Folks , this does not happen everywhere , with everyone . Still, IT HAPPENS
Linked by blood, connected by culture. Whether or not the YOU of the generation “Y”, identify yourself with the customs and traditions of your ethnic community or how much ever you run far away, in the end you will end up in the same bowl( Like the salmon who find their way back to their birthplace ) or find yourself wishing you were in it( Yet there are exceptions). The simple reason, friendships, global culture , cosmopolitan thing is all very redeeming yet not everlasting ( you at one point are dependent on your parents and parents in turn, on their family, relatives and extended families) . Every one of your decisions and actions warrants passing through a scrutinizing filter called , “RELATIVES”.
Despite the shortcomings, just like the clichéd phrase “No man is an island”, you will somehow somewhere want to identify yourself with a group of people you can mentally connect with and be offered mentoring and moral support . To live entirely far away, you must sever ties like a sattvic and live a saint’s life (No harm, its is good too). But even there, you will need the acceptance of similar minded people, to improvise, learn and to get guidance from.
SO WHAT IS IT ABOUT OUR FAMILIES?
We are a species who can make a person feel lonely regardless of the number of people he is surrounded by. We can corner somebody without actually cornering him. We can hurt people unexpectedly whilst they are not on guard scarring them for a life time. But the funny part is, the people who can do the demoralization are actually whom we call our own.- “OUR RELATIVES”. The thing about relatives and Indian family system is that, whether or not you truly indentify yourself with them, whether or not you truly like them, whether or not you and “them” wish only the best for another, YOU ARE STUCK WITH THEM. Till death. Actually even after that. Because DEATH and the customs associated with it are part of community culture.
It is ironic at the fact that we mock each other, pull each other’s legs, put him down, step on him, amplify his failures and shortcomings , talk about what has happened in his life, what has not happened in his life, what he was too fast at, what he was too slow at, what curses his family, create an atmosphere of utmost suspicion and secret agent, spy maneuvers at weddings and community functions, gossip, find every rat-hole to find a way to make him kiss the ground, feel bad forever and ever. We remember family feuds and enmity history for a life-time, we take it out on their children, somehow. We keep cold-wars. Ugly cold-wars .We do not let the little cousins mingle seamlessly for fear of controversy or letting out secrets. We yardstick everybody not based on their education or achievements rather on money and power. And even more ironically (in Tamil) after all this we say “ Naalu per venum,”( you need people). There is no other alternative now is there?, even if there is, are we prepared to pick it up?.
“Psycho relatives are constant across cultures.”—-CHETAN BHAGAT, Two States (The book)
TRACE THE STRING BACK TO WHERE?
So are we all like this? What is the root cause?. I’m of the opinion that the root cause is the “DEVIL’s WORKSHOP of a rather IDLE WOMAN’s MIND”, most custom and comparison problems arise from the twisted thinking of the women of the “So- called” big family. (If your family is scattered across a geographical region, then gone it is, because then they literally have nothing else to talk about, because curiosity builds around your life). Now with the growth of technology, news about anybody gets to your door-step as fast as it happens. So, no escaping .
But this is just a shallow reason, the deeper reasons go way back into the past and are now critically influenced by the changing economy, culture, career choices, work and living environments and even more, community politics. Long ago, atleast in the pre-independence era, we had clear definitions of communities, we even longer before had associated particular trades and livelihoods associated with a community, caste or whatever. We had clear boundaries drawn on the do’s and don’ts. People were far away but we bothered to keep in touch( not through speedy roads or mobile phones, sometimes through telegram). Kids spent time in faraway relatives homes, had collective fun and learning , were taught from a younger age as to who we were, why you should not associate with another community and what is wrong with them. There was no room for lateral or sinister thinking unless it had to do with money or property. There was no room for questioning either. Back then, we never questioned or could question our customs (suppose you ever found something wrong that is).
We had no clearly defined institutions of etiquette except our own elders. It was word of mouth that associated most of your habits with others around you, the usual and unusual do’s and don’ts. Today, people got educated, found jobs, moved away from the mainstream, laws enforced, discrimination penalized, bad customs questioned, social organizations penetrate our every town. We interact quiete well with all walks of people, the possibilities of a bride or groom from a completely different community is large, if not huge. The buying and earning power has exponentially grown along with the scope for spending ,(just to keep up the social reputation atleast). There is no room for love, understanding, compassion or real brotherhood here. It is the “You do things right, I do the same” watchword. It is as defined as an Army Organization, no compromise, no shortcomings, you adhere, no matter what.
WHAT HAS CHANGED NOW?
Yet you cannot deny that the changes in the country amplified our individualism. For example , considering my own family and ethnic circle (only after really growing up I began to feel the need to connect) , I could not have dreamt of an education and exposure to type down this blogpost given the courage to find fault with culture if it were a 50 or even 20 years ago.( I may be wrong at that for my parents broke the cultural barrier with a love marriage). Education and technology has changed us, (greatly but not enough), it has given man an individual status, putting his personal wishes and interests as equally important as the commonly accepted way of life. We, after 66 years of independence are free (Or so we think). Our families have since grown nuclear and physically further, hence the need to hold him (a person) back to ground has become a necessity and his need to remember his roots have grown pressurising.
I can recount experiences of a lot of kids from conservative families do things nobody would ever dream them doing (NOT ANYTHING PROUD OK) , “This is the time you can be free and can have fun, why do you think so much, chill!” . Later when it comes to big decisions like career or marriage, they are completely okay with whatever is given to them, PACKED! PERFECT! SAFE! PRACTICAL! “ Mummy ka beta!”., and later I hear their advice, “ Grow up , listen to your family, family is important”. I would think “Oh realllllyyyy???” ________________________________________________________________________________
There were times where I had to go too prepared to weddings and discuss with my dad and mom on what I should say and what I should not let lose, how should I smile, whom I should talk to, whom I should avoid. Anyways in the end it would get screwed up at least a little. It is like walking-in on an interview, either you nail it or come back beaten . On the journey back I would get feedback from my parents, “Not enough, not sharp enough, not thoughtful, not bold, not quick”. Handling people- politics, double-entendres, inside-questions , diplomacy, fluent speaking (God I couldn’t handle my dialect fluently, in the end I’d sound artificial though I had been complimented for the way I speak back at college and neighbourhood ).
THE BASIC THOUGHT-PLANE
The Indian decisive-psyche is different from the Westerner school of thought. Mythological heroes and kings and the like were heroic because of their off-beat deeds and independent thinking ability. We rever them, make them cultural icons, stop there. We get completely “PRACTICAL”, when it comes to “REPUTATION” . Here in India, be it business or personal choices, most do not have the ability to take decisions that are boldly different, nor stand by them. We are afraid of risks. We predict doom. The thought of failure and the embarrassment that follows eats us alive. We make sure that the fear eats up our children’s dreams, wishes and ultimately their only chances of ever winning independently. Honor killings, forced marriages, what not?.
A culture that boasts of its spiritual backbone and higher level human thought becomes downright fascist with our own relatives, why is that?. Because we suspect another, we suspect our own selves, we are hard to convince on personal terms but act like we are flexible. We find fault with others, play psychological games so that nothing turns against us. Once we decide to target somebody in a family function, we make sure we bury him. Its done. We find fault with aspect A, when aspect A is fixed, we find fault with aspect B. We do not give him a break!. We smile to the face, yet get sarcastic to the face, we victimize people after they eat on our tables, after we eat on theirs. We define customs and rituals to suit our own propaganda. We hunt down people for property, prestige, we act broad-minded but act barbaric in the face of risk (To our own, To our own!!) . We do everything that deserves cursing, later we moral police and curse another . When somebody who is not blood or ethnically related to us does something of the like, it becomes easy to dismiss saying “Everybody of their religion, caste is like that” or you would rather take it to court. Whereas here you cannot say nor do, even if you say, you cannot escape.
SO WHAT ONLY DO WE DO?
Do we have to disintegrate our customs and completely boycott the culture because it consumes half our lives for nothing?, May be not. May be if you can get as poisonously mocking or become a good manager or develop a clever mouth, you can survive. Or better, get indifferent and don’t mind, or get extremely rich or famous. People don’t question you then unless they see you fall off the top of the ladder. A simple and happy life wrecked by something worthless and imaginary, isn’t it? Something built on killing another’s happiness. Do not kill the culture (You have got the culture entirely wrong, you are playing games like kids, you ask but never GIVE!, that is not culture). You become a person, a personality by killing the human being inside. “Only a clever bride will survive here”,? Well then , times have changed, do not give a bride to a place where only cleverness is going to help her survive in the sinister environment. Sounds better does it not? .Do not encourage or give too much weightage to the poison roots. Turn your attention and favors to those who mean no harm. Have the patience and the moral courage to explain your off-beat decisions, take wise ones. Keep individuality alive. ________________________________________________________________________________
But now should I be glad or worried that my parents never taught me to be sinister and cunning?. Hmm well just like my bestie from Kerala says, “Caste and Community will always exist Shru, whether you like it or not.”. Yes they will, but humanity must co-exist with them. Have w not forgotten the very role of a community? .Like they say, communities are to bring people together( and offer moral support), not to drive them far apart. So then what can be done, until this is embedded back into our ethnic and family DNA?. ___________________________________________________________________________________