The coming decade for South Asians

For the past week, in addition to creating a list of modest New Year’s resolutions (oh how I miss the days when my resolutions were wildly ambitious!), I have been thinking about how the “South Asian American experience” will change and evolve during this decade. For instance, in 2004 when we started this blog, South Asian Americans were still “outsiders” in many respects. Now, we’ve given up noting much of what was quite notable back then (e.g., every actor, politician, musicians). So here is my list of top 10 predictions involving South Asian American society for the next 10 years:

1) The United States will have its first South Asian senator

2) Entrepreneurs will be the new doctors in terms of finding a respectable marriage match (e.g., “oh you should meet their son Ravi, he is having new start-up company”)

3) South Asian reporters on the scene will replace Asian reporters on the scene

4) Every other instance of a NYTimes wedding announcement featuring a South Asian person will be in the context of an interracial couple

5) Movies directed by M. Night Shyamalan will no longer mention the director as part of the movie ad campaign.

6) All South Asian American bloggers will go the way of the Dodo.

7) Slumdog Millionaire will be derided for having won best picture (e.g., really, we thought that was best picture that year?)

8) Americans in the media will pronounce South Asian names correctly…well almost. Much much better at least.

9) Yoga will be the new Starbucks

10) A South Asian American author will write an amazing work of fiction (maybe even one that will be turned into a movie) with almost no hint of any South Asian themes

11) There will be a headline grabbing sex scandal involving a South Asian American

Ok so there are 11 not 10. But only because I believe one of these won’t happen.

52 thoughts on “The coming decade for South Asians

  1. 10) A South Asian American author will write an amazing work of fiction (maybe even one that will be turned into a movie) with almost no hint of any South Asian themes

    good. and hopeful about that too. i know writers are supposed to write about “what they know,” but in that case, get out more :-)

    • Nerdy Desis are nerdy about a very small sliver of academic topics and disdainful of people who are nerdy about anything off the beaten path. You can be a nerdy literature geek and will find few friends of a swarthy persuasion.

  2. i don’t think number 5 will happen, mostly because M. Night is a brand of sorts. it’s like going to see a wes anderson movie. the director has a specific vision also he tends to write and direct his movies.

  3. 6) All South Asian American bloggers will go the way of the Dodo.

    I’ve noticed that the number of articles not pertaining to music is on the decline at SM. Abhi, are you implying that Sepia Mutiny is having financial problems and will cease to exist soon?

    I hope not.

  4. I hope the one you don’t believe is #6 b/c I don’t want to go extinct. Maybe I am exempt b/c I don’t really blog anymore, but I don’t want any of you people to go extinct either. :l

    I’d be happy if South Asian Democratic Congresspeople could get elected.

  5. how many non-nerd desis have you ever known?

    i haven’t known many desis. and most of my social circle is nerdy. that being said, i’m a confirmed dilettante and not a typical “grind.” so more than you might expect.

  6. i’m a confirmed dilettante and not a typical “grind.”

     Big ups to the dilettantes. Literary agents are a fairly narrow minded crowd when it comes what they accept from their clients. I doubt they would even read a manuscript written by a desi that did not have an element of 'desiness' to it. Thanks to Jhumpa for selling so many books on south asian characters who wallow in depression and are petrified by modernist houses.
    
  7. I doubt they would even read a manuscript written by a desi that did not have an element of ‘desiness’ to it.

    hm. personal disclosure, but i’ve been approached by several agents for book ideas and such. none of them had anything to do with desiness (mostly science related, but one had to do with quantitative political science and 19th century american history).

    1. By 2020 all the action will move to India. Nobody will really care what happens in the US anymore.
  8. razib you don’t seem to fit the pattern of typical ‘desiness’ (whatever the fu@@ that is) so I’m not surprised

    I played in a cash game with a fairly prominent lit agent after the WSOP. He had never met an Indian poker pro and was fascinated. He had several indian clients and all of them fell squarely in the jhumpa arena. He asked if I had ever thought of writing my memoirs. I told him frankly that I didn’t think my life was particularly exciting….But who knows.

  9. Abhi: The title of your story is too encompassing. What you really meant was South Asians in USA…right? We (Yo Mom and me) have been in India for last month and a half, and let me tell you my hometown Ahmedabad is buzzing with all kind of bloggers, not to mention International Kite Festival, Vibrant Gujarat, etc. etc. I see coming decade for South Asians very promising and bright. Your number 6 prediction may be relevant to USA only. Forget the next decade, it appears next “decades” in this century belongs to South Asians.

  10. 4 isn’t gonna happen. There’s been Census data showing that interracial marriage rates are already leveling off/not increasing as much as in the past, amongst Asian groups. The Desi rate is already noticeably lower than say for Chinese Americans or Filipinos (though higher than for Korean-Americans). Also, part of the reason that these rates are starting to level off or even decrease potentially, is that there is a much larger population of minority groups, especially Asians, at elite universities, in business, finance etc. than there were even 10 years ago. So people have more options within their own ethnic group. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll see a good amount of interracial relationships and that’s great, but the amount isn’t going to increase as much if at all; if anything, I think there were more second generation Desis in their late 30′s and early 40′s who probably married out than we will be seeing with people in my age group (27) or a few years older.

  11. I also think you may see, in general, Desis mimicking another trend we are seeing in the general population of increased marriage ages and lower marriage rates and delaying having children. I actually think that’s already starting to happen, in my anecdotal observations.

  12. . The Desi rate is already noticeably lower than say for Chinese Americans or Filipinos (though higher than for Korean-Americans).

    did the census release the full data for 2010? last i checked we only had 2000 data and the higher outmarriage rates for non-indians was totally a function of the fact that those groups had much larger “native born” contingents. correcting for natality there’s no difference, and outmarriage rate was on the order of 40%.

    http://www.asian-nation.org/interracial.shtml

    • http://www.asian-nation.org/interracial.shtml

      actually, the USR + USR or FR column is probably the more reflective column to look at when determining the outmarriage rate for indian americans. a significant number of second gen’ers have gone back to the homeland on the traditional marriage track (a phenomenon very likely more common among desis than other usr asian groups). USR+ USR is self selecting as there are not too many white (the most common non-indian pairing for indians) guy/girl partners born abroad, so this naturally skews the data to seem more outmarriage oriented. So the likely number is probably closer to 23 and 26% outmarriage for indian girls and guys respectively given the broader range of the statistic. This is markedly lower than chinese, korean, and filipino americans–data which lends credence to the plight of the east asian male…

  13. I also think that the Indian-American community is become very diverse. Some keep their traditional identities, others as Jindal, embrace new ones (Christianity), while others like Nikki Haley find ways to interwine their often different faiths and traditions. In fact, that is probably the most important and interesting trend: that desis are charting their own course. For instance it was interesting to find that Rajiv Shah, the USAID administrator found his inspiration from the Bible, rather than traditional Hindu/India/Muslim traditional contexts…

    http://www.usaid.gov/press/frontlines/fl_decjan10/p01_shah100101.html

  14. “For instance it was interesting to find that Rajiv Shah, the USAID administrator found his inspiration from the Bible, rather than traditional Hindu/India/Muslim traditional contexts…”

    Interesting especially since the Bible has considerably less philosophical content then say, the Upanishads or even just the Bhagavad Gita.

    Not saying the Bible has nothing to offer, just sayin’.

  15. Do you guys really think entrepranuers will take the high status position of physicians?

    I think, given the large cut in reimbursement that physicians will face and rising overheads, there could be a decline in the prestige of the physicians. At the same time, global entrapranuers that understand where things are headed, and equipped with a good education and skills, are in a position to make a lot of serious CASH and earn some social staanding. So desis, being the astute folk they are, might at least decide that perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad to abandon the salaryman for the businessmen.

  16. Shiva, I’ve seen a big increase in marriage age and the downturn in fertility for second generation desis. Not so much the first, but it’s evident there too.

  17. “Shiva, I’ve seen a big increase in marriage age and the downturn in fertility”

    That’s not surprising female fertility decreases significantly after age 28..by 31 you’re officially into the high risk zone.

    • That’s not really the reason, it’s just family planning and birth control being more widely adopted.

      Basically raising successful kids is really expensive these days. Unless you’re wealthy you can’t realistically pull it off with more than 2 unless you’re pulling in scholarships and stuff.

  18. Marriage ages have gone up significantly due to pursuing careers (I can’t tell you how many Indian as well as non-Indian couples I know, even if married, will delay having children due to the fact that both are pursuing careers in things like business, law, medicine etc., and see that as more of a desired aim in many cases than producing children). Considering how many Desi men and women are doing amazing things these days, this is to be expected. In fact, the increasing career orientation of Desi women is likely a big reason the birth rate is falling; that was less of an issue in more traditional families where women may have focused more on the home. My mother, for example, is trained as a corporate audit accountant and would likely be a partner at some firm now, but she switched to being a middle school teacher near our home so she could spend more time with my sister and I when we were growing up. An interesting analogue might be the Jewish-American community, which (in addition to an intermarriage rate that has increased a lot in the last 2 decades, around 45% now), fall below replacement rate in births. Much of this is attributed to the career achievements of Jewish women, similar trends will be seen in the Desi and across society in general.

      • “61% of Hindus are men???????”

        it’s mostly still an immigrant community. so there’s a male bias. i also suspect that more women defect to christianity than men, though i could be wrong.

        • But more men defect to atheism/agnosticism than women as well.

          Maybe there is some kind of response bias in the survey? It is the third smallest sample size next to Jehova’s Witnesses and “other Christian.”

          Hindus also seem to be the most “adult” religious group surveyed too with more people clocking in at 30-49 than any other. Also most likely to have one or two kids, likely beating out Mormons solely because they have a lot of people with 3 kids instead.

          Also, a whopping 0% rate of cohabiting with a partner. The Mormons of the magical underpants beat us out with 3% and even the Jehova’s Witnesses beat us out with 1%! Lowest divorce rate in the land though. I suppose strong cultural pressure against it + high income and high education brings some perks. (I really wish they’d arrange the income, age, and number of children charts into normal curves rather than bar graphs. People need to learn to graph.)

      • If you notice, all the non-Christian religions comprise more men than women while it’s the other way for the Christian religions. It’s a little odd how pronounced it is with Hindus, though. A 22% difference while but there is a 6% difference with Buddhists and an 8% difference with Muslims.

        On some level it could just be that immigration from India is lopsided heavily towards men. An immigration regime that basically makes a Masters degree a requirement to get in will do that.

        It also says only 88% of Hindus are Asian. That’s a bit bizzarre to me as well.

  19. “american hindus have never been fecund.”

    put that on a t-shirt

    ON the subject of career women..its funny none of the guys I know who earn say a million dollars plus a year want a trophy wife/stay at home wife they all want educated, well rounded people. Its when you make the bump to say 5 mil a year that the men really want ex playmates who then become stay at home moms..very exacting…breast size, body fat index, etc. Its some crazy ish.

  20. Oh here’s another interesting one. Hindus are more likely to attend religious service more than once a week than mainline churches, Jews, Orthodox, or even Catholics

    But Hinduism doesn’t even really do congregational worship. Are the respondents referring to their morning puja as a “religious service?”

    • YF: you mean your experience of Hinduism isn’t congregational. My experience and my tradition is totally congregational. Based on the half dozen temples + several sangas I know of in the Bay Area alone, let alone the two weeks I spent with ‘congregating’ with thousands of people in Vrindavan last November are proof enough.

  21. “But Hinduism doesn’t even really do congregational worship.”

    We do. It’s called sat-sanga.

  22. “Its when you make the bump to say 5 mil a year that the men really want ex playmates who then become stay at home moms..very exacting…breast size, body fat index, etc. Its some crazy ish.”

    Hugh’s sloppy seconds are getting wifed? By DESI guys?

    Wow. It really IS Kali Yuga.

  23. Hindus also seem to be the most “adult” religious group surveyed too with more people clocking in at 30-49 than any other.

    yeah, what you’re seeing is the immigration profile of the community. the sample size is small. but in general the earlier comments about dropping indian fertility in the USA seems kind of dumb to me. you can look up census fertility data, asian american groups as a whole have replacement, or below replacement, fertility. asian american % increases are only bolstered by mass immigration. demographic models which have low/no immigration show an increase in the % of blacks and hispanics, because of higher than white fertility, and drop in the % of asians, because of lower than white fertility.

  24. Why is it that wealthy and educated people have such low fertility rates? I suppose their careers get in the way or they’re planning to have children when everything is just right. Still, it makes you wonder how poorer families manage to have and raise many more kids(comparatively) on much less resources.

  25. I suspect the pakistani experience will diverge a little from the Indian one as time goes on…for one, homeland security concerns will be different for the two groups. Secondly, the community itself will split a little further into Islamicized and de-islamicized groups. The de-islamicized group will look much like the Indians…the islamicized faction will be sui generis.

  26. Hey, speaking of entrapranuers…….. I was looking at a list of the top entreprenuers under 30. Of the 48 names listed, around 4 of them were Indian. Pretty cool, when you consider that salary careers (medicine, engineering, dentistry) get a lot more respect than entrapranuership in the community. Which suggests to me that a lot of smart, creative people are venturing out on their own and accomplishing stuff. All of them appear to be second generation too. Check out the link below.

    http://www.inc.com/30under30/2010/index.html

    Forbes has a list of the top 100 venture capitalists. I can’t find it now, but I think about 11 of the 100 were Indian – and 1 was Pakistani.

    I personally know an a guy that’s 26 and running a multimillion dollar startup, which he started without any outside funding.

  27. Here in Boston, hardly any of the Shiva/Vishnu worshipping Desis that I know do NOT identify as “Hindus”. They identify as “Swami Narayanan”, “Aria Samaaj”, and “ISKCON”. I’ve visited the ISKCON temple with a Hindu friend of mine. It’s located on Beacon Street right in the heart of the city. One of the monks there made it clear that they are not Hindus. Also, I overheard the Gujarati owner of one Rani restaurant here, who stated that his temple is not in Boston, but that he has to go all the way to Pittsburgh. Moreover, North Indians, Sindhi-Hindus, and Kashmiri Hindus worship at Gurudwaras. So it seems that the Hindus are so fragmented here, and this is a shaping Desi trend.

  28. I predict that the increasing number of Indians immigrating to Jersey will result in more “guindians”….gahh our future is bleak :/

  29. They identify as “Swami Narayanan”, “Aria Samaaj”, and “ISKCON”. I’ve visited the ISKCON temple with a Hindu friend of mine. It’s located on Beacon Street right in the heart of the city. One of the monks there made it clear that they are not Hindus.

    This trend of disassociating with the generic term hindu will continue to gain strength in the coming decade and beyond. Yoga too is being delinked from hinduism, and for good reason IMO, since it predates the Vedas. Speaking of Yoga, it will continue to gain in popularity.

    I also predict that more desis will convert to christianity following the examples of Governors Jindal and Nikki Haley who converted from hinduism and sikhism respectively. And the example of half-bangladeshi- and half african-american Congressman Hansen Clarke who converted from Islam. Success breeds imitation.

    Muslim desis will give up identifying with their birth religions in greater numbers. We have some early trend-setters right here in this blog.

    • Hinduism or to give the proper name Sanatan Dharma is an interesting case. It has been around for so long and has so many deep levels to it it really is quite an amazing religion. What is really amazing is that despite 1000 years or so of foreign rule in India it is still going strong (about 80% of Indians are still Hindu). Not to mention the vast number of buddhists out there (some may argue that Buddhism is merely an offshoot of hinduism).

      I think the resilience of Hinduism under such circumstances bodes well for its future, regardless of a couple of rogue elements and the odd high-profile conversion.

  30. This decade will see smartphones and tablets becoming the overwhelming proportion of personal computers, replacing laptops and desktops. Desi-americans are already playing a role in this disruptive technology and will I predict greatly increase their role in the next decade.

    Sanjay Jha, CEO of Motorola, who bet the farm on Android and gave us the Verizon Droid, first big success for the Android ecosystem, was the clear winner of this years Consumer Electronics Show with the Atrix and the Xoom, named best smartphone and best tablet respectively of the 2011 International CES. The Atrix in particular looks most intriguing as its a one of a kind device. Thats one desi-american to watch in the coming years in this exploding tech, Somebody who has already made an impact and is poised to make a much bigger impact starting this year.

    Other desis showing off their tablet concepts at the CES were the pakistani-americans Osman Rashid and Babur Habib with the dual screen Kno, a textbook tablet which is already shipping. Tablets replacing textbooks is an easy prediction. It has to happen. A very cheap slate for school children in South Asia and other developing regions has to be the goal for every desi working in this field.

    Along with the textbook tablets there will, I predict, be an explosion of experimentation with new ways of teaching with innovative software. Children, youth and adults will learn much faster and better as a result. A trend setter here is bangladeshi american Salman Khan who recently won $10 million from Google to help expand his online Khan Academy, the largest such school in the world, which already has ~2000 educational videos.

    Cheap solar-powered or handpowered tablets with educational software will bring the best education in the world to even the poorest family in the world. The sooner this happens the better.

  31. I’m not really sure what Gurdwaras have to do with it, I’m Kashmiri and have never been to one. Not that I am opposed to it. Do you just mean people go to the closest temple regardless of “denomination” so to speak?