Traditions, Conservatism and Giving

I had written this post in 2014, after attending a wedding. I need to refresh it, as nothing has changed.

Indian weddings are a spectacular show of wealth, wedged in traditions, rituals and extravagant customs.

They appear to be blissful happy occasions of celebration…till you peep behind the drapes!

Recently I had to be an obligatory part of all this razzmatazz, watching and wondering…when will we get out of these age-old cultural compulsions, which have been imposed on us.

“Sometimes tradition and habit are just that, comfortable excuses to leave things be, even when they are unjust and unworthy.”—Matthew Scully.

Traditions are woven into the web of our life, I know, but I always thought and convinced myself that they evolve with time.

How utterly, extremely erroneous were my thoughts, in hoping for brighter times!

The brides in India still belong to antiquity!

They may be highly educated, having the best of job placements, sometimes even earning more than the prospective grooms BUT…

They HAVE to bring along unlimited amount of gifts, which are all given by her father, rich or poor, all have to follow this tradition.

On the receiving end are the brazen parents of the bridegroom, whose mouths, as wide open as that of a crocodile, remain open!

They don’t have to give anything in return.

Traditions blind us, compel us to keep honoring them due to societal pressures but aren’t we part of the society?

Isn’t it our responsibility, especially that of the younger generation to break away from those norms which almost choke us, make us bankrupt, kill and burn our brides?

Yes, the youngsters do break some norms only when they want to!

But they remain mute spectators to the age-old system of giving and giving and giving….when they receive along with the bride!!

The Indian tradition of giving a daughter away is, in itself, an incomparable generosity in global history. She is expected to be a part of groom’s family, perform all household chores, bear and rear children, respect all the whims and fancies of her in-laws and stay away from her own parents and siblings.

She has to become a channel of continuous flow of money and gifts from her parents, who are expected to keep on giving, all their life!

All this in the name of traditions!

“Tradition is the prison where change is detained… To make a change, you need to agree that you are not going with the statement “this is how we do it”! Yes, that was how it was done, but what next? Agree to change!”—Israelmore Ayivor

When will we free ourselves from these age-old shackles?

When will we free ourselves from the fear of such a despotic society?

The historical significance of the so-called dowry should have faded long ago when laws were framed against this system.

“Dowry was prohibited by law in 1961 with the purpose of banning the demanding, giving and taking of dowry. Although providing dowry is illegal, it is still common in many parts of India for a husband to seek a dowry from the wife’s family, in some cases leading to extortion or violence against the wife.”

Not that I was unaware of this, not that I have never complained or criticized this type of blatant one-sided giving.

Recently I witnessed this tradition of giving and expecting unlimited gifts, which gave me a feeling of revulsion, almost to the point of revolt.

Shouldn’t educated and socially aware couples rise against this?

Isn’t it discrimination to expect gifts only from the bride’s family?

Why are we so helpless? Why are we enslaved by traditions?

Why are we expected to follow such an oppressive dogma of giving a daughter away?

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Thank you for your support. Please add your valuable reflections, they are much appreciated.

Balroop Singh.

How Culture Molds Our Personality

cultural conditioning of personality

We may be born with a personality but it is molded by the environment and the social structures we dwell in. It is refined in the cauldron of cultural and social heritage, which affects each and every aspect of our life.

Cultural norms dictate our upbringing as we pick up the beliefs, values, attitudes and prejudices unconsciously from our families, friends, ethnic groups and society.

Early childhood experiences leave a profound impact on our personalities. Closed and conservative societies send a mute message to the child not to explore anything independently, thereby curbing the free spirit, which a child is born with.

Cultural conditioning starts the moment a child is born, the way he is christened, fed, educated and raised.

When the diktats of culture expect a child to follow certain set rules of a society, which fail to distinguish between the aptitudes and aspirations of an individual, which expects all the persons to stay within those boundaries – such families often raise introverts, serious and quiet individuals who are conditioned to be cautious at each step.

They grow up to be huge supporters of tradition and culture that they have imbibed. The chain of thoughts and ideas continue to be passed on to the next generation and that’s how certain redundant traditions continue to thrive.

When we grow up in a free and unrestricted surroundings, where there are no rules for wearing a particular dress or studying a compulsory subject, where swimming lessons are a norm for every child, we develop into original thinkers, independent, analytical, adventurous and determined.

Such persons become natural leaders, with the urge to accomplish all that they can conceive. They have a mind of their own and can never be misled by anti-social elements.

A competitive culture raises extremely ambitious children because the prodding to do better than the challenger in his peer group infuses a spirit of pursuing success aggressively. The enthusiasm to excel gets embedded in their personality.

They become highly successful, practical and conscientious workers. They can inspire many more to be like them.

A creative culture encourages children to develop their own exciting ideas and beliefs. When children are given the liberty to explore their own fun oriented activities, when their minds are not loaded with pre-conceived tasks, discovering and learning becomes a part of their personalities.

Such children grow up to be innovative artists who can be creative as well as idealistic. They are very adaptive, kindhearted and sensitive.Personality

Hardworking culture brings the best out of children and train them at a very early stage to understand the dignity and value of work. Those who grow up with this culture around them tend to respect all kinds of work, are very helpful and cooperative, responsible and reliable.

However they miss on the leisurely aspects of life, as they are always eager to accomplish their goals. Since they are trained by difficult and harsh surroundings, they are highly resilient and flexible. Perseverance and loyalty are the hallmarks of such a personality.

Religious culture gives a distinctive shape to the personality, which has definite leanings towards duty and devotion. Children who are exposed to scriptures and places of worship at a tender age tend to become believers, some of them follow religious decrees blindly and lose their logical and analytical bent of mind. They may be submissive but stand firm with their beliefs, they may be abstemious and compassionate but are very sensitive towards their principles.

Such individuals develop a positive outlook, cultivate self-discipline and are laid back. They drift into their flock and can be easily misled into fanaticism. They can become fiercely active if they are exhorted in the name of religion.

Music culture in the homes produces extremely perceptive and patient individuals. They are driven by emotions; their passion for melody and harmony makes them highly creative. Mundane life doesn’t interest them, as they like to soar with their imagination. They are individualistic and like to follow their intuition.

What kind of personality do you have? Have you been influenced by any such culture? I would love to hear your views.

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Thank you for your support. Please add your valuable comments, they are much appreciated.

Balroop Singh.

 

Why I Married At 23…Sometimes We Do Make Wrong Decisions!

Early marriage

Our decisions cling to us, we have to live with some of them all our life. We might live in the shadow of regret because we didn’t have the maturity to ponder. We didn’t have the guts to speak up, to express our resentment, to rise against what appeared to be a wrong decision.

What if a parent or sibling makes those life-changing decisions?

What if they were made under societal pressures or moral bindings?

What if they are seen to be quite right by everybody around us?

All these questions didn’t crop up when I married at 23 (actually 22+) and it happened to be a happy marriage.

Thankfully, I have lived by that decision without any regrets.

I am not alone!

I know many girls marry at this age, out of choice. But the million-dollar question is: Are they enlightened enough to gather the import of such a decision?

When there is an unwritten decree that you have to marry when you are asked to just because it is convenient for the people around you, when the society values your muteness at such decisions, when you are expected to concur with what your near and dear ones decide for you, when you don’t want to displease them…do you have any choice?

In many cases that decision may turn you into a puppet, a slave, a housemaid, a sex symbol, a money-churning machine – who cares? You are seen as respectfully, happily married woman!

Now many such questions stare at me and I realize how simple, how immature and young I was at that time.

I couldn’t even understand that I was abdicating my dream, my aspiration.

I was told that I could still pursue it. I just chose to forget it but that is another story!

I was told that everybody must settle down. I could hardly fathom the depth of those words.

Did I have a choice? I was not expected to question or even see the man I was supposed to marry though I did raise some queries and insisted on meeting him at least once.

It is another matter that I met a kind and understanding man.

All those who are married off like this are not that lucky.

Those were probably primitive times…we didn’t have any Google to ask all those questions. We just had a radio and a gramophone, which sang away to glory and who was interested in the news that women had been granted equal status, that they too could claim their rights!?

Nothing has changed in this technology driven, digital world.

The unwritten diktats of the society follow young, naïve girls to their grave.

Marrying young

Younger brides can be easily molded, that is the belief. They can’t wield much power and will-power, this weakness can be easily exploited.

I didn’t have the power or the authority; they too face the same scenario.

The patriarchal societies are driven by the same age-old traditions of marrying a young girl, demanding (or expecting) dowry and considering the wife as a personal property.

My own niece met with the same fate and I couldn’t do anything! Isn’t it strange? But she chose to divorce!

She could only do so when the choice lay in her own hands and I appreciate her bold step.

I am not shifting any blame.

I could have also made a wrong decision. Many people do so.

I am only trying to understand how much has our society evolved. How much freedom have we attained and who have actually got that freedom?

At the same time, I am awe struck at the wrong decisions made in the western world, where dating at teenage endows them with too much of freedom.

They have all the choices!

We all make wrong decisions but when we make them ourselves, we move on, thinking it was a bad dream, a little mistake, and an aberration.

How long will the societal oppressions keep demanding the sacrifices of young, innocent girls? How long would their ambitions be thwarted by the biased demands of their culture and dogmas?

Thank you for reading this. I am sure you have some thoughts to share. Please do so.

If you have liked this article, please share it at your favorite social networks.

Thank you for your support. Please add your valuable comments, they are much appreciated.

Balroop Singh.

Image adapted from: http://kenmclane.org