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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

February 11, 2010

Written by C.N.

Individual and Collective Success in India

The other day, I was flipping around the network evening news broadcasts and landed on CBS News. Apparently, they have a regular segment titled “Everybody Has a Story” in which they randomly pick a location in the U.S., travel there, and then the reporter takes out a phonebook and randomly flips to a page and puts his finger on a name on that page, and then they profile that randomly-chosen person and tell his/her story.

Also apparently, CBS News expanded this segment to “Everybody in the World Has a Story” and enlisted the help of an American astronaut to randomly point to a location on a globe where they would go and repeat the same procedure to profile the randomly-chosen person. In the segment I watched the other day, they ended up in Rewari, India (just outside Delhi). The video of their segment and the person they profiled is below:

As seen in the video clip, the person they profiled is Khushi Ram Goyal, a 78 year-old patriarch of a four-generation family who all live in the same house. Mr. Khushi also happens to be blind. But instead of being debilitated and resentful (although I am not suggesting that all blind people feel that way), Mr. Khushi actually leads a very fulfilling life. This is possible because his children and extended family members share everything — one house, one bank account, and one set of eyes as family members take turns watching over Mr. Khushi, not to do everything for him, but to give him a hand in case he needs it.

In watching this segment, I was very touched by Mr. Khushi, his family, and how they work together to share in their collective success as a family. Although it’s a different matter to generalize one example to an entire society, I suppose Mr. Khushi’s life does reinforce the notion that traditional Asian cultures such as India do indeed place a higher priority on familial duties and the importance of the family unit over the individual.

I’ve written about how this collective focus can sometimes be dysfunctional and actually lead to tragic consequences. Many Asian Americans can also attest to how difficult it is for parents and their children (even once they become adults) to express their love for each other.

Nonetheless, in this case, Mr. Khushi’s story is a nice example that sometimes, there are more important things in life than maximizing an individual’s economic success. Instead, his story shows us that the sharing of success and responsibilities throughout an extended family can be just as rewarding and nurturing for a person’s soul.