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July 16, 2011

Trials and tribulations of a modern teenager in conservative India.

Sometimes, India feels like a universe of its own, untouched by what’s been going on around it. The villages in Rajasthan, or even those in Tanjavur, where the only indication of modern civilization is the occasional mobile phone or a car with a tourist in it. When you are a teenager hailing from India, the word “pressure” takes on a whole new meaning and I wouldn’t put it past even my masked heroes from the Dc comic universe, to have a hard time protecting their secret identities here.

The Middleverse of sorts that teens today are stuck in, is quite complex in spite of its deceptively simple appearance. There’s two lives, two faces, two lies and two identities - quite easy to lose yourself in that mix. It might be a diminishing trend, but if so, its happening at the pace of a tortoise.

Pulling a quick change in a phone booth, is just a costume, this on the other hand involves a whole host of other changes. Its a full-time acting job, pretending to be someone you’re not and just keeping your fingers crossed that you don’t turn into the character you’ve created...or is it the other way around?

Family is and will for centuries to come, remain the entity that sets us apart from the rest of the world. The attitude towards blood relatives, the importance given to the elders and the dependence most of us have on guidance, governance and of course, the green stuff from them. The social structure is quite like the proverbial “family tree” and just like in a real one, once a branch is chopped off, there no reattaching it. That very fear of losing place, power and the potential inheritance, coupled with a hereditary inclination to obey, lands us in what might be considered a quandary of epic proportions even.

You spend the day - hands folded in respect, head bowed to acknowledge the might of an idol that you simply do not believe in. You stand head titled awkwardly, sleep weighing you down as you try to stay awake through your first of five prayers, your eyelids heavy as lead. You wait patiently as your aunt scouts a datebook for a “good day” for everything - whether its for a haircut or a homicide trial.

There are a lot of things we do for the people we love, but in these cases its more out of fear than love that we succumb to the so called cultural and traditional requirements, without even trying to put up a fight. Suppressing a seemingly abrasive sense of humor, hiding your stash of alcohol or tampons even, having only 50% of your original clothing on when you are a block away from your house (and safe from the prying eyes of parents and unbelievably nosey neighbors). Its a challenge, balancing two lives, juggling them around and catching both without letting them crash.

A perfect metaphor for the situation is a “the tug of war”- a young Indian, confused, worried and looking for acceptance on one side and his/her entire clan (that means a lot  of people believe me, everyone from aunts to niece-in-laws) on the other, the poor kid doesn’t stand a chance. Standing up to family isn’t easy to say or do, you love them and you can only wish (or pray, if you’re into that sort of thing) that what you want for yourself and what they want for you are similar things, or at least not conflicting.

Morally, it might be a gray area, but fact remains that short of killing/hurting another human, you should have the right to do whatever you want to do. You shouldn’t have to live in a flurry of being rebuked for wanting to have an opinion that your ancestors don’t share and you should be able to call your life yours, and mean it.

Photo credit: Kamakshi Sachidanandam 


  • Sneha
    05.08.11 03:11 PM
    Absolutely true. Lovely post.
  • santoreeves
    18.07.11 08:05 AM
    That is a serious issue, grappling lot of people than commonly imagined. The depth and situations may be a bit different. But rebellion and repercussions of these confusions are sprouting everywhere.

    Young India need to be patient.. Old India need to reach out in a more amicable manner..!
  • nandita prakash
    nandita prakash
    17.07.11 08:58 PM
    soooo trueeeee
    i could relate to every bit of it..though i live in a metro city...always been here...but the situation isnt much different
    nice post
  • Barnaby Haszard Morris
    Barnaby Haszard Morris
    16.07.11 05:47 PM
    Nice work. Indian youth are in such an interesting - and surely difficult - position in the present day. Hope to read a lot more from you in future.

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