Is it only a woman’s duty to preserve the culture?

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Hello, My name is Parinita. I was born and raised in a small town of Gujarat. My parents were strict but not close minded. They raised me with rules but allowed me the same freedom as my brother. I was very independent in my thought process. However, I still dreamt of marrying in a big joint cultural family and was looking forward to wearing sari, mangalsutra. I was fascinated with the shy but elegant look of a bride and newly wed female.
Dreams do come true. But sometimes, you have to pay a price for it. I got married to a handsome male of my choice. In the excitement of marriage, followed all the rules and wore all the ornaments, sari and covered my head as sign of respect for the elderly. The first few months, it was a very euphoric feeling. I was in clouds with rainbow pleasing my eyes.
The family, I was married into was very religious. They did not eat onion or garlic. They believed in getting up in the morning and taking shower, before entering kitchen. I was able to adapt those rules without any problem. Later, I found out that my husband, his brother and sister used to eat non-vegetarian food and drank alcohol without knowledge of their parents. I was little upset, but thought no harm done here. If parents do not know, they have nothing to feel bad about. Normally, my tendency was to tell on people. This time, I stayed quiet. No idea, why? May be to keep the family dynamics calm!
My husband got a job overseas. We moved to London. Now, my husband wanted me to wear short dresses, drink alcohol, go to clubs. I was able to change my dressing style. But going to club and drinking alcohol was not my cup of tea. I was enjoying life with him, in new town. Everything was still perfect.
Then, dream became reality. His parents came to live with us in London. My husband demanded that I cover my head when in the house around his parents. He was okay, if I did not cover my head outside the house. Something inside me just flipped. I was perplexed by his double standards. I tried to explain to him that in India, when everyone is doing it, it is easy to follow the rules. But in London, it is not necessary. Worst was his parents were not even expecting it. He was angry. That was their first big fight. She felt like she lost her ground. She was so tempted to tell his parents that he drank and ate non-vegetarian food.
Her husband’s name was Ranjit. Their fight was like this……….
Parinita: ” How does it make any sense to cover head, but wear western clothes in the house and then when we go out, you are okay with me not covering my head. That is double standard. You are not making any sense.”
Ranjit : ” I do not care. I believe, this is my culture and you should respect my parents.”
Parinita was boiling inside: ” Even in India, people are not doing this covering head thing. I grew up in Gujarat, my cousins wear salwar and do not even have to wear sari.”
Ranjit: ” I do not know about other people. This is my rule and I demand that you follow it. I am the head of the household, you follow what I say, not what others do. “
She refused. He started getting angry about every little thing after that.Life turned sour. He was eating meat, drinking alcohol, not following rules. He expected that she should follow all rules.
Days went by. One day, his aunt and cousins came over. We went to temple with his parents and his aunt’s family. When we entered temple, he came over to me and asked me to at least respect the temple and cover my head. I instantly did it. I looked around and saw that neither his mother nor his aunt covered their head. His cousins were wearing jeans. They had nothing like scarf or dupatta to cover their head. So I became angry. I said” So if it is so important to you then how come your family is not covering their head?”
Rajnit shook his head and said” I don’t know why? It is part of our culture. They should cover their head.”
The question is does the responsibility of preserving the culture fall only on female’s shoulders? What does male have to do to preserve the culture? Bossing female around!! Is that their job in preserving culture?
I was married to a handsome male. His heart was also in right place. But he had blind faith in some vague ideas in the name of religion and culture, specially regarding female code of conduct. He was free to do whatever he wanted. Whenever he wanted, he bent the rules to his liking. When it came to female, no rule tweaking was allowed.
One would think that world has progressed so much, this kind of things do not happen anymore. I wish I could that it was the case. The above incident has personally happened to me in this modern society. Mine is a story of a princess Cinderalla who married the ugly Prince (not in looks but in thought process).
To add to the insult, one day I saw a newly wed bride in their family was at her wedding reception without her head covered. I was excited and made a comment that finally your town has progressed and is changing with time. I was looking at it positively. He just got angry and said” That is not progress. That is downfall of culture.”
He drank and cursed his wife (me), threatened us by throwing food plates, getting up from table without eating when angry. All that is not a sign of downfall of culture. Not respecting the woman in his life, called ardhangini, was not down fall of his culture. But female not covering head was downfall of his culture.
Anyone reading this, if you think he is right and I am wrong, by all means feel free to give your input.
My plea to every female is to stand your grounds and follow what makes sense to you. However, please do not walk around with the burden thinking that only females are responsible for preserving the cultural identity.
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Photo ofRupal Dave
Rupal Dave
Columnist at Betingle

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