Is South Asian Blood Thicker Than Water?

In the U.S. and U.K., family estrangement is on the rise. The subcontinental diaspora is finding they aren’t immune.

image Family Estrangement
Shruti Ashok for The Juggernaut

Kiran Sampath

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July 9, 2024

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9 min

When Saurin* reminisces about his daughter, he remembers a little girl twirling in the foyer wearing pink ballet slippers. He remembers the girl whose math homework he checked, for whose 16th birthday he rented out a venue for a few thousand dollars more than he intended, who ate cold puris on the way to school. He remembers how she’d say “Papa,” embarrassed, every time he told a joke. (Saurin* requested anonymity to protect his family’s privacy).

It’s been eight years since she cut him off. “It’s devastating,” he said in a worn voice. According to Saurin*, his daughter cut communication after he and her mother filed for divorce in Arizona when she was around 18. 

His story isn’t unique. Family estrangement is a growing phenomenon, particularly in the West. Cornell sociologist Karl Pillemer found that 27% of Americans 18 and older experience estrangement and a 2015 survey found the same for 20% of U.K. families. In fact, estrangement has increased for white, Western, non-immigrants under the age of 35. For South Asian immigrants like Saurin*, however, they must reconcile the ideals around familial duty they inherited with the individualist reality they now inhabit.

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