweeter, I think, in India, much sweeter. It's one of the reasons I would love to go back and raise my children there. The children are not hardened yet, and they're very generous with each other. I remember how much that impressed me when I went there as an eleven-year-old, that here were these kids, and I remember thinking, "They don't have nearly as many toys as I have, they don't have anywhere near as much of anything as I have," and yet whatever they got, they were giving it to me. Just that generosity and that very deep sense of affection, and that sense that I think I was really hungry for at that point in my life, that I belonged with them.

    I was just one of their sisters. In India, we don't have a word for "cousin." The word is "sister" or "brother" and the relationship is very much the same, and so they just kind of wrapped their arms around me, and ever since then, I have just been one of them.

    I think in America, we have, as our building bricks of society, the individual. In India, I think the bricks of society are the family. So I think there's that sense in growing up as a child there, that you are part of something very solid and very important, and upholding it is part of your life.

    PS:  And you don't have that sense in American culture?

    NM:  I don't. I too often feel that my friends here are quick to criticize their parents and their siblings over things that, in their shoes, they would have done the same thing. I think it's that sense of being the individual. It's me that has to then deal with the world, not, it's me with the support of my family that deals with the world.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Verb:  1.  To review something and point out what is good and bad about it.  2.  To find fault with something.  (critcizes, criticizing, criticized)


    Noun:  The arts, customs, and habits that characterize a particular society or nation.


    Adjective:  Unfeeling or lacking emotion due to experience; callous.


    Noun:  A person considered alone, rather than as belonging to a group of people.


    Noun:  The people of one’s country or community taken as a whole.


    Verb:  To maintain and support; to defend against opposition.  (upholds, upholding, upheld)


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
    nid: 591