A Peeping-Tom armed with sticks and stones

Disclaimer– The thoughts and opinions expressed below are solely my own..and maybe those of some million Indians. I don’t intend to offend anyone..but if I do..Oh well. 

I’m a 24 year old Indian girl living in an Indian society. I’m not the only one who’s got a bone to pick with the Indian Society- talk to almost anyone of my generation, and you’ll find they agree with me on this.

Whenever we desire to do something that isn’t the norm in our society, we’re asked to reconsider and some of us our forced to stop thinking along those lines anymore FOR FEAR OF WHAT OUR SOCIETY WILL THINK OF US.

Let me try and help you understand this a little better:

When I speak of the “Indian Society” I’m referring to other Indians in our neighborhood, in our extended family: aunts & uncles. their extended family that know our family, parents’ cousins- first,second and third cousins, our extended family’s neighbors..it could go on for a bit more and this is not an exaggeration.

After years of being subject to our Society’s bullying,  most of us Indians are conditioned to run through a certain thought process before we decide to do or not do something that could pose a problem.

For example-

-If I decide to take a lift on a guy-friend’s bike, there could be consequences. (not of the road-accident variety, Society rarely gives a crap about that.)

Thought #1- My neighbor-aunty (Every Indian woman who’s our mum’s age or older is called “Aunty”. She needn’t be related.), or her husband might see me behind the guy on his bike and assume the guy is my boyfriend – which makes me a girl of loose morals, OR that the bike-guy is one among the many guys I go around with -which again makes me a girl of loose morals.

Thought #2- Now, in the opinion of neighbor-aunty and all those she managed to get this hot bit of news to, I am a promiscuous girl. Oh dear.

Thought #3- Word gets around to my parents and they’ll worry- even if they don’t give a crap about neighbor-aunty. Because when the time comes for my parents to find me a husband- a nice Indian boy from a good family and all that, the word around town will be that my parents’ daughter is a promiscuous girl.

Thought #4- Now, which nice Indian boy from a good family..no, which parents of a nice Indian boy will choose me for a daughter-in-law and wife for their son? Ohh woe to my parents. Our daughter will die an old maid..she’ll be all alone and lonely. Oh she’ll never know the joy of having kids.

 

And since neighbor-aunty is always hungrily watching out her window, there will be consequences

-If my body isn’t covered exactly as much as neighbor-aunty deems appropriate

Thought #1- Aunty be like Hai Rabba! How much skin she is showingg! and when this bit of news gets around to her friends I’ll probably be less covered in her story than I was to begin with.

Also, Aunty will inform the world that if I get raped it’s all on me. I should’ve worn the dupatta before I left home, or gone swimming in a burqini, or chosen trackpants over shorts for my evening jog. But no, my parents’ daughter has chosen to go dangle a bone in front of all them rapist dogs.

Repeat Thought #2,#3,#4  aaandd

Ohh woe to my parents. Our daughter will die an old maid..she’ll be all alone and lonely. Oh she’ll never know the joy of having kids.

That reminds of another scenario:

-If I decide to stay unmarried, there will be consequences.

The society will speculate on my love-life. They can paint my love-life to be more exciting than I could’ve ever imagined it to be. According to them-

I am married, but not to a “nice Indian boy”..maybe to a firang or something, and my parents don’t know how to handle breaking the news to the Society,

OR I’m in a live-in relationship, with no care for the institution of marriage,

OR I’m not married because I’m actually a lesbian OR have a mental illness,

OR I’m not married because duh..I’m a promiscuous girl who’s ruined all chances of finding a nice Indian boy on a matrimonial site.

Arranged marriages are not a bad thing, but a lot of arranged marriages are a result of parents succumbing to peer pressure. Often parents are blamed for pressurizing their children into marriages, but more blame is to be laid on the Society breathing down the parents’ neck telling them they’ve failed as parents the more their daughter’s marriage is delayed.

Similarly, I’ll also have to take the flak

– If I don’t have kids a year after marriage

– If I’m gay

– If I’m seen having a drink with my friends

I could go on..but, you get the picture. Everything I do is my Society’s business. They don’t understand what it means to stay out of it, or to give someone the benefit of the doubt. I think if you told Society to Be Kind and Considerate, it would fall on deaf ears- ears that would otherwise perk up at the softest whisper of gossip.

Many Indians I know have had life-decisions made more to satisfy Society than their own happiness. Some of them got lucky and are reasonably happy (or at least that’s what it looks like on the outside) and some of them suffer for it.

Our Society can be a bitch and a bully.

Our parents can be tough and stand up to society, but it can still be mental agony to be subjected to the non-stop commentary of a society that appoints itself judge and jury of everyone’s life. Eventually and hopefully, our parents will tune them out. Maybe tuning society out will make them fall silent, withdraw and our lives will be a-okay.

There’s a LOT wrong with India right now. A lot of the blame is on the goverment and the corrupt or inept politicians. Sure, there’s a lot they must to do make India a better country, but everything the government can do will still not change the ugliness of our society.

Log kya kahenge translates to "What will people say"

Log kya kahenge translates to “What will people say”

I don’t want to ditch my country in an effort to escape the bully that is Society, but I don’t blame those who want to. Then again, I think the problem with society is flawed human nature, and not just our blind adherence to Indian culture and tradition. So I’m sure every society will has some ugly in them, but right now I can only speak about what I see here in India.

It’s hard to imagine the situation changing. All one can say is “The change begins with you.” It really does. Everyone should just shut up about what you saw someone do, or heard someone say. Everyone should just wish well for their neighbor and help them out when they’re in trying circumstances instead of watching from the outside, speculating and gossiping. You form part of someone else’s Society. Go show them we as a Society can be better, can be kind.

And for goodness’ sake, don’t give a crap about what Society whispers or screams behind your back. Society doesn’t care what happens to you. They’ll hound you till you build a house, and maybe applaud you when you’re done, but when that house you built under pressure, with the desire to please Society- crashes down on you, Society will snicker and taunt and leave you crying in the mess that is your life.

Count on your intelligence, on the friends and family that are rooting for your happiness, on your inner-strength, and on God to get you through life.

And hope and pray that one day we’ll have a society we’re happy to be part of.

 

This was written in response to the Daily Prompt – that asks bloggers to write about what drives us crazy, and while I usually hesitate to write about topics that mentally exhaust me, today I gave it a shot- Because this matters. Because I’ve come to the point where I’m becoming more and more aware of how my society affects the lives of so many around me. 

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10 thoughts on “A Peeping-Tom armed with sticks and stones

  1. Can totally relate and add to your frustrations with the Indian society these days. But the sad part is most of what is considered as Indian culture and tradition is not exactly what our age-old ancestors followed. Our true Indian culture was entirely based on individuality and openness. A lot of taboo topics these days like homosexuality and sex, became a taboo only because of the British influence. Wish more and more people could see through it!

  2. Great post .. I see this happening a lot in families. I think we need to understand one thing about society. Society is nothing but a collective term for people like you and me with families, loved ones, people who care about them and people they care for. I think many families harbor deep shame when their children or family members do anything out of the norm and the only way to break the shame cycle is to talk about these things in the open. What I think one will find is that in this society there are more good people than there are “bad”. Even the “bad” people are not really doing or saying anything to spite you but speaking from a place of ignorance. I think with respect to India there is definitely hope for change … more families open up to the idea of giving their kids more independence, letting them make important life choices and learning to be happy for their kids happiness. The more such examples in society the more perceptions of what society considers bad and good will shift. 🙂

    • So wisely said, Nish! I wrote this post fueled by considerable frustration, ranting about the state of affairs more than seeking a solution.. and so I really appreciate the tone of your comment and the wisdom in it..I especially liked the bit about “bad” people not really doing or saying anything to spite us but speaking from a place of ignorance.
      Thanks 🙂

  3. Modern Indians have to leave behind their archaic traditions and embrace the new liberal way of living and thinking.

    We live in the 21st century where we can communicate at light speed,we don’t need to adhere to this medieval “Culture of honor” where men are breadwinners and women are dependent on men.

    Education&industrialization facilitates jobs for EVERYONE so women are no longer typical housewives who are dependent on men for their survival and Indian society better realize that this social framework is redundant which needs to be abandoned for the development of our society.

    Oh and also.. there’s nothing wrong in being promiscuous its your damn body and you can do whatever you want to do with it others have no right to tell when to have sex and when not to.

    India’s future boils down to Young Indians fighting with their parents because they go out of their way to control their children’s careers,sex life,love life and almost everything.

    Seriously these “Traditional” Indian parents need to realize that their children are individuals with their own ambitions&passions and they have no damn right to control their children’s lives after they graduate.

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