In my years at GNFC school, I and my classmates were routinely harangued by our teachers. They did not understand that we children had just been dropped into a foreign culture, a society with very different rules, behaviors, conventions, languages, and politics. For instance, as American we were accustomed to raise our hand if we wanted to ask teacher a question. But we didn’t ever have to ask permission to enter a classroom.
I remember 3rd grade as just a series of mimicking the Indian kids, so as to avoid a teacher freak-out or a beating. In India a student was expected to stand at the entry of a classroom, hold out a straight arm, palm down, and say: “Ma’am may I come in?”. At the start of class when the teacher walks in the whole class stands up and sings “Good Morning Ma’am, and Thank You Ma’am”. I clearly remember NEVER being taught this, or prepped for it, yet assimilating to it immediately. Our meal prayer was “For what… we are… about to receive… Oh Lord… make us… tobetrulythankful” – for a long time I had no idea what I was saying, but I mumbled it anyway. At the end of every meal we had to stand up and say “We Thank Thee Oh Lord for Food and Thy Fellowship”. Japji Sahib was recited every day, before breakfast, in a droning monotonous chant, to the point where I think I remember the way it was chanted more than the hymn itself.
It didn’t matter how much of these cultural norms we did assimilate to. According to the teachers, us Americans, remained “hooligans”. The fact that we had not been trained like monkeys to anticipate and cower, was mortifying to them. They were conditioned, and perhaps took for granted, that children feared and respected them. They weren’t prepared for children who weren’t raised with that concept. But it was we who were on the receiving end of their sticks. A common mantra of theirs was “Who could have possibly raised such a rude child”, or some kind of insult to our parents, which made us feel even worse because we missed them so much.
Ironically, but not to credit their intolerance, they may just have had a point. We kinda did have irresponsible parents. They didn’t raise us responsibly – they let a stranger dictate to them, step by step, what to do with their own lives and with our lives. They listened when Yogi Bhajan ordered them to swap us around, and they obeyed when he told them to send us half way around the world. They obeyed him when he ordered us to stay there, even when we wanted to come home.
If we were hooligans, it was because we were left to our own devices.