Coconut Generation

The Next Generation of Asian Indians

Life cut short? May 31, 2006

Filed under: Bible,Youth — Sam George @ 3:01 pm

Last week, I attended the funeral service of Semy Sebastian, a 24 year old young man in Chicago. I did not know him personally, but knew young people who knew him. He is from the Indian catholic community and had many friends in Indian churches/Asian community in Chicago.

The service was a moving time. I feel deeply when young people die. For people who hold so much promise and their life is unexpectedly cut short, you are left with many unanswered questions. It also brought to mind my own brush with death and my dramatic encounter with Jesus Christ – the only one who conquered death and who rose victorious from the tomb. He alone has promised us life beyond the grave. Have you put your trust in Him?

John 10:10b says, "I have come to give you life, and have it to the full." Other translation says "…have abundant life." and "…life in all its fullness."

Death forces us to ask the ultimate questions that we often avoid. Materials accumulation does not matter anymore, education or career does not matter, social class or status or ethnicity does not affect. Death often comes unannounced. We only leave behind memories. How have we touched other people with out lives. What will the world remember us for? What will be written on our tombstones or obituary?

Something to think about, I guess?


Early Years of Marriage May 30, 2006

Filed under: Culture,Family,India,Youth — Sam George @ 4:31 pm

Most casusalty happens in early years of marriage. Contrary to the popular notion, many marriage break up in the honeymoon year itself. Others within first three or five years. If couple survives ten years or so, they are likely to stick on even if they do not have a great marriage.

A recent study by the Creighton University Center for Marriage and Family suggests that time, sex and money pose the three biggest obstacles to satisfaction in the lives of newly married couples. In its report, "Time, Sex and Money: The First Five Years of Marriage,'' the center noted those three topics "were the three problematic issues reported most frequently and with the highest average intensity.''

This is true of coconut marriages. At PARIVAR seminars and conferences, we have found same issues to play havoc in addition to unique cultural problem of conflict with in-laws (which is the among top three issues of marriages in India). Marriages between those who were raised outside of India with those who are grown up in India also exhibit many unique problems similar to that of inter-racial marriages.

Most coconuts bring debt brought into marriage, balancing work and family remains a challenge, and frequency of sexual relations were of greatest concern to those ages 29 and under. Those over 30 tend to have problems with work/family balance and sexual relations. Marital communication, dealing with their past (absue, relationships, sexuality)managing expectations, interpersonal skills, resolving conflict, household chores etc are other problems areas in the marriages of emerging generations of Asian Indian around the world.

In the book, we have included some of the struggles of single coconuts face. We also have seen how these issues come to the surface when they get married. With almost one-third marriages breaking up within the emerging generation of overseas Indian community, family will remain one of the neediest area to work in. What a challenge before us all.


Growing inter racial marriages May 16, 2006

Filed under: Family,Youth — Sam George @ 9:41 pm

Indians in America have many unique distinctions. The highest levels of inter-racial marriages of any ethnic community might not be obvious to many.

Accoring to US census 2000, 12% (220K out of 1.9M) of Indians listed themselves as Indian and one other racial group. This is 5 times more than nation average. Nationwide only 2.5% whites, 4.8% blacks falls into multiracial families. Although total numbers are low (beacuse of relatively smaller population), the Indian community breaking the boundaries of caste, color, relgion and race to explore new forays of bicultural and biracial existence.

Coconut generation are much more open to exploring relationships outside of their race. With their unique bicultural self, they feel comfortable with exploring even more blending through marriage and raising blened families. Even though it sends chills to many of their immigrant parents who value cultural homogeneity and dread at the possibility of having to deal with son or daughter in-law who aren't Indian.

Marriage experts tells us that Inter-racial marriages aren't easy. It require twice as much of work. But it brings riches that are often missing in same-culture marriages. One cannot assume or take things for granted. Everything need to communicated clearly, explained and become a student of your partner's culture. If all couples work in their relationships like the inter-racial couples and develop such attitude towards others, all of relationship will improve significantly.

Maybe coconut generation has something to teach us all about relationships.


Faith of the Emerging Generation

Filed under: church,Culture,Resources,Youth — Sam George @ 9:40 pm

As a student of emerging generation, I was excited to read a new book In search of Authentic Faith by Steve Rabey. Subtitle describes the content very well – "how the emerging generation is changing the church."

What is the bottomline message – There is no single right way to "do" church for the emerging generations. What worked in the past or what worked in another country or what is worked among your contempraries across town not necessarily work for you. One size or form does not fit all. The current and traditional church aren't cutting it for the emerging generation who are serching for more authentic expression of faith.

How does this and other resources like this apply to ministry to the emerging generation of Asian Indians in western society? I really do beleive that popular culture and mainstream generational trends cannot be overlooked any minority groups. They will affect one way or other. You are in a better place if you understand what is happening around your cultural landscape. So anyone working with Coconut Generation cannot ignore insights from these resources.

What author does not make it clear is his usage of generational terms like X, Y, Millenial etc. He assume readers to be aware of some of these distinctions. I suggest that you read "Boomers, Xers & Millenials" (Rick Hicks) or "Generation Next" (George Barna), before getting into this.

Books like this both excites me and scares me at the same time. It forces you to think outside of the box, reconsider your own theological understanding, draw deeply from scriptures, challenges of youth ministry in our times and the frustration of why most people are clueless about these undercurrents.


Second & Third Generation issues May 4, 2006

Filed under: church,Leadership,Ministries,Youth — Sam George @ 7:39 pm

Last week, I attended the Ethnic America Summit in Atlanta. This is an annual gathering of various immgrant ministries in North America. It was a great time of connecting up with many leaders from various ethnic communities like China, Korea, Philipines, Russia, Scotland, Romania, Ukraine, Mexico, Brazil, Nigeria, Japan etc. and of course many of Indian origin!

As I got to talk with many of them about the Coconut book, I kept hearing the need for similar resources in their own communities. Children of immigrants are often experiences a subliminal existance and are called the 'hidden generations'. They remain hidden from most church/community programs and initiatives. Sometime immgrant generations' needs take priority over emerging generations. But in most cases, many do not know what to do and where to begin.

Second and third generation issues do not appear on most radars. Census, immigration, education, demographics and politicians only track real numbers and often miss what lies beneath the surface (as evident from the large scale turn out of people for immigration reform bill). With the resurgence of ethnic identity these days, ethnic communities may have to take a more pro-active measure in addressing issues of the emerging generaitons.

Dr. T.V. Thomas (he wrote Forword for the Coconut book) was one of the main speakers and he also took a break out seminar on 'Reaching the second and third generations in America'. Many admited to me that session alone was worth their trek to Atlanta. There were people from over 30 nations and a great resonance on issues he raised.

Although there are many differences, emerging generation issues have many similarities and we will greatly benefit by learning from each other. Let's not make the mistake other have made and yet avoid simply copying certain practices across ethnic lines. But there are many transferable principles that we can borrow from other and contexualize in our own settings. We all have much work cut out for the future. May God help us to be faithful to the faith and relevant to the generation. Not one at the cost of the other.


Parental Pressure to excel in studies May 2, 2006

Filed under: Family,News,Youth — Sam George @ 4:37 am

Coconut generation experiences tremendous amount of pressure from their parents to excel in academics, which is the story line for a new novel – How Opel Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life by Kaavya Vishwananthan and published by Little Brown (April 2006).

Before Opal Mehta started kindergarten in New Jersey, her immigrant doctor parents came up with a strategy for securing her future. The plan was called HOWGIH or How Opal Will Get Into Harvard. An 18-year-long battle-plan, HOWGIH included cello lessons, language classes, mosaic and welding courses-everything they imagined constituted a perfect Harvard application. At the end of her high school years, fluent in French, Spanish, German and Chinese, having performed at Carnegie Hall, with a 4.0 GPA, a near-perfect SAT score, all

Opal had to do was sail through her Harvard interview-and get in. But when after going through her impressive file, the Dean of Admissions asked her the one question she wasn’t prepared for-“So tell me, what do you do for fun?” Opal was stumped. Apparently Harvard wasn’t looking for ‘academic automatons’.

The author is a 19-year-old Harvard student herself and signed a staggering $500,000 book deal advance. It’s exceedingly well written and, with its blend of mainstream young American pop/consumer culture with a desi touch, it’s also very saleable (DreamWorks has already bought the movie rights.) This has all the ingradients to become the next ‘Bend it Like Beckham’.

To add to the hype, she has been now accused of plagiarism by the university newspaper Harvard Crimson and the publisher had pulled the book off fthe stores.


Self destructive behaviors – Internet

Filed under: Culture,News,Youth — Sam George @ 3:19 am

I recently read about a new study that found how spending a lot of time on the Internet can induce self-destructive behaviour among young people. The researchers at Cornell University, headed by Janis L Whitlock, examined normal behaviour in chat rooms and the use of message boards by adolescents. They observed 406 message boards to investigate how adolescents solicit and share information related to self-injurious behaviour.

They found that online interactions provide essential social support for otherwise isolated adolescents, but the online boards could also encourage self-injurious behaviour and add potentially lethal behaviours to the repertoire of established adolescent self-injurers, said lead author Whitlock.

Internet usage is considerably higher among Asian Indian American youth. Emails, instant messaging, chat rooms, music download, games and others internet offerings are absolutely impossible to live without for this generation. This is also indicative of their extremese sense of loneliness and their quest for community (virtually). Sadly, some are falling prey to pornography and other destructive behaviors.

How can you help young people to be responsible with Internet? Couple of years ago, I decided to do “digital fast” on a regular basis. I found it to be harder that letting go of my favorite food or television show. For someone like me who stays wired all the time, I just wanted to tell myself that world will go on just fine without being plugged in. I wanted to become more conversant with real reality than virtuality!