Is your circle of friends diverse?
By Anchel Krishna
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When I was growing up my parents mostly had South Asian friends. Everyone was auntie and uncle, which made remembering names so much easier. They also had good friends who were from all different backgrounds – many were neighbours, colleagues or other community members.
But the closest aunties and uncles were definitely Indian. In fact many of those same people – and their children – are the ones we still consider family. It was a great way to grow up.
As I was growing up and gaining independence I didn’t pay much attention to my friend’s cultural backgrounds. I didn’t seek out other first-generation Canadians because between my sisters and our family friends, we pretty much had that covered. As I entered university in Toronto I had exposure to a very diverse group of friends and I gravitated towards the people I had the most fun with, not paying much attention to their cultural background.
Over the holidays I got to thinking what aunties and uncles Syona will grow up with; who are the friends we are closest to? We have a pretty strong desi group of friends and family but there is also a lot of diversity in the mix. We also have close friends of many different cultures and backgrounds, but I would love for our group of friends to be even more multicultural and better reflect where we live.
I think one of the best parts of our community is that it is a really diverse city.
In my mind it is important that our group of friends reflects this diversity. I hope that as Syona enters the school years and we become more active participants in our local community, our social circles will continue to expand in a diverse way and reflect our world. Her nursery school is extremely diverse – kids of all abilities and cultural backgrounds playing and learning together. At her recent holiday party we saw kids and families of all background celebrating together and it was a wonderful thing.
I want Syona to grow up with a lot of diversity, she already hears three different languages at home and I love the fact that she’ll be surrounded by people who speak many others as she grows up. I think she will get a chance to learn more about different cultures and try different foods than we ever did because of this exposure. And I think this is important as it will help her figure out what she likes.
Our definition of diversity has also expanded beyond cultural diversity. We have friends who have children of all abilities, and it is nice for Syona to have that in her life as well. These friends also provide a level of support and understanding of what life with special needs is really like. We also have friends from all different stages in our life, including high school, university, former workplaces, etc.
We’ve been lucky in the sense that most of our relationships with people have strengthened since Syona was born. We don’t see any of our friends as often as we like but we know they are just a Facebook message, text, email or phone call away.
These are the same people who also provide us with some respite and a break away from the day-to-day life every once in a while. A few hours filled with good food, good friends and some serious laughs can do wonders. These are also the same people whose kids will likely become staples in Syona’s life.
I think having a diverse group of friends also models an important value for Syona: That good friends who can often feel like family come from all walks of life and from all the various chapters that make up your family story. She will also learn that establishing and maintaining friendships is a lifelong process. You can make a new friend almost anywhere and at any point in your life.
As immigrants, I think our parents had the right idea. To ensure that their kids grew up with some knowledge of culture, language and traditions they made sure they had a strong group of friends from the same community. They also allowed some breathing room and adopted parts of other cultures they thought were appropriate. As the first generation born here they have given us an absolute privilege: a foundation of culture, community and tradition with the freedom to make our world diverse by exploring other cultures.
Sometimes I wonder if I’ve put too much thought into this. And then I remember that most of my parent’s friends are people who I consider family. My aunties and uncles are the first to offer to help out. On Dilip’s side of the family it is the exact same thing. So I think putting some thought into the wonderful folks that get to be part of your child’s life is important.
How do you ensure your group of friends is diverse? Is this important for you?
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