What Will Others Say?

“Our neighbour has invited me to receive thamboolam…” said my mom and trailed off. I could visualize what the rest of her sentence would look like. I wanted her to go of course but the conversation eventually wound up with “What will others say?”

This is typical of most of the conversations I have with friends, with relatives and with a whole lot of people I know. Situations could be anything from divorce, remarriage, marrying outside the clan, refusal to adhere to traditions. It bothers me that with zillions of movies being made in India talking about these “taboo” topics, the same people who root for the hero and heroine running around trees refuse to acknowledge the truth when it happens in their immediate circle. When they hear of xyz advocating their widowed DIL’s remarriage or come to terms with abc’s divorce, they seem stunned when it seems like it could happen in their own family.

As I pondered about how much this affects me, I realized I was guilty of it in my own way. I change into a salwar if I am meeting elders in my desi circle. I alter my behavior depending on the crowd I am in. I disguise my fear of “What will others say?” in the name of respect and appropriate behavior.

Perhaps I should look inward before I rant about stuff here?

16 comments

  1. Can relate to exactly what you say coz it is Ditto abt my mom, but I drag her along….and make her do stuff at home :-)…
    Neither do I conform to certain pre-set norms that are biased and do stuff just for the sake of doing :-)!

  2. Laksh,

    That is so true. Being in US, we tend to sometimes camouflage who we really are and have to adapt accordingly in different situations, as you mentioned, change to salwar when desi elders are met etc.

  3. Actually to tell the truth I’m not able to guess other desi’s here, Laksh. For instance, a week before your niece’s b’day party, we attended another b’day party too. I thought since it’s a desi get-together maybe I should wear a saree since I also don’t get a chance to wear it otherwise. But I was the only one in saree there, but for other 2 elderly parents from India. Everybody else were in pants/skirt and one or two in salwar. That day I felt like the odd one out. I know I should be comfortable with myself, but I was not. I was thinking what other’s will think, will they think I’m a pazham panchangam and so on.

    So the next week at your place I came in jeans and tops but I saw that a lot of them were in saree including you.

  4. Yep.. yep.. the famous “what will four people say? “, for the most part I guess the four people themselves are obsessed with what four people say about them?

  5. Yep.. yep.. the famous β€œwhat will four people say? β€œ, for the most part I guess the four people themselves are obsessed with what four people say about them?

  6. Yes, we all go through this at various levels and varying contexts. But as I see it – Wearing a salwar or a saree is a personal preference and one can make adjustments, choices without altering much there. Whereas in the case of the thamboolam example, or in many of the other rituals/traditions even though it is the ‘what will four people’ say it is also a question of justice and equality and what you want to believe or stand up for and how much you are willing to sacrifice those principles.

  7. Hi Laksh. When I was still living in Malaysia, this “issue” seemed to be the story of my life. So much so, that I used to rebel – even up to my wedding day (re a pair of earrings I was to wear!!). Everytime I was expected to do something, I would do the opposite. Unfortunately, I used to feel very guilty about it inside and that caused a whole lot of other issues (that I won’t go into right now)..

    Although I may not have the right experience to advise you, my 2 cents is that you have to be the person you are inside. Follow your rationale and be comfortable with your decisions. Then, one day when you look back at your life, you will be proud to know that you had lived it just the way YOU wanted and not the way that you ‘thought’ was expected of you.

  8. I can relate to this Laksh. It’s not easy ignoring “what will others say” in Indian context, since the “others” in majority of cases would include folks that you respect and love, so either way it ends up in hurt. That’s one of things that I like about being in the U.S. That this culture allows you to be comfortable in your skin without having to be a rebel.

  9. You probably know what I am going to write here. I have never adhered to “what will others say!” but off late, it seems to rule my life. More so because, the others seem to have a lot more to say thanks to my situation I suppose.
    I still do what I do; but it hurts like hell that I cannot live my life without criticism. It is easy for people to say that I should live my life alone; live for A and him alone; when I tell them will they advocate that to P…they go dumb. As I had written, opinions are like a*******, everybody has one.
    I could stop my grandma from doing what most widows of that era do…wrap themselves with that sandal colour saree and shave their heads. I was like you are insane, and she listened. I make her sit in front when anything auspicious happens at home and my family does the same much to the chagrin of the so-called society. She used to complain in the beginning. Well, my argument was she is probably the one person who is most happy about something nice at home; and wishes more such things…we want her blessings and want her to oversee everything. So, respect our wishes and not what others say. Same goes to aunty….she should not bother about what others will say…she should go to those who respected her and invited her. Uncle sure is missed; by one and all, but life does not stop. We wish circumstances were different; but am happy those who invited your mom know what she is. If she can make it here, she is invited home here. Amma sure would love to meet and talk to her πŸ˜€
    About your thought of changing to salwar, it is a form of showing respect supposedly. As long as no one’s sentiment is hurt; go on ahead and do it. Again, since you know me; you probably understand what I have written…:D; else it might sound like gibberish πŸ™‚

  10. btw,what happened to Madhuram has happened to me πŸ™‚ ended up in western clothes while everyone else was in Desi clothes and vice versa. Initially I felt uncomfortable..but did not care after a few minutes. People want me there; nothing to do about what dress I wore πŸ˜€

  11. Hey, thats my fav. topic too…’social taboos’…and why we rely so much on what others will think or say. If a girl is 25 and is not married, eyebrows are raised. Why?? Girls are expected to learn to cook in their teen age whether they like it or not. People stare if you are spotted roaming around with guys. One of my mom’s colleagues even called her to tell that i was hanging out with guys!! But i tell my parents everything, so it wasnt a big issue. I feel sad for that aunty, her juicy gossip failed to make an impact! Seriously, Get a life! We are not living in the stone age anymore!

    I am really lucky to have parents who are very supportive. But i’ve seen my friends(girls), their parents dont want them to drive, dont want them to get a job after completing their education and they’ll faint if they are seen talking to guys!! And all this bcoz it is not accepted in their part of the ‘society’. Uhh.!.!.

  12. Oh yeah , I go through this all the time. Wish I can find any answer too. Is it respect or guilt???But I agree with Spillay in this….follow your rationale seems the one to me…..since all that matters is the life in years rather than years in life….so when I look back after a while I want to feel glad for the life I lived…

  13. Totally agree with Spillay… looking back… we will be proud of ourselves…

    I dont really care about what others will think of me… I mean if someone thinks or have a bad opinion about you… then they themselves are not a good person… a good person wont judge others… so why bother of what a bad person thinks about you?

  14. @Divya: Agreed. I guess the day I wrote this post I was biased by stuff I heard from people close to me.
    @Arch: Very true. Knowing you, I can attest to you what you say.
    @Mitr: I’ve found it to be true whether in US or India. “What will people say” rule a lot of my actions.
    @Madhuram: Haha :O) Been there done that. These days, I just wear what is convenient and in most cases it turns out to be a salwar. My prob is that I do it at work too. i.e, wear salwars. Now I wonder what my colleageues are thinking πŸ™‚
    @Roop: True. Thinking was never a problem with me. It is acting on my thoughts that takes time.
    @Sachita: hehe true. I tell that to my mom always!
    @Vidya: I knew as I was writing somebody would bring that up. In my case, I can force amma or for that matter anyone that matters to me only if I really care nothing about what others say. In some way I feel I should be living my life insulated from others’ opinions before I impose my views on others πŸ™‚
    @Spillay: For most parts I already do what you say. There are a few things for which I still abide by my “four” people out of respect for their age and relationship to me.
    @Suman: You speak my mind exactly Suman. It amazes me how you voice exactly what I think.
    @Apar: I can totally imagine you and your gma. Kudos!
    @Shalu: Been there, done that, rebelled as much as I could. End of the day, I have concluded if the advice is well intentioned, take it, else listen and move on πŸ™‚
    @Rupa: Me too. I hope we all will.
    @Selvi: Problems start only when the “people” are our spouses, moms, in laws and other close family members πŸ™‚

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