Tuesday, July 19, 2011

In the Name of Culture

I may not appreciate Indian culture all the time. But there are two instances when I thought our culture was favourable to Indian women. The first instance is the first festival that is celebrated in a girl’s maternal home after her marriage. I thought that must have been such a relief to women, specially when there are people who expect her to make murukkulu or arishalu (adirasam). I then realised it can be a burden on the girl’s parents because they are expected to pay for the couple’s new clothes. Then there is an endless list of complaints about the quality of clothes, the food, and so on.
The second instance is when a woman is pregnant and gets to spend the last trimester in her maternal home. That must be bliss for a lot of women. I know women who were not free to eat what they wanted during pregnancy in their marital home. They were embarrassed of their appetite and felt uncomfortable asking for what they craved. This custom of going to one’s maternal home must be such a pleasure for these women. There is a downside to this custom too. Even though many people of our parents’ generation do not have any medical insurance coverage they are expected to foot the hospital bills for the baby’s delivery. I know of instances where the in-laws complained that the parents used the girl’s medical insurance instead of paying from their pocket. There are a few men who later claim the bills paid by the girl’s parents. I am sure like the case of dowry parents of the girl may be willing to pay and probably see it as a matter of pride too. But, ideally should’nt the men offer to use their medical insurance? It is their baby too and hence their responsility. But this is conveniently forgotten and it is given many names like tradition and culture.
In many marriages the in-laws fight for silly things and often insult the bride’s family. All this is done saying that certain “muraigal” (customs) have to be followed and that the bride’s family is cheating them out of it.
Moral police and such selfish people are the only two kinds who are oh so worried about “Indian Culture”. Together they form the guardians of Indian culture. The second group says that such gross violations of traditions would destroy Indian culture. “Indian culture that is centuries old would not survive if such traditions are not followed. The greatness of our country is our culture”. I wonder if these people ever realise the meaning of each of these traditions and why they came into being in the first place. They just want to gain as much as they can and loot people around them in the name of culture.
We have nadaswaram (in south), ullat dwani (in Bengal), and other loud music during weddings because any negative comments or sneezing (which is considered inauspicious) should not reach anybody’s ears. Rituals like mehendi, haldi, sangeet, baraat, and so on are performed to keep up the festive mood. But then each of these rituals is hijacked and used as a status symbol by the bride and groom’s families. After witnessing all this non-sense I would prefer eloping or a register marriage. What was that? Too late Kalpana? Wink Wink.
Image courtesy-http://www.ecare4all.com/fashion/bridal_dresses.html


  1. well put..there is yet another irking custom to this list..it is referred to as vadi-biyyam, where the gal's parents are forced to gift some ransom and expensive clothing to the couple, once in 2 years for their life time.

  2. Thanks for the comment. Wht annoys me most abt any of these customs is that when they r done voluntarily it is nice. But it becomes a matter of entitlement and pride. Ppl seem to have lost the art of being graceful.

  3. Excellent blog. I like this!

    I am surprised why it has to be the girl's parents who bear all the expenses. The guy's parents and relatives visit the wedding venue and comment (actually crib) about the arrangements.
    Even when giving gifts to one another, the guy's side will give sarees to the girl's mother and sisters but the girl's side should not only buy sarees for the guy's mother and syster but also for his athai(1st cousin)/onnu vitta athai(2 cousin)and so on.

  4. Thanks. Very true and after giving all the gifts there wld be some more comments n complaints.

  5. It is sad that people, many times, give preference to outdated customs than to reason. Stupidities are continued in the name of 'cultural wisdom' in many communities. One should understand that the 'relationship' is the first priority and the traditions are secondary.

  6. Very nice, Kalpana. Are you inspired by our daily discussions???

  7. Congratulations :) This post in one of the winners of 'Tejaswee Rao Blogging Awards - 2011' (TRBA 2011). We would like to create an ebook with all the winning entries in 47 categories on Feminism and Gender Issues in India (and one category on Animals Rights). Please do let us know if you are fine with your winning post/s being included in this ebook. ( Please click here to let us know).