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In a country like India, being cultural is a large part of who we are. But is it right to constantly force people to follow your culture or your beliefs?
India is a land of vivid cultures and we are often labeled as a blend of several traditions that span across the Indian subcontinent. We are influenced by a history that is several millennia old.
Our rich and colourful history is affected by various religions that supposedly are based on the concepts of Dharma (teaching) and Karma (the actual result of our actions)
We are blessed to be born as humans – intelligent enough to make the most of this life form. But we are also the ones most susceptible to be deluded.
I say so because we easily believe anyone who says big things about culture. Look around, and you will find our neighbourhood is full of such people (the gurus and the matas). The ones who change the definition of culture according to their own convenience. If they do not like something, they claim it isn’t in line with our values.
The weirdest part it is that these saviours of our heritage might not even know the actual phases or transitions of it. However they are the self-proclaimed messiahs of saving it. And we, the people of the society, are the only ones responsible for supporting this fashion.
We fail to check the facts before believing anyone and end as prey to such impressionable sayings and beliefs in the name of faith.
It seems like our humility makes us fragile in front of such people. This helps them manipulate our fears and further weaken our self-confidence. We often digress from the path of karma to the one of dharma and leave outcomes merely to faith.
‘Sanskriti’ is a loaded word, but some people of our society try to use it for their own selfish and egoistic means.
Food for thought – Culture is an umbrella term encompassing the social behavioural and norms found in human societies. It is the knowledge, belief, arts, law, customs, capabilities, and habits of the individuals in these groups.
Culture is supposed to evolve because the humans bound by its conventions are dynamic and adapt with time.
We have advanced from cavemen to inventing and discovering things, to coping up with situations and finally reaching where we stand today. Today, we are the techno geeks, utilising all social media platforms and making our voices and thoughts heard across the world. We have continuously worked on improving ourselves and the way we live.
If I may take an example of religion – say for a Hindu, one may say we are the followers of Lord Ram. We take pride in saying that’s our culture. So when Ravan – a learned man himself, blessed with superpowers, abducted Sita. He also fought a war against Lord Ram and mistreated his own brother. Now is that apt according to our culture?
Food for thought – Don’t we also follow this by self-authorising ourselves to judge, mistreat or ridicule anyone, disrespect, or bully, or even rape someone?
Do we have a written norm about the exact right age for every individual on this planet to be married? (except our constitution that talks about the minimum age) Or one about the ‘right’ age to have kids at?
Are there written norms that tell women what clothes to wear and what not to? Or even those about remarriage and what injustice to raise eyebrows at? Are there norms that dictate a man as the controller in a family or society?
Over the time, all we have done is impersonate our superstitions in the name of beliefs and rituals. And by doing so, we end up building barricades around ourselves and our loved ones.
Food for Thought – Look inside and see if there are some insecurities that may let you fall victim of such beliefs and traditions in the name of culture. One may have to act mature and find ways to overcome them!
Often, we assess people for the choices they make. For instance, marriage – be it an inter-caste marriage, a divorce, or even marrying a divorced person.
As women, we belittle other women because of their clothes, or the company they keep. We look at the clock and issue them character certificate based on the time they return home – from work or parties. Is that our culture?
We often don’t support our daughters by saying it’s untraditional for a girl to get a divorce. What we really worry about is the society and what the ‘people’ would say.
This is disguised as fear by people around us. These people often determine the right and wrong for us. And with all this, we forget that it is in our own hands to shape our future and help nurture the future of our loved ones.
Everyone is accountable for their behavior and knows what their situation is. And we really have no right to judge anyone. What we can do is – be sympathetic and supportive and leave gossip to discuss other relevant topics.
Food for thought – Dear woman, if anyone tells you that you are impure because of any of your biological conditions, please don’t feel disheartened. You are not the one who is impure, it is the mindset of the person who tells you so.
Culture and traditions are supposed to boost our confidence. Our values and hard work push us to achieve new heights while things in the name of traditions, often try to pull us down.
The female body may be biologically different than the male one, but we all try to survive and not use them as an excuse to not do certain things. A number of times, these ‘traditions’ misuse the differences and pose challenges for us, in the name of customs.
Woman are told to cover their head in a ghunghat even in scorching heat. They aren’t allowed to enter temples when they menstruate. Women are asked to stay inside with restrictions for a month or so post-labour in the name of traditions.
We are expected to be born with the cooking gene, but the working women are considered bad cooks. However, working moms have a completely different standard for them. They are often questioned about their values for ‘leaving children at home.’
But we often fail to question the things taught to us by our elders. These things proliferate superstitions. Shouldn’t we ask them about the science behind them?
Food for thought – Have you ever tried to find the actual reason behind the sutak? (When a mother and her child are not allowed to step out for many days post labor? Or when a pregnant woman is supposed to be restricted from so many things and activities during a solar eclipse?)
If you research about them, you will realise that mostly the only the ‘scientific reasons’ behind such practices are superstitions.
I am not an irreverent person. And I do believe that there is a superpower always around us and it can be any form for anyone.
My culture and my values lie in my upbringing, my free spirit, my wish to act according to my instincts, my will to live on my terms and enjoy every moment of my life.
I may not be perfect but I should be known by the way I greet people? Whether I do it with folded hands or a hug? Or should I be known by the way I put Karma over beliefs? By the way I voice my opinion for inequality or hypocrisy? Or should it be by the way I say NO to what I feel is not right for me? Should I be known by the way I focus my energy in positive thinking even if I barely visit any spiritual place or offer anything materialistic to idols or even cover my head?
I’m my society. And I will make choices and be responsible for them. I strive to be accepted as a human and not for the kind of choices I make.
Food for thought – If beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, why do the scale of our values lie in the eyes of the person contemplating it against traditions?
Hope my thoughts will motivate you to ask questions in order to overcome the rickety times and help built a more practical outlook towards life!
Stay Safe, stay alert and stay positive (mind wise not lab result wise!)
Picture credits: Still from Bollywood movie Veere Di Wedding
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A Creative Writer by choice and an IT person by profession, Shruti likes to make
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