By Guest Blogger, Meera
Imagine a girl who heads to the pooja room every day right after bath to pray; one who wouldn’t dare to go to her orthodox cousin’s place wearing a sleeveless top or without bangles; one who would follow all customs and traditions (aachara as they call it here) to the last point even though that meant extreme discomfort to her; one who would not daresay comment anything when people bash Indians who settle abroad; one who would always nod to comments like ‘Indian culture is the best culture. Others have no family values’, ‘Who says we are backward? We had airplanes during the Ramayan time! What is so great about Wright brothers? They only reinvented it!’ This was me, a typical behenji type girl and you would find plenty of such girls in south India, especially in my community (Brahmin). But I was a fake! I was expected to be the girl next door whom every “cultured” boy would like to introduce to his parents. For a long time I didn’t know that I could be what I wanted to be. And then IIT happened.
My family practices some ridiculous things. Usually any girl during her menstruation days would be feeling very uncomfortable and would be suffering from menstrual cramps. She would be very glad if people offered some comforting touch and some privacy to take rest but just the opposite happens here. You would be pushed to a corner of the house and asked to sleep on a straw mattress. No one will touch you. You won’t be allowed to dine with other or use other’s stuff. And the most horrible of them all, you are forbidden from touching the water others use. I can’t believe women have agreed to such customs! I think initially women were just asked to stay indoors and take rest and that seems logical but what I just described is beyond my comprehension. I recently got to know that these customs exist in many other communities as well. Some girls of my age when given the freedom to do whatever they wanted about these customs stuck to them. Wonder why!
I have absolutely no idea why people here think North Indians are cunning! Most people who say such stuff haven’t even interacted with North Indians. Their ability to form opinions without any firsthand experience amazes me! And the next issue is dating. Interaction between adolescent boys and girls is discouraged by parents (and the society in general). This mindset continues into college and work place as well. And all of a sudden when you are of a ‘marriageable’ age, you are showered with photos of the opposite sex and asked to meet their family and within a couple of meetings the marriage decision has to be made. I think in this process you find a person who ‘satisfies’ some criteria (like non smoker, non ugly) but have zilch information about your compatibility with that person. And moreover you are expected to sleep with that person and produce a baby within a year. Now why is this good and why is dating and finding a suitable boy whom I am very compatible with wrong? And what is the result of this attitude? I am forced to hide my relationship status from my family. And I think this is the case with most people in India!
I am still wearing a mask and I hope I can remove it once I move to the US. Whether I can come back to India as the real me and face my family and community only time can tell. For now I hope to find more free thinkers like me and have the time of my life there!
About the author: The author Meera is 21 years old and graduated from IIT Madras with a B Tech in Electrical Engineering. She will be moving to USA this August for her doctoral studies. She may be reached at email@example.com