January 7, 2011 Impressions of Changing India
The entire world is changing, something which anyone who lives here cannot deny. Globalization has reached ever corner of our planet, and the world will never be as it was. In many ways this is of course a wonderful thing, and in other ways, modernization is happening at a frightening pace at the expense of tradition. This may seem of no consequence, but when people loose their roots, the traditions which distinguish them from other ethnic groups or nationalities, then the essence that makes them who they are is gone. Something becomes “missing” in their lives, even if they are unawares of what that something is, or even that it is missing, but over time it takes its toll in many ways. Witness the myriad infirmities which inflict the Western world…the constant searching something new, better, more…the imbalance on all levels – physical, emotional, mental and of course spiritual.
Well, India is moving forward, for better or for worse, along with the rest of the world. It may have taken some years longer, but the insistence of human beings to be like everyone else, is pushing the change forward at a pace which speeds up from year to year.
The changes may seem subtle and unimportant, and perhaps causing no real damage, but the end results will have profound effects on the Indian culture in future generations.
It begins with the great emphasis placed on higher education (rightly so) for as many children in the family as possible. In order to study at University, sons and even daughters are sent to live in the cities, away from home and family for the first time. Influenced by all the modernization they see, and wanted “more” of everything than they ever dreamed existed, once they finish their studies, they look for jobs in the cities, which will of course be high paying and with options for future advancement.
Once this happens, the whole idea of the Indian extended family comes to an end. It is something which is already happening, and it will continue to happen at a quickening pace each and every year.
One of the results is that, something which would have seemed unthinkable even 5 years ago, is now becoming a reality in India. Old Age Homes!!!. Since sons no longer marry and come home to live with their parents, creating extended families and thus guaranteeing continued care through old age for parents, this seems to be the only solution for those aging citizens who now have no one to care for them. My good friend here, who still lives in an extended family where all the brothers, sisters-in-law and their kids live together in one compound, is an example. She herself takes care of the aging and very frail and ill mother-in-law. She does this lovingly and gently and it is beautiful to see. And if she did not, one of the other daughters-in-law would. This is how it has always been, even when the daughters-in-law sometimes suffer greatly with this arrangement.
Now her first son is getting married. He studied, and has now been working in a very high paying position at a deluxe hotel in South Delhi for the past number of years. He will of course remain in his position, his new wife will come and live with him, and that will be the end of that particular extended family. My friend told me that they wonder what will happen to them in old age, perhaps they will have to go live with the son, but she doubts that will happen, and began telling me of the reality of perhaps having to find an old age home to live in somewhere….This may not be the case for her and her husband, but it has become a frightening reality for many Indians.
In the villages, this is less felt, but whatever happens in urban life, eventually filters its way down to rural life as well. We may be talking in terms of a couple of generations perhaps, but the end result is guaranteed.
Another indication of loosing traditional values, is traditional dress. I remember writing some years ago of the beauty of Indian traditional dress, and wondering how much longer women will continue to dress in this beautiful way. I never imagined that in just a few short years I would see the beginning of the end!!
In the past, even if young girls wore jeans and T-shirts, once they married, they returned to traditional dress, either because they themselves felt it proper, or they were compelled to by family members.
Today, everywhere you look, you see more in more young couples where the wife is dressed in completely Western clothing, the tighter the jeans the better, walking hand in hand and even kissing in public. This is something completely unheard of only a few years ago.
And then there is the idea of banks and buying on credit, the curse of the entire world. Another friend here very proudly took me for a drive in his new car (his old one was 8 years old – I was driving a 12 year old car myself until recently!!). He said that everyone who saw him recently commented that as a doctor he should be driving a newer car! So, he went to the bank and found out that they were practically begging him, as a doctor, to take money. The more the better (he says doctors, government workers , and some other groups are sure bets for the bank as the installment payments always come in on time). When he saw how easy it was to get money, he also decided to buy a second flat for investment purposes!! And simply took a full mortgage from the bank for that as well. In the end, if for any reason the day comes when he can’t pay, they will simply repossess it and in the end he won’t be any worse off than he is now…he still has a perfectly comfortable place to live in!!
Where this will all end, and what effect it will have on future generations of Indians is yet to be seen.
And that’s it for today…just some stuff to think about