The Blog

- - in Articles

Gujarati Youth & Their Roots in the Community

Gujarati Youth & Their Roots in the Community

During the last decade or so, a new phenomenon has emerged within the Gujarati community of Laudium, a phenomenon which was not very prevalent in years gone by. The phenomenon I am talking about can perhaps best be described as the new mobile educated Gujarati.

This phenomenon is primarily motivated by the fact that young people are increasingly practising as professional people and are seeking employment in professional and corporate environments. In years gone by, it was more or less the norm that people would join family business or seek employment within the geographical area of greater Pretoria. or commute to and from work if they were employed outside Pretoria. One of the main reasons for remaining in Pretoria and/or Laudium was the fact that the Group Areas act was still in existence and freedom of movement was restricted.

The Group Areas Act had the effect of forcing people of specifically defined racial groups to live in specially designated areas. This, of course, meant that Indians could not live in areas that were not designated for them, and a (ironically positive) by-product of this was an entrenchment of cultural and religious values.

During the last 20 years or so, there has been a tremendous drive towards obtaining professional qualifications by people within the community. There are currently a greater number of professionals within our community than at any other time in history.

This resulted in people finding employment in corporations and companies, many of which are based outside Pretoria. As a result, people are forced to commute long distances through heavy traffic in order to make the return trip to and from work.

Of course, the consequence for those who chose to commute meant that their families could remain within the community, attending the local schools and participating fully in the cultural and social activities of the community.

For those who chose not to commute but to live closer to their places of work, the implications become graver. Since the Group Areas Act was abolished approximately ten years ago, the primary restriction on the movement on people was lifted and people accordingly began to explore the possibility of living away from Laudium. The initial trickle of people living outside Laudium has increased quite substantially where today it would not be inaccurate to say that virtually every family has a member who now resides outside Laudium or the greater Pretoria area.

The primary migration in this regard has been to the Northern suburbs of Johannesburg although people have been known to move to other cities where work opportunities have presented itself. The migration of people also meant that people and families who were previously involved in community structures and organisations (for example, Gujarati School) were now lost to these organisations. The decline in enrolment at the Gujarati School can be partly attributed to this.

Many young people have moved to areas which were previously for whites only. This resulted in children attending previously whites only schools and generally becoming integrated into a completely new social circle. While the initial immigrates still return to Laudium from time to time in order to visit family and to join in cultural activities such as Holi and Navratri, the younger members of these emigrant families are not exposed to the Gujarati way of life as was the case with their parents.

The movement away from Laudium for these families is not necessarily a regressive step. The fact that people lose touch with the traditional community certainly has negative consequences, amongst which is the apparent loss of certain cultural and language values. This has resulted in increased responsibility being placed on parents to enlighten their children on religious values, as opposed to a more community based approach.

The migration of people from Laudium should be viewed in its proper context as an unavoidable economic phenomenon. It is quite evident from history of human movement that people will generally tend to migrate towards work opportunities. This is one of the reasons why our forefathers came from India to South Africa and why many people leave South Africa altogether for other countries.

It is of course the responsibility of the family members to manage the balance between economic consideration and cultural life. The emigrants will continue visiting Laudium for as long as their families remain there. This will, of course result in their children associating with cousins, uncles, aunts and other relatives. Family ties and relevant Samaj activity will help to ensure that these families retain their links with the community.

People have migrated from the beginning of time and will continue to do so. The challenge facing the community in this regard is to continue making Laudium a culturally vibrant area in order that these families and newer immigrants from other parts of the country will be encouraged to come to Laudium for the celebration of Diwali, Holi, Navratri, and other festivals.