I see people’s behaviour and I wonder that knowingly or unknowingly, intentionally or unintentionally, life has always been more about how others should or will see it than about how we would have liked it. Yes of course there are some like you and me who keep rebelling against the so-called society norms and have done what we felt like doing without getting bothered about the ‘perceptions’!
It is a new India today…a fresh, youthful India….with so much of talent around…with so many opportunities…India is a super power in the making….but somewhere some things still…even today remain unchanged…..the mentalities, the mindsets I talk about all the time…remains…
“Log kya kahenge” did kill a lot of dreams…..Why is there so much fuss around perception, reputation, image, society? Since the time you are born, there are rules…rules which either the parents dictate or the society does virtually or you do it to yourself. We are kind of shut in a sense even today. Trust me, education hasn’t done much good either…not yet.
Way too many restrictions rule! To start with, the gender!
You are a girl, do not play with the boys. You are a boy; do not play with the girls.
Girls will play bartan and boys will play cricket. If girls play cricket, then – how tomboyish they are and if boys help in the household chores then how girly are they!
You are a girl, you got your periods, don’t touch the pickle, don’t go to a temple. Go to buy sanitary napkins and the shopkeeper will pack it as if it’s a secret box.
You are a boy, you sit and relax, food will be served.
Girls who like boys are bad girls. Boys who like girls are boys. Girls who start dating a boy because they love the boy are ‘off track’ girls, while the boys dating the girls are cool boys.
If a girl ditches the boy for some reason, she is a bitch but a boy who ditches and hurts the girl is a boy.
Girls have to be multi-taskers. They have to earn, work, cook, work, work and work. When the same things are done by the boys, there are praises and accolades coming their way.
Stay with the in laws always…even when the son is away for work. Don’t go to the mother’s place. What will the neighbour uncle say? What if he spreads around rumours of relationships not being right?
Then comes education and career choices.
Girl will be a doctor. Boy will be an engineer. Girl could also be an MBA. That is one example of gender equality today. Those who wanted to become one, fair…but what about the ones who did not want to? He might have wanted to get into the creative field, into content writing, writing poems, singing, dancing, painting, sports, acting, modelling…But maybe or probably because they don’t sound as ‘manly’ or masculine or ‘serious’ for some, the boys land up doing engineering, then following it up with an MBA…by now completely frustrated, they then do jobs which are completely different from what their degrees expected them to do….
“My son is an engineer plus MBA”- beams the father with pride. Does he even know how painful those years were? They wasted those seats and more importantly precious years of college life. All this for the sake of the society and the reputation and the social image.
Apart from Medical, Engineering, MBA studies are the CA studies. Studies in Arts is perceived to be LS (Low Standard). People who study Arts are the ones who scored poorly in their 10th Std is how the thinking goes. Dumb people do a BA, BMS, BMM, BBM. Who would want to marry creative, interesting and cool people right?
“It is my dream to see my daughter become a CA” – says the father. The poor girl attempts like a zillion times and realises this is not for her. She sings…she wants to sing because she loves singing. But singing is seen as a hobby here…a part time activity. The girl is then made to appear for MBA entrance exams. This is basically because otherwise she won’t have a ‘career’!
When does the herd mentality really go?
If education is one issue here, then marriage is another. Our life can be summed up like this – Birth, Play, Restrictions, Studies, Puberty, Studies, Love, Studies, Heartbreak, Studies, Work, Money, Love, Heartbreak, Marriage, Money, Kids, their Birth, Play blah blah blah and then Death.
Marrying at the right age is like a National Concern here. The ‘right age’ definition defers, depending on the state, caste, community, region etc. Honestly speaking, marriage is about settling down when one is mentally prepared than about the right age. It could happen at 25 or it could happen at 55. How does it matter to anyone? A 30 year-old unmarried is given a second look and a 40 year-old unmarried man is associated with gadbad! A divorcee is looked down upon…why? Did you live his/her journey to comment on their lives?
Then comes the kids questions. They are not having kids..when will they have kids? They have decided to not have kids..So? Why don’t you have one more? Do you know why they decided not to have kids. Do you know why they can’t have kids?
‘My friends have been asking when will you both give good news?’ – asks aunty looking at the daughter in law. Is life just left to justifying to the ‘friends’?
Another thing being, we always want to follow what the others are doing. Instead of setting trends, we love to follow them for sure.
‘She tied two plaits for her daughter, so will I.’
‘They bought a cycle for their son, so will I.’
‘Our neighbour purchased a new car…which car should we go for?’
‘She has been studying from those other notes, that is why she has been scoring well.’
‘She is joining drawing classes, my kids will join too.’
‘He came first in class, why couldn’t you?’
‘He has a won a gold medal at the state level, why can’t you?’
‘My neighbour’s son went to the US, when will my son go’
‘My friend’s son got a promotion, when will you get’
‘His parents are so proud. When will you make us proud?’
More than the intent, it is about competition, comparison and constantly doing more or better than others. All this for the social image.
It takes a strong heart for a parent to say – “Go son! Do what you feel like!”…It takes courage to bring up kids in a ‘no pressure’ environment, where their interests and likes are out above anything else.
There are kids out there who wanted to make dance their profession, singing their career and sports their passion. But couldn’t and aren’t able to do it even today….
It takes a strong heart to say – “I don’t care about what others think or say”.
Hats off to the parents who have encouraged their children to pursue their dreams. To the parents who still haven’t done it….We are in 2015, you are making enough money for your family…allow them to fly. If they fly high, feel proud and if they fall, bring them back and allow them to fly stronger the next time.
One more problem. I feel we are very low on self esteem, because we are constantly worried about our image. So we dress up, speak plush English which can sometimes come across as horrendous put on accent. We give way too much bhaav to the people who have been abroad….So, when they visit us during Holidays, we bring the whole house down. We flaunt them to our neighbours and friends. As if life here, the people here and the place itself is inferior from the places they live in. All this for the social image.
Another problem. When we go to malls, we go all gung ho over the brands there. Go to a Phoenix Mills, Mumbai and you will feel poor. You will still go shop and feel guilty later. In the quest of wanting to go and tell your friends that you shopped at a Vero Moda, or a Zara or a Jack and Jones, you do blow up a lot of money. We go berserk when we hear ‘imported’! Spend..do spend. But spend it for yourself, because you wanted to. Not because of the so-called social image.
We have conditioned our minds to think in a certain way because of all this. We are just too worried all the time.
‘What If these people at work are talking behind my back?’
‘What will my friend think if I do this?’
‘I don’t know how to cook, what will they think?’
‘I got a KT in my exams, how will they react?’
‘My friend bought a new car, when will I?’
‘She being a woman, is making her own house, when will I?’
Our actions, gestures, everything has been moulded according to the way people perceive us.
The point being very very simple. All this needs to stop. Perceptions and judgements on dressing, love, sex, career choices, life choices, marriage, religion, caste, creed, gender, sexual orientation, interference in others’ lives, presuming that every girl and boy walking together are dating, not adapting to changing times, discouraging or pulling down people, stereotyping etc. need to stop.
What people say or think should not matter no more. Do what your heart says. Not what the society says. You aren’t answerable to them. They aren’t going to be there when things go south in your life. May the choices be yours. May the decisions be yours. The life is yours, so the way you live it should also be the way you want it. Feel free. You can’t please everyone, accept it. Stand up for something you believe in. It is now or never. Surround yourself with positives. Chase your dreams. Live your dreams and Mute those screams!
Let people keep talking. They have no business other than talking. Who knows they might not be talking at all, maybe it is just in our minds. Why waste time on worrying about trivial things. Like what this quote by David Foster Wallace says –
“You’ll worry less about what people think about you when you realize how seldom they do.”
The situation and my thoughts remind me of one song right now –
Kuch Toh Log Kahenge
Logon Ka Kaam Hain Kehna
Chhodo Bekaar Ki Baaton Main
Kahin Beet Na Jaaye Raina