My relationship with my native country India has been up and down throughout the years. Since I’m born and raised in one of the most opposite countries to India, culture wise, that is Sweden, one can say it’s been the major reason for my very mixed cultural experience. While sitting in the flight back home, via Turkey, I’ve had my fair amount of reflection time, as I usually do while travelling places. Growing up it was a natural milestone to travel to India every other year to visit family and relatives; my parents wanted us to get a glimpse of India and our heritage from an early age. When growing up and being a teenager I found it particularly hard to motivate myself to travel there again and again. Relatives moved far away from India and soon everything I had associated with the trips would no longer be awaiting us, and perhaps it was my way of not wanting to accept change, but I briefly lost interest in India overall throughout those years.
This summer I’ve had a rewarding and thought provoking trip to India where I’ve reached a whole new level of my relationship to India, in a very positive way. Of course these kind of thoughts don’t come over night, it’s been an ongoing process mentally over the past few years, embracing my heritage and being a Swede with Indian roots. I am more than ever interested in Indian languages and regret not going from learning Punjabi to knowing Hindi at a more earlier age, so that I could be fluent while travelling all over beautiful India. I’ve come to terms with accepting the country for what it truly is; a great independant nation with all kinds of people, religions and cultures gathered in a country as big and wide as a continent. I can see the beauty in what I see out in the streets of the captal, New Delhi, or just as well travelling between cities and seeing agriculture, old houses and slums being side by side with 5-star fancy exclusive hotel chains. Watching how people help out each other in the streets while parking your car in the most narrow street with all kinds of difficult obstacles you wouldn’t cope on your own, or just simply reaching out for each other despite being strangers. Walking side by side with the lowest ranked citizens of India’s caste system, while on the other side seeing people unbelievably wealthy. Everyone has a place in this giant naton called India, despite all injustices that exist. I just wish I could do more for the poor people, I want to save them all from this horrible poverty. By travelling to a country like India, you can’t help but to involve all your senses and emotions, even the ones you thought you have forgotten about in comfortable and safe Sweden/Scandinavia, they all become alive and floods through your system and it makes you more compassionate. You embrace the world with all its flaws and don’t just take your calm good life for granted when you get home. The important thing after all is that these emotions and thoughts don’t stop or shut down just because you travel home. I will forever be grateful to my family for introducing me to my heritage and home country so I can in turn make my future children know where they came from and also feel this sense of pride that I finally can say that I do.
I’m going to share a little piece of what my book is going to cover. This is something that I’ve been thinking about for the last few years and it’s a very personal topic, and I’ve been very unsure over those years whether or not to share it with the world.
The topic is: arranged relationships (or marriages) vs. love relationships and related stories. It’s going to be a very personal book, very close to my heart and it’s going to be about cultural differences between western and a mixed Indian culture.
I don’t personally have any experience in having to be in an arranged relationship (thank God!) but I am very interested in the subject and how it’s still a problem for some young people to get out of (if they wanted to). They are usually expected to follow the family traditions and they therefore agree to go through with it to avoid bringing family shame or damage the family honour.
Why would there be family shame if they choose their own partner? Why shouldn’t we be able to love whoever we want and choose to spend the life with that person be enough to please the family? Those are some very difficult questions to answer but I’m very eager to dig deeper into the whole concept and find out more about the pros and cons of such an arrangement. Isn’t the individual happiness what should be in focus, since we’re the only ones who are going to live our own life?
Another interesting observation is how girls and boys are treated differently and the expectations and pressure are also very diverse depending on if you’re a boy or a girl. A boy might be able to date more openly before a marriage in some families, while girls should not even talk to a boy before she gets married. I know I might take the most extreme examples, but they do exist, unfortunately.
From a Western perspective I have a hard time accepting or believing that one would ever want to marry a stranger and build a family with them, but somehow it’s not hard to accept for true followers of this tradition or culture.
What is interesting to know about Indian culture is that it’s very intertwined with religion; so there is really a fine line between the two. One can be non-religious but still follow all traditions and celebrate religious holidays, just because it’s natural to them. I compare it with celebrating Christmas for example, not many people in Sweden are religious but we still celebrate Christmas here. It’s fun to receive gifts and have the whole family gathered – but it’s more for the social aspect than it’s ever going to be religious. At least here in Sweden, which isn’t a very religious country.
I guess growing up in a very nonreligious country together with having a family which is Indian and having that Indian culture with me has made me question many things while growing up. These are just a very few of my thoughts that have triggered my need to write my story, as raw as it might be, because I believe that it’s necessary to shed some light on these topics in today’s modern society where we might think that everyone has a free will. At least here – in the West.