Our lopsided Indian ways

Our society has its own share of eccentricities and idiosyncrasies. Every once in a while I can’t help but observe them and ponder over them. Life is trodding along smoothly yet some instances always surface now and then forcing one to think whether we’ve actually progressed or are still trapped in a time bubble refusing to budge from how we view the world, digging in our heels while insisting how we view the world is how it ought to be.  Being reared to question instead of conforming and thinking instead of toeing the trodden line can be quite an aberration in our country. It only makes matters worse. For the life of me I am unable to fathom why most of our country is still trapped in a time warp. We refuse to let go of how things should be a certain way. Any fluctuations from the designated path are seen as abnormal.  We weave a framework for ourselves and the people around us. Anyone outside that frame is an outcast. We’re eager to shun anything that threatens our patterned mundane way of thinking.  We love to glorify miseries,  sing paeans of  sacrifice and then expect our progeny to do the same for us.  To seek pleasure is to walk the path of decadence, so is to follow one’s heart. Our  duty is to obey and please people who are senior to us in age and stature.  We have this ambiguous sense of what morality entails. And “being good” and morally upright comes with its own baggage. The baggage of pomposity and self-glorification and righteousness. The view that how we’ve lived life is how others ought to. Self-denial is seen as the supreme goal of our lives. We are so willing to demolish dreams at the altar of duty and then expect our future generations to do the same. We still let gender decide an individual’s destiny and course of life. Not sure if we pass on values and ethics from one generation to another but we certainly hand over our prejudices, our rigidity and our biases only too gladly. If you refuse to lap up these gracefully be ready to get an earful. We’re so ingrained in our stick in the mud attitude that change is shunned as  an outsider. How long will we stay wedded to status-quo let other people decide the course of our lives and stay ingrained in passivity ?  Perhaps forever. We’re so eager to label  and anything radical, different or new as ‘evil’, dangerous or threatening. Our refusal to budge from our stances is seen as being sure of what we want while it is merely sheer pig headedness.  What makes me so sad is to see people of our generation to fall prey to such fallacies and archaic notions. We seldom gather the courage to voice what we feel since it is easier to conform and get validation for doing so. But who ever said that what is easy is the best for us?

 

Idiosyncracies of the Indian way of life

We live in a bubble. Firmly ensconced in an ideal world. In our educated and emancipated existence we rarely come in touch with ground reality. We know little that unlike our progressive families and friends, most of our fellow Indians live an alternate reality. One where there is space for only literal minds, where there is little room for change. If you’re born in India and were raised to question rather than accept or be submissive, you will have trouble like me digesting a lot of what we encounter in daily life. While I was an adolescent I thought we were a country where both men and women are on equal footing. So wrong I was! As I met and interacted with people across cities, the fact dawned home. It is only a minority which has made progress the rest of us are either trapped in a time warp or are constantly regressing. Over the years I couldn’t help making mental notes of the quirks, idiosyncrasies, paradoxes and irrationalities that come with being quintessentially Indian. There are several things that come with being Indian that I find hard to fathom and swallow. And when I think of them I feel so alien and can’t seem to relate with these ideologies.

– Our business is everyone’s business- Apparently we’re so awkward at social conversations that the only way we relate with people is by asking questions such as how much they earn, when will they marry, if married when will they have children? This is our notion of relating with extended family and friends. In my mind this shall tantamount to being downright nosy and intrusive.

– Another ones that comes close it apparently the concept of space is non-existent in the Indian scenario. If you give space to a loved one perhaps you’re not loving enough or don’t care. Or even worse they think you’re being negligent and apathetic. You can only show love by being omnipresent and by hand-holding people you care for. The bottom-line is we are scared of letting our loved ones gain autonomy because we feel that will translate into them being distanced from us.

– Since space is an unknown term so is individualism. The rise of the individual is seen as a threat to the community and great Indian family. And it is fashionable to hate people who are not from your religion or community. We don’t know what to make of those who look different, eat differently and think differently. Such people threaten us so as a defense mechanism we label them and keep safe. The good ones are those from our community, family background, and socioeconomic strata. Because they don’t threaten our perception and we end up reinforcing either others’ warped ideologies or insecure rigid belief systems.

-You’re not supposed to live for yourself or your dreams. If you dare to do so you’re labeled selfish and egocentric, it is all about following the path our ‘well-wishers’ have for us. No wonder we balk at people who’re different and encourage our children to follow a beaten track, burdening them with the weight of our expectations and dreams. And unfortunately the vicious cycle extends from generation to generation.

– We glorify pain and suffering in silence. This comes with a rider, only when it comes to women does silence is seen as a virtue. Women who grin and bear it in silence are the idealized while the one who are more human are looked down upon. On the other hand we raise our men with a sense of entitlement. As if they own the world and women were born to serve them. They’re also dehumanized. If a man doesn’t conform to the stereotypical notion he is made fun of. If he’s sensitive, likes art or cooks he’s a dandy and not ‘man enough’.  The only emotion men are reinforced to display is aggression. If they express love and care they are mocked at. What make it worse is the rigid roles and stereotypes that our society defines for both men and women. If you don’t fit the stereotype, all hell breaks loose. Men too bear the brunt of social conditioning. A happily married daughter is a trophy to flaunt to the world, but a happily married son is a threat. Because our society thinks if he’s too involved in his marriage and in making his wife happy, he will neglect duties and responsibilities of a good Indian boy. The male child is supposed to be a caretaker, an investment for one’s old age. He is manipulated, twisted and asked to give up his dreams since he was rendered preferential treatment while being raised. The dichotomy doesn’t end here, the kind of life we wish for our daughters is the exact opposite of what we wish for from a daughter-in-law.

– The only kind of love our society is capable of accepting is maternal. If you’re a woman and your heart doesn’t overflow with the fountain of maternal love, something is wrong with you. Go figure. The concept of a couple even a married one in love is not acceptable. A couple marries to fulfill duty and produce progeny not for love, companionship and all such ‘western ideals’. That is how moralistic we are. All other kinds love is relegated to the status of being immoral, not to be discussed publicly or downright shameful and dishonorable. I still see people cluck in disapproval at “Love Marriages” (Another indianism why would anyone marry for anything but love?) They veil them under some pretext and talk of it in hushed tones.

– Since we balk at and fear individualism, everything linked to it is nonexistent for us: individual freedom, creativity, following our dreams. These are the biggest threats looming large to our good old Indian culture and tradition and are conveniently shoved under the carpet. You live your life for the happiness of others and not your own. That is the message which is conveyed in a very subversive manner from generation to generation.

– We can only preserve the Indian culture by fostering dependence and propagating fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of the outcomes of not following the path of becoming a good Indian girl or good Indian boy. Yes religion is also used to make people more fearful .So we’re good not cause we want or choose to be but because we fear the consequences that come with being bad or in other words following your heart

– We’re obsessed with fair skin of women. Our advertising, our matrimonial ads, media is bombarded with images of tall fair slim women who seem to be the paragons of virtue and beauty. We fear dark skin because it is mysterious, alluring and we don’t know what to make of such beauty.

– Another recurring Indian fixation is a man’s pay packet. It is his ticket to a trophy wife. . Such a man is a prize catch for your daughter. He earns the respect of everyone and is looked at with respect. No one cares to think or ask whether he’s happy doing what he is. That is immaterial and beside the point. You are known by your material worth and possessions. What you think or feel doesn’t count

– The only acceptable way of expressing affection and love we know is by force feeding the people we care for and stuffing them with food. We eat when we feast, we eat when we fast. Yes such is our relationship with food.

– With food comes the great Indian wedding preoccupation. That is why you were born, to get married. And you don’t get married till you throw a lavish wedding feast for people you’re never likely to meet again in your life. And not to forget you have to load your daughters with at least a car else you’re stingy especially if you’re North Indian. And no the fact that you educated her and made her capable to earn a living doesn’t count. The man who marries her isn’t expected to have half a spine or self-respect to say he doesn’t want anything. He’s more than willing to accept such gifts. And mind you this is an expression of parental love!

– Terms like privacy and intimacy are alien to our ilk. We thrive on crowds, groups and congregations. Where men interact with men and women with women.. Quiet people, shy people have no space in our society. They are labeled as ‘not so social’ or arrogant, if you please. Have no secrets and share everything with everyone. That is the typical Indian way of life. Thanks to Facebook you don’t need to meet extended family in person they can keep themselves updated about your lives on the internet, irrespective of whether you’d like to share it or not.

– We don’t live; we merely exist passively without making half an attempt to change all that we feel is wrong with our lives. After all it is Karma which led us where we are. We wait on till Karma comes and bites us back.

– We are such a crowd-centered lot that we let majority of aberrations pass since this is what the majority of our people endure it. No one questions, everyone is just expected to conform to norms. This is most dangerous because patriarchy, women’s inequality and violence against women are something most people accept as a given. Just because it happens with the majority of people we know, doesn’t mean it is acceptable and right.

This is by no means a social discourse just a few observations I have made over the years. How we as a society just aren’t willing to let go off the prejudiced lenses we see the world is. What is worse is we want to pass on the legacy of these prejudices to our children. We want them to conform and obey as we did. We want their lives to be a replica of ours. But this vicious cycle needs to stop somewhere. Someone needs to question, not conform, think not obey. And that someone has to be us, our generation. Yes the onus to change all that’s wrong with our society rests with us. The buck stops nowhere but here, with all of us.

Stereotypical Notions…

It is so convenient a stance to put people in slots, stereotype them..especially in the Indian context it predominantly happens on the basis of community.. I grew up thinking we as a country had moved beyond parochialism and such things happened only aeons ago….It is only when I moved to Delhi that I woke up to the fact that community based prejudices were everywhere ..When began working did it dawn on me how people size up each other and even form cliques based on the community to which they belong. I once had a colleague who practiced Christianity come up to me and tell me out of the blue you Hindu girls have no morals ! I was too dumbfounded to react let alone retort with a smart reply !! It struck me how people still nurtured such redundant ideas and considered their community superior to others !!It struck me how stereotypes and even biases are sown into the very  threads of our society.. So many times I’ve had people tell me.. oh so you’re a Punjabi..really?? But we thought you Punjabi  girls are usually aggressive and fast..:roll:  As if one’s community can determine one’s character and personality. It never ceases to amaze me and even irk me how no amount of education and opening up the windows of our minds has helped wash away such deep-seated insulated notions.. What stems out of mere convenience of slotting people results in  an insulated way of life ..  we no longer care about delving deeper and understanding people.we seldom want to scratch the surface and look beyond the obvious. I wonder when ,if at all will we move beyond such shaky and ephemeral grounds of categorizing people and start seeing them as individuals in their own right ..without letting their race, caste, creed colour our perception..I  wonder when…!!

The times we live in….

From meaning to nothingness

From substance to emptiness

From snail mail to push mail

From homemaker to alpha female

From powerful prose to sms texts

From profundity to shallow pretexts

From patience to instantaneous gratification

From need to greed which knows no satiation

From the thirst to learn to focus on earning

From striving for peace to strife which has the nation burning 

From compassion and care to sheer callousness

Is this what we call progress or somewhere we regress???

Of Sons & Mothers

The other day this sitcom on television about a 41-year-old man who became putty in his scheming manipulative but sweet talking mother when it came to choosing a bride.The mother would make a sad face and talk her son out of wanting to meet a girl he preferred!!  It merely  reaffirmed my belief Indian men never truly grow up do they or perhaps they aren’t really allowed to grow up.  Partly because their moms never let them… they treat them like infants when they’re well past their 40s  and partly because they have been reared to worship the  very ground on which their moms tread .Their world revolves around seeking approval from their Moms..Right from doing their laundry to cooking for them to ironing their clothes I have come across mothers of men in their late forties who ‘mother’ them as if they’re mere infants!!  It’s quite a sight. Most of such Oedipal ( Greek mythology merits credit for this contribution to human psychology one can’t find a better Mama’s boy than Oedipus :roll:) men never really marry cause “Mama darling” approves of no woman for her sonny boy.. And if they ever happen to settle down ( usually post 40) their wives are miserable creatures cause whatever the poor girl might  do, it  is not as good as what Mama does !! 

It applies the other way round too Dads and their daughters have a special bond too, I have no qualms about admitting that I was out-and-out daddy’s little girl; pampered silly by my dad who gave into so many of my unreasonable demands..  But credit to him and my mom he never encouraged any of us children to become emotionally dependent on them and reared us to make our own decisions and accepted them gracefully.

At the risk of sounding judgemental I’d say a lot depends on how one’s own marriage is.. if one isn’t in a happy, fulfilling relationship with the spouse one might stand at the risk of turning into an emotionally manipulative parent who fosters dependence..Since it fulfills one’s own need to feel wanted and validated.. But mothers who encourage such symbiotic relationships seldom realise they are doing more harm than good-by infantilising their sons who then develop unrealistic expectations and feel the world owes them a living …They end up in troubled relationships and are so entangled  in the web of guilt which their moms weave for them ..

I wonder whether all this will ever change ?? All I can hope for is I don’t end up becoming such a stifling mom whenever  I do become a parent cause I have this niggling suspicion we sometimes end up becoming that which we detest or dislike intensely !!

Drawing The Line

I have heard of  mothers-in-law being bossy and daughters-in-law toeing the line without as much as a whimper. But this one that I heard from  a friend who recently tied the knot sort of takes the cake in encroaching on someone’s privacy. The poor girl happens to be tall and lean , her mom-in-law if you please wanted to see all her lingerie to check whether the girl was wearing padded bras…And the Daughter in law was thereon instructed to wear padded bras to look well endowed.. I don’t quite understand this dichotomy on one hand the lady is fairly conservative and on the other she makes no bones about scanning through DIL’s lingerie and telling her what to wear to look voluptuous !! Gosh and the DIL who happens to be a qualified CA ( and yet is made to stay at home!!) went pink in the face as her MIL encroached on her private life..I wish she’d taken a stand for herself This really annoyed me.. we really need to tell people in a polite and subtle manner : this much and no further.. You can’t really pry into anybody’s private life to such an extent..it is important to draw the line somewhere..Isn’t it ??