Thursday, September 4, 2008

She said. He said.

I believe in God.I am not religious per say.A puja for me is a silent conversation,which is in English most of the times, that I have with this really strong and universal symbol of strength that I simply refer to as God.But I love gaities and the beautiful bonding as a family, that a festival brings with it.All the rituals associated with a festival evokes very strong and fond memories for me since I associate them with my parents and close relatives and friends back in Bangalore.It is a very strange juxtaposition that I enjoy being a part of rituals simply because I associate them with the good times I have had at family gatherings.But I do not much care for the religious aspects of the said rituals.For instance,not being allowed to participate in functions during one's menstrual cycle or the rigorous madi system that is followed.All these customs do have a resonably logical explanation like hygiene and cleanliness and as long as that is what it is about,I am fine.But the moment people start twisting things around and turn the whole thing into a freaking circus, that's when it gets my goat.

The other day,I was invited to this distant relative's house for the traditional "arishina-kumkuma" or "haldi-kumkum" ritual after a puja.I wanted to wear a saree on this occasion and I did try to drape one too.The fact of the matter is that my saree-draping skills totally suck.I can never get both the pleats at the waist and pullu, right.It is either one or the other unfortunately, thereby enforcing a ration on my traditional and ethnic Indian wardrobe.After 3 highly unsuccessful attempts,I just gave up and went back to the trusted silk salwar-kameez.I got acquainted with this distant relative very recently and she actually appears to be very sweet and affable.Her in-laws are in town and hence the festivities in their household were on a very grand scale.So I reached their place and introduced myself and tried to explain to her in-laws to the best of abilities,how she and I are related.I don't think I made much sense though.The ice was broken as soon as her mother-in-law discovered that my parents lived in the same neighborhood in Bangalore as them.We chatted for quite some time during which she asked me about the husband and his work and I found myself starting my next sentence with, "namma yejamaandru..."(ewww gross!) that literally translates to "my owner" but is used colloquially in Kannada to refer to one's husband.I managed to surprise myself immensely at that point as this was the something about which I gave a lot of grief to all my aunts and cousins who used the aforementioned phrase.I was sub-consciously trying not to give the lady the impression that that husband and I are bohemian or liberal in any way.There was no mention made about how the husband cooks and cleans not because he wants to help but because it is his home too.You get my drift right?I had a really good time at their place but I could not stop thinking about how the evening had played out.

See the thing is I have never had to watch what I say or do with neither my parents nor my in-laws.Both sets of parents are very liberal when it comes to us so I have always been myself with them.Why, then, was I being so watchful of my actions that evening?Was it because those people were related to us and everything I did or said would somehow be a reflection on my parents and family?Or was it because she was much much older and I somehow felt a sense of obligation to say and do the "right" thing and stick to protocol?

I have come across several instances when people have blindly attributed someone's supposedly bad behavior to bad upbringing by his/her parents.Especially when it comes to the daughter-in-law.A very good friend's brother got married recently to his college sweetheart.The wedding happened with much grandeur and with everybody's blessings.A month later,my friend seemed a tad unhappy with her new sister-in-law.

"She hardly talks to people.We have visitors all the time and she hardly interacts with them.Didn't her parents teach her social etiquette?" she said.

I was too shocked to reply as this was coming from someone who has an MBA in Marketing and is one of the most intelligent women I know.Since when did being shy and uncomfortable in a new environment go from being most natural to a social taboo and a sign of bad parenting I wonder.

It probably was playing at back my mind when I visited my relatives.Communication and exchange of information between the US and Bangalore happens at such lightening speed these days.And I would want my family to continue to look good and rule the roost,no?


La vida Loca said...

yes, yes!

ppl can be so weird and can make you feel weird, question the nature of relationship w/ r spouse, household work and what not.

I call the husband neenu(tum) and refer to him as avanu( 3rd person singular). So my uncle demands that I call him avaru. Someone else said "ganda antira, matte yake avanu anbeku"(u call him hubby yet u use third person singular). Truly how is it anyone's business?
Now I actually watch how I refer to him in public since somehow it is a reflection of how badly my MOM raised me.

rajk said...

Oh, don't even get me started on the "Your parents didn't raise you well" bullshit! Nothing raises my hackles like that statement.
My parents raised me as well as any other good sensible set of parents...but by the time I was an adult and older I had my own ideas, my own way of living, talking, does all that become my parents' responsibility? Like your friend blamed her SIL's parents for something like "social etiquette", how ridiculous! As if her parents sat her down and told her, "Beti, when you get married, you don't have to talk to your guests..."
But it's true..we end up doing things so that it "doesn't reflect on our upbringing" and it sucks, doesn't it?

Silvara said...

oh my god - people are ALWAYS trying to twist everything you do as a relfction of 'bad' parenting/lack of social graces or the typical stereotyping of one's culture/relgion etc.

It totally sucks but you just got to be yourself. Easier said than done I know espcially when they start referring to your family...grrrrrrrrr

Thought Room said...

I remember nearly choking a giggle the first time I said Nam Yajamanur, on the phone when some wise guy tried to grant me a credit card only after consulting with my hubby. It is weird who we sometimes try to get into the better side of strangers. Some how I cant seem to think, it is because it reflects on bad parenting. I feel it rather shows our basic need of feeling included even if it is for a while. Like doing what the Romans do when in Rome. I always felt it went into our deeper instinct where oddity in a group would not be a wise survival trait. With our own loved ones this survival and love is guaranteed. So perhaps we take them a bit for granted.

Anonymous said...

ha! I then have, perhaps, the worst parents ever cos I'm heard calling G as "nimmajji" sometimes. While in reality I learnt it only after my association with him !
And as much as I try being watchful, its hard to be conscious of it all the time.

Dee said...

U know, I guess we feel compelled to put our husband & status in society in the best of light.. There is such a conflict of interest within oneself.. you wanna be modern and also a lil socially aware..I know for a fact that though I wear a "thali" and "toe rings", its nt because I am being traditional, its because I am too lazy to remove them after my wedding.. I also without realizing refer to the DH as "avaru" or wen the in-law's are in as "yenri" as opposed to screaming his name accross...

I also face a lot of "madi" in the in-laws house and coming from a very very liberal christian family does nt help either... So, I think of it as a way of being lazy n pacify myself... :)

the mad momma said...

it makes me really mad. i realise that no matter what a DIL does, the fact that she is from a different family makes it unacceptable. i bet if she were chatty they'd say she is too talkative and most unlike a shy new bride!

DewdropDream said...

I don't even know where to start!!! I find the 'nam yajamanru' downright hilarious!!! I think I'd slutter and choke and collapse in laughter if I ever had to use it.

And am laughing even more hearing of SnS calling her hubby 'Nimmajji' LOL!!

Okay, I have a friend whose parents have a very different relationship compared to most couples from their generation. The lady calls her husband as 'neenu' even in front of complete strangers... and sure it might seem odd at first but it's such a delight to watch!! Aunty told me that one time the shop-owner next to their place said something to the effect of 'Oho ammavru ivattu gaadi kott bittra nimge' to uncle because he took the car and not the bike that day. What rubbish na??!! And now the said friend is engaged and in this day and age, I hear his fiancee address him as 'neevu', when we weren't even around elders!!

It's a right mix of social-expectance, gender-stereotyping and plain nonsense. And god, don't get me started on the treatment of DILs, even without being married I have enough reason to fume over that. A woman can never have too much shit to deal with apprently. thuu!

Anonymous said...

I think another reason you might have said that is 'cause one just can't be bothered to explain every single action to people who are likely to reject them anyway. Especially (relative) strangers.

Mama - Mia said...

you are my soul sistah!! even i keep having these conversations with god, mostly in english and even laced with not so good kinda language if i am rreeaally upset!! but i like rituals for fun that they are! :D

and people keep getting judgemental all the time!! and yes, i guess we behave well. just to protect "family name" at times!

i wonder if guys have a similar pressure! but you know what, its easy to keep pretence for a specific situation but impossoble to keep up the charade on day to day basis!

thats why its cool as long as we can be ourselves with our immediate family and friends! :)

super post!! oh! and we share saree woes too! :p we are pathetic bharatiya naaris i tell ya!! ;)



DotThoughts said...

now that I think about it, this happens to me too! Trying to put on a good image in fromt of extended in-laws. I wish I had a witty xomeback if someone ever talked about my parent's raising of me!

I love Lucy said...

Loca : Since the casualness is misconstrued for lack of respect for the husband, it is just easier to project the right kind of image in front of these relatives and give them what they want I guess!

Rajk : Absolutely! Blaming the parents just comes so naturally to people.And somehow the daughters and DILs seem to bear the brunt of this blasphemy the most and that really gets my goat.

Silvara : It is really hard to be yourself if you want to be a part of the social circle and not want to be alienated from the rest of the herd.That is why I guess its just easier to conform to the accepted standards and be one of them in front of them.

ThoughtRoom : voice of reason!That is so true.We do try to fit in as best as we can just so that we do not end up feeling alienated.

SnS : LOL!And I agree that it is difficult because that is so not the kind of person you really are.Being watchful all the time can get stressful and irritating after a point.

Dee : You scored a touch down with that comment.Most often that not,we are just extremely conscious of projecting the husband in the right light.One way of looking at it is that, if it appears as if you do not respect your husband enough,then there is no way you can expect everyone else to respect him too.

TMM : Oh yeah.And it is always the DIL and the daughter that goes through the acid test.The husbands get away with bloody murder!

Dewdrop : That last statement just about said it all!My father addresses my mother as "neevu, hogi,banni" and apparently his relatives used to give him so much grief about it.

Chronicworrier : That makes so much sense.I am pretty sure the older lady,as nice as she may be, would never understand that I do not have to conform to social diktats in order to show respect and love for my husband.

Abha : Soul sister indeed :) I guess that's why we tend to just avoid interacting with certain people entirely, simply because keeping up the charade all the time is simply tiresome and irksome!

Dottie : It can be really irritating especially with the extended in-laws because of the inherent hesitation to speak your mind lest you end up offending them even more!