We Indians Need To Learn How To Be More Compassionate

I had a hard time writing about this topic: compassion. I just wasn’t sure what I could write about. I wasn’t even sure if I knew anything about this topic at all. I even looked up what compassion means so I could figure out what to write about. The problem is I tend to be more empathetic and can see that more clearly. But Webster’s said that empathy was not the same as compassion.

So, 3 days after the deadline, I finally realized what I could write about.

I’m a South Asian Indian born and raised in America. I come from a background where we tend to judge each other quicker than we show compassion. If something doesn’t go right or something bad happens, it somehow had to be that person’s fault. They did something that caused that bad thing to happen. I had a friend once tell me that when she told her mother about her miscarriage, her mother’s first words to her were “What did you do?”.

We, as a community, also don’t speak about so much that is happening around us. Things that require compassion are being hidden and causing emotional havoc in our lives, things like broken engagements, broken marriages, emotional abuse, physical abuse, miscarriages, infertility, depression, suicidal thoughts.

It upsets me that these are things that so many of us have gone through but yet, we still worry about telling the person next to us in fear that they will judge us. We aren’t able to share what we have really been through.

I have personally been through a few of these things. When I had, I completely disappeared from our community’s social scene. The only time I felt I deserved to be back in it is when I had done something indisputably good to make up for a few of the “bad” things I had done or been through. I couldn’t hold my head up around them until I had finally achieved something that our community could be proud of and say “Yes, I know that woman”.

Why should I feel ashamed for my circumstances in life? Why should I feel like everyone is talking about me behind my back? Why should I have to worry about being judged for making decisions to make my life better?

So my call is to the South Asian Indian community today. Be compassionate. Stop letting others feel like they will be judged for going through hard times in life. Not a single one of us is better than another. We will be stronger as a community if we help each other instead of tearing each other down. Share what you personally have gone through because I can guarantee you that the person next to you has gone through something that’s been life changing and difficult as well.

I was inspired to write this by #1000Speak. Compassion is something that I believe in but don’t see often enough.

Check out the other stories of compassion.

Dowry

So, yes, it still exists in India. One of the drivers we met in India told us that he was working as hard as he was because he had three daughters that still needed to get married. That means that not only does he have to pay for the cost of the wedding (which will be over-extravagant and way beyond the family’s means) but he has to give the groom’s family a variety of gifts.

The official definition of dowry according to Google is the property or money brought by a bride to her husband on their marriage. In India, as far as I know (and you can correct me if I’m wrong), the groom’s side asks for a bunch of things from the bride’s family as part of the requirement to marry her. Yup, that’s right. The bride’s family is required to give him all sorts of stuff in order to marry her. Now you tell me how that makes you feel if you’re a woman.

My mother-in-law told me the other day that the ratio of men to women in India is now 6:1. That means there are so many more men than women there. Women are valuable and in high demand. So why and how the dowry system still exist? And I know it does because I’ve heard accounts of people dealing with a situation where the demands of the groom’s family are getting out of hand.

My big question is what if that driver invested the money he was saving for his daughters’ weddings into their education instead? Wouldn’t that then provide these girls of a way to become independent and financially support themselves? They wouldn’t need to marry unless they wanted to. They wouldn’t need a husband to take care of them. They could choose a partner based on mutual respect and equality.

Is that even a possibility? Could you imagine what would happen if so many more women were able to take care of themselves?

If these women could get an education and financially support themselves, would they have the confidence to refuse to marry someone who was asking for a dowry?

What Indian People Think

Sometimes, I read what other people write about being an Indian raised in another country. It’s scary to see what they think. I read a couple of articles written by these Indian people about how we are losing our culture if we are born and raised in America. We defy our parents, we ignore our traditions, we don’t want to participate in anything even remotely Indian.

I’ve written a few articles about this in various forms already. Just because I’m American does not mean I’m not Indian. Yes, there are things that have changed since the good old days where the daughter or daughter-in-law would just blindly do what her elders asked but that’s called progress. It’s called knowledge.

In exchange for me not being the world’s best cook or the Indian woman that cleans all day long, I am independent. I know how to financially support myself. I never needed to get married to someone in order to survive. Instead I chose to marry someone who supports my passions and interests and we have a relationship based on friendship and love. We are here because we want to be not because we have to be.

On that note, I chose my own life partner. I really got to know myself myself and having gone through previous relationships only helped me understand who the right person was for me to take this journey with. In exchange for that, I won’t resent having missed out any part of life. I won’t feel stuck in a relationship because it was my duty to be there. I will love myself and my partner because I have gotten the chance to chase my dreams.

Yes, I don’t agree with or listen to everything my elders say. In this day and age, with all of the information out there, the ideas that we had grown up with might not be the same or even accurate anymore. I also believe in making my own mistakes. But guess what? Neither of us, my elders or I, know everything. We all have to learn. It doesn’t matter if they had done something before us and we are in the process of doing it now. Times have changed! Things have changed!

It’s frustrating that those of us who were raised in a different country still get judged for it. The truth is that our parents left India to make a better life for us. Our parents wanted better opportunities for us. So then why do we get judged when we take advantage of these opportunities? You can’t expect us to move forward in one thing and still be behind in something else. I can’t be an educated woman and then be expected to sit at home, cooking and cleaning all day (unless it’s truly what I love to do). With knowledge comes change. With knowledge comes progress.

I think it’s time that the Indian people who keep thinking we are losing our culture and traditions realize that it’s not that we’re losing them. It’s that our culture and traditions are evolving. Things will change. They always have. Even if you believe that everything has been the same for thousands of years, I can promise you that it hasn’t. Even in India, things have changed over time.

So please stop judging us. Accept change. It’s the only way that you’ll really ensure that the things that are important to you stay around (unless you expect me to wait on you hand and foot because that’s not happening).

My Child Is 3 Different Religions. Is That Even Possible?

Religion has been a hot topic in the world, well, pretty much since the beginning of man. Just recently, I talked to someone who was having trouble with her parents because she was dating someone of a different religion. I wanted to talk about this a little bit.

Traditionally, in Indian culture, a child takes his or her father’s religion as their own. Of course, this probably wasn’t an issue when everyone was still marrying inside their own religion. But now, in today’s world, we have a lot more mixed marriages. So how do you raise your child?

My father is Hindu and my mother is Jain. I know these aren’t religions that are extremely different from each other but they aren’t the same religion either. I knew that, according to tradition, I was considered Hindu. But I’ve always told people that I was half Hindu and half Jain. I’ve always considered being Jain a part of who I am even though I don’t practice either religion too strictly. I grew up in a household where my mom wasn’t really religious and my dad was. The beauty of my dad’s religious beliefs though is that he didn’t discriminate by religion. To him, God is God however and wherever you choose to practice that belief. He will just as easily go sit in a church, a gurudwara (Sikh temple), a mosque, as he will any mandir (Hindu temple). He actually has copies of and has read all of the religious books corresponding with each religion.

When we were growing up, my parents put us in a Christian elementary school and then a Catholic high school. They wanted us in private school and the only ones around us were religion-based. Their ultimate goal was for us to get a good education and, as long as we were getting that, they were fine with us learning about other religions in the process.

My husband is Sikh. The Sikh marriage ceremony differs from the Hindu one. I have seen a lot of people choose do two weddings, one in their religion and one in their spouse’s religion. While this works for some people, I could not imagine getting ready twice and sitting through two wedding ceremonies. So we decided to do the one that worked for us. My whole family loved the Sikh ceremony. It’s one of the most peaceful, beautiful ceremonies I’ve ever seen. And I have no regrets about celebrating our love and commitment that way because regardless of which religion we celebrated in, we meant those promises to each other.

Now we have a child who is half Sikh, 1/4 Hindu, and 1/4 Jain. So now what? So far, we have taken her to the gurudwara to get a blessing and soon, we will be taking her to a mandir as well. Does it matter than she is this mix of religions? How does it affect my child to grow up in a world where there are people fighting and using religion as an excuse to do so?

It doesn’t matter to us what religion she chooses to define her (if she even chooses one and not all three) as long as she respects the good values they all teach. We want to teach her to be proud of who she is and understand her culture (her Punjabi, Gujarati, and American background). In the end, we want to teach her how to be a good person. That’s all that matters.

The Wedding Day

I keep seeing some patterns on Facebook with the wedding pictures posted that I wanted to address. It might be judgmental of me or maybe I’m wrong in interpreting the meaning or the situation behind the pictures. I don’t necessarily know the couples beyond an acquaintance and maybe there is something there that I’m not seeing. But here are my thoughts and I wanted to share them.

1) On your wedding day, your smile should be real. Note that I said “should be”. The posed smiles are really easy to tell especially if you aren’t an actor. And maybe you have a great posed smile but the smiles I want to see are the ones that reach your eyes. The ones that really look like there’s nowhere else you’d rather be than in that spot with that person you’re marrying. A lot of times, the first pictures that go up on Facebook are not the professional posed pictures but the ones that your friends and family take at the event randomly. My question is: When the pros aren’t looking and it’s not a posed moment, do you still look happy?

2) My next question is: Is the person you’re marrying your best friend? If that person is, then what’s the need to ditch that person on your wedding day to hang out with anyone and everyone else? I understand that there are family and friends that you haven’t probably seen in years and you want to spend time with them but is it necessary to do it in a way that abandons your partner? Isn’t it possible for both of you to hang out with your friends? Besides, if you ditch your significant other, aren’t you ditching your best friend? Would you do that to your other best friends?

3) A wedding day is just that. A wedding day. I keep seeing people who are so concerned about the wedding itself that they forget to have fun themselves. You plan for a year for this one day (or in the case of an Indian wedding, this one week) and then what? It’s over. But guess what? Marriage is for life. So what if your flowers aren’t the exact colors that you chose or everything didn’t run in the order that you wanted? In the end, you married the person you are in love with. As long as that happened, who cares what else happened? It’s just a small piece of a marriage. There will be many more challenges in life than your wedding day. Get ready for those.

4) If you are more concerned about the wedding than what comes after, maybe getting married at this time or to this person isn’t the right path for you. I can’t necessarily see this in photos but again, you can see the connection between people. And you can see when someone is more in tune with the planning than they are with the fact that they are committing themselves to one person for the rest of their lives.

It frustrates me to see this. Again, I know I don’t have the full story always and there are always things behind the pictures that I will never know. But I definitely hope that I see wedding pictures where the bride and groom look so joyously happy that I can feel it when I see those pictures.

Are They Really Happy?

So I was watching this wedding video the other day and as I watched, I noticed that not at any point did the bride and groom look at each other and smile or interact. The first time they even looked like they were married to each other was during their slow dance at the reception. And then it ended. 

What’s the deal, man? Is it possible that a couple is so shy that they just don’t interact at all? Is it just me or does it seem somewhat off to you that the couple doesn’t even acknowledge each other’s presence on what is considered to be one of the more important days of their lives? Where do you even see that there is love present in this relationship? 

When I say this, I honestly mean the little moments. The one where the first time the bride comes into the room, the groom smiles or his eyes light up. The one where you can see one of them talking to the other about whatever is going on in their day. The one where you can see some inside joke or thought pass between them. 

Are we supposed to act distant and proper when we’re getting married? Because if that’s the case, I totally messed it up. 

It always makes me wonder if the couple was more interested in becoming an official couple rather than spending their lives with someone they really love. I don’t want to judge a couple that I don’t really know. I know it’s possible that this is their dynamic. Maybe it’s what makes them happy. I see couples that don’t spend that much time together in general. I wouldn’t think that was a happy relationship on both ends but then again, I want more than to just be a wife in name and in duty. 

I guess it’s all a matter of perspective. 

If anyone can explain this situation to me, I’d like to learn and understand why certain couples look like they’d rather be anywhere but with each other. Or that they are indifferent to being next to their significant other. Because I still don’t understand it. 

Looking forward to your thoughts. 

Trust Your Gut

Have you ever been in a situation where your body was telling you to get the hell out? You felt uncomfortable and you knew something just wasn’t right about what was going on. You felt stressed and on some level, unhappy (if you chose to admit it to yourself). How many times have you ignored that feeling and gone on to do whatever you were doing anyways? 

I have. With relationships, with jobs, with situations. And I always ended up making myself completely miserable before I realized that I should have just listened to my gut and walked away from the situation.

Why is it that we trust what everyone else says but we don’t trust ourselves? And later on, in hindsight, we look back and clearly see all of the red flags. 

If you don’t feel comfortable in a situation, it’s probably a sign that it’s not the right situation for you. It might be a good opportunity or a good person to date but something is off somewhere and your gut is telling you to acknowledge that before moving forward. 

This especially goes for those who are being forced into a situation (like marriage, maybe?)

This is your life. Remember that. Just because there are those around you that think that you should do something doesn’t mean you should if it doesn’t feel right. You will be the one who has to live with this day in and day out. So it might mean some fighting to make sure that you are getting what you want but standing up for yourself is the only thing you can do when it comes to your own happiness. It’s not that other people don’t have your best interest at heart. It’s just that they might not have the same feelings you do. 

Know yourself. Know what’s right for you. Trust yourself.