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Diaspora kids not confused but focused

The second generation Indo American youth have made us proud with their achievements, writes Shalini Narang.

india Updated: Mar 16, 2006 15:52 IST

I remember labelling and teasing my cousins on their sojourns to India with the newly learnt epithet- ABCD (American Born Confused Desis). After having been in immigrant shoes for over a decade, I would like to offer my apologies to my kin.

Now I understand the struggles and sacrifices that settlement in a new land demands and realise that such and similar contemptuous words are offspring of misinformed minds or youth infested indiscretions.

The second generation Indo American youth have made us proud with their achievements in not only spelling bees, science fairs, essay writing and other academic competitions but have also slowly and steadily begun emerging and showcasing their talents in the myriad avenues of movie making, theatre, journalism, law and other fields which even a decade back were largely a bastion of the mainstream populace.

Can these achievements emerge from confused minds? I don't think so, and hope you don't too. Call them independent and individualistic bordering on self-centred and self absorbed (terms that describe youth world wide) but confused-No, No way.

Here's a quick run down on the project work that the three Indo American youth as Intel finalists did. Let me hear a hurray for these bright youngsters who hold great potential and promise.

Sheela Krishnan, 17, of New York researched the Antimicrobial activity of over 1,000 bacterial isolates from the honey sacs of honeybees against seven pathogens for her project in microbiology.

Her two-year study included Paenibacillus larvae, which cause American Foulbrood Disease (AFB)- the most virulent and fatal bacterial disease that devastates bee farms worldwide.

She identified the most effective bacterial isolates and combined them into a probiotic cocktail for preventative therapy against AFB. This novel research on antimicrobial compounds may lead to the production of a broad spectrum of new antibacterial and antifungal compounds for combating multidrug-resistant diseases. Her interest in honey was ignited on a visit to India where her grandfather told her of honey's natural health benefits.

Sukrit Ranjan, 18, of Illinois, examined polar cloud formation on Mars in his earth and planetary science project. His computer analysis of surface topography data collected by the Mars Orbiting Laser Altimeter (MOLA), launched aboard the 1996 Mars Global Surveyor, is contrary to prevailing thought.

Although it had been theorised that most clouds form only over the planet's eastern slopes, Sukrit found that while this was true in the northern hemisphere, it was not true in the southern hemisphere where clouds form on the western slopes. He believes that understanding cloud formation and past water distribution on Mars may provide insight to future climate changes that could occur on Earth.

Kiran Reddy Pendri, 17, of Connecticut, synthesised a new type of organic compound, a novel macro cyclic alkenes dithiolactone project in chemistry. Building on recent Noble Prize-winning research in chemistry, Kiran's efforts utilize macrocyclisation, which is a Ring-Closing Olefin Metathesis reaction that allows for the creation of a mid-sized molecular ring that serves as a precursor for the synthesis of large-ring alkenes. He believes his research could contribute to manufacturing chemicals and pharmaceuticals in an efficient and environmentally friendly way.

Besides these promising research studies, nurtured in a societal and familial milieu promoting merit, many among the south Asian youth are also involved in varied activities for helping the underprivileged in South Asia via non-governmental work including on site project work in village schools, hospitals and other public health places at various locations in India during summer vacations and other annual breaks from schools, colleges and work.

The large scale involvement of the youth in learning the performing and other arts and lingoes of south Asia also secure my belief that not only is our rich and ancient cultural heritage secure in the minds and hearts of our progeny but also our future is safe in the hands of the youth whose identities are not going to be only governed by national geographies but by their contribution to the world at large.

So where does patriotism and love for a nation come in this equation? Like my 8-year-old daughter asked me a couple of years ago-"Am I an American or an Indian." I said, "You do not have to choose. You can belong to both the nations or for that matter to the whole world." You are a citizen of the new world where barriers are being dropped and hopefully where ideas and ideals will surpass regional or religious affiliations.

First Published: Mar 16, 2006 15:52 IST