By Amit Kaushik, Sydney
13 March 2017
Once, I was talking to my uncle over telephone. The usual family affairs. He said he was looking for a bridegroom for his beloved daughter. Like any regular parents, he wanted a well-established groom working in some well-regarded field but the most important criteria was, he said, that the groom must be from the same caste and sub-caste. Then of course, their horoscopes should match too!
Being an NRI, you can name it (my uncle’s search for a same-caste bridegroom) as a traditional or dogmatic way of life but I still remember the time when I myself was about to marry. My parents had put forward the same conditions, which, in retrospect, I would call “constraints”.
I wonder why I refer to it as “constraints” now whereas it appeared pretty logical demands from my parents at the time. Is it (that transformation in my own thought process) anyway related to time or some other factors? It is certainly not related to time alone but is it related to the transformation of thoughts as time passes which inevitably occurs in those who live in lands far-away from their roots? Again, this transformation appears to be relative based on multiple factors – call it awareness, exposure to foreign cultures, distance from native country (roots), limited options and many more.
Few of us back home still think that getting same-caste and sub-caste partners for our children is a societal mandate, some on the other hand think about getting partners from the same state or same region. However, NRIs desire someone at least from their parent country if not from the same state or caste or religion. On the other hand, few have kept up with the world’s pace and thus have gone beyond such racial considerations; they expect their children to choose someone from the opposite sex at least. “Origin” has already taken a backseat for them. This becomes complicated and challenging if you are an open-minded person living abroad while your parents are back in India still attached to the same old-school ways. These are the same people who have a different mindset now but endorsed their parents’ old-school thoughts only a few years ago.
This was just an example of our behaviour based on circumstances and available options. In a larger scenario, we behave in similar manner when we meet someone from our continent in a foreign land, we feel good and prefer to be friendly with them. But when we talk at home, we mostly refer to them by their countries – Indian, Nepali, Paki, Sri Lankan. If they are from same country, we go a step further by labelling them by their states e.g., in case of Indians, we refer them by their states such as Gujju (from Gujarat), Punju (from Punjab) etc. and the process goes on until we find a mismatch.
On the same lines, if we are in our own country (e.g., India), we look at people from other states as if they do not belong to us and name them as Delhi-ite, Kerala-ite, Mumbai-kar etc. Even within a particular state, we differentiate them by their cities. And when it comes down to family, we differentiate on relations e.g., brother, cousin, second cousin, distant-cousin etc.
Based on theory of relativity and closeness of relation, our preferences vary and that affects the proximity, which eventually germinates a kind of favourite-ism. e.g., we sometimes ignore the same person such as a friend from a different state when we are surrounded by people from our state but the same person will get a default precedence when we are in a foreign land. There, we might even consider him for sharing our secrets and consulting him in major decisions.
In fact, the impact of awareness, exposure or distance (in this digital day and age) is very insignificant and our preferences, prioritisation and re-prioritisation are all based upon the options and choices we get at that point of time. It applies to everything or anything, be it a partner, friend, food or relationship.
In reality, are we doing the right thing? Just take a closer look and you will realise that we are unconsciously spreading a sort of racism. If not racism, you can name it as Country-ism or State-ism or City-ism or a form of Blood-ism, which is deep-rooted within ourselves…
Originally from Haryana state of India, Amit Kaushik lives in Sydney where he works as a Software Analyst in the insurance industry.