A while ago, I was contacted by a young Indian man who had some questions for me. To sum it up, he wanted to know how he, a modern, open-minded Indian from a young generation should cope with the traditional lifestyle and outdated views of his family. I know that this is not only this man’s problem and so I wanted to write my answer in my blog.
The man described what I have seen with many other young people as well. They go to study in university, often in a bigger town, get to see a lot of things of the ‘modern world’, read a lot and are exposed to international media, may have contacts with non-Indians and get to know more about views outside of India. When they return to their smaller city, or even village, they are different people than when they left. For many the same process happens while they are at home! The internet nowadays offers such a huge possibility to get to know more about this world that you don’t even have to go out for that!
So these young people develop their thoughts while their family does not move in that direction. The young girls and boys have friends who are like them, advanced and not attached to the old religion with its many limits and rituals. When they are at home, they see their family follow all that and they realize that their close relatives, the people they love, are highly superstitious. That they believe in the caste system, something that they now strongly dislike. They follow all those bad traditions that we have in India regarding the treatment of women!
They try to argue in their homes but to no avail. They are a minority there – and after all they love their family members, so they don’t want to insult them either! But they feel a bit ashamed. They avoid talking about their family to their friends. They get embarrassed when only thinking of bringing their modern friends home and have them meet their family. What impression will they have of their family, of the people they live with?
You know, I would first of all say not to feel ashamed for your family. You are not responsible for them and their actions, belief or thoughts. Tell them what you think, explain them why you don’t believe in the things they believe and don’t want to follow their traditions either. Talk, so that even if they don’t seem to understand, they know about it. You may have to repeat and explain yourself again but in the end, it is your family. They love you and you should find a common base on those grounds. Be tolerant about each other – they should not force you to take part in ceremonies you don’t like or adhere to traditions or rituals you find wrong. In the same way however, you can just let them do what they are doing, after having told them why you think it is wrong. It doesn’t hurt you if they pray or fast, does it?
As far as your friends are concerned, I would suggest the same: talk. Tell them about your family and your feelings. I am sure you won’t be the only one! Just talk about it and let them know. Real friends won’t see you any differently just because of the belief of your family. On the contrary, they will be able to better understand you and where you are coming from.
There are some issues with different belief however that you cannot just tolerate and ignore. Sometimes, there is a limit when you say a belief or tradition actually harms or insults you or your friends. That’s another topic though and I would like to write more about that tomorrow.