Saturday, April 13, 2013

When Cultural Beliefs Become Obstacles On Your Way...

It’s been ten years my father passed away and today I just want to share my thoughts about how this journey was so far. Back on the day of my father’s funeral, I remember how there were many people, of which the majority were Patels (as there are so many Patels in Montreal), who showed up out of respect and sympathy. Family and relatives were all crying in pain while I remember my focus being on my little brother as he was just a baby. Looking out for him was more important to me than to think about my father not being in this world anymore. I really couldn’t trust anyone, not even my own mother, to take care of him. Rainy days passed by as my family and I completed all the rituals related to my father’s death and cloudy days started. Everything seemed to have fallen apart. At the age of 14, I got very discouraged and I wondered how and when would I fix the mess around. I seriously didn’t know where to start, but at the same time, this was not the life I wanted to live, so something had to be done.

With the Indian culture having principles such as “A family without a man is considered less than an ordinary family”, it wasn’t easy for my family and me to embrace the good changes that were coming on our way. As a strong example to support my say, I will disclose an important fact about my own culture and this is something that has been carried over the years. When happy events are on the corner, it is better to keep “unlucky” families like mine away from some of the rituals because those families are not considered auspicious for good and new beginnings. With time, my family and I accepted that we were outcasts from this community but is this culture really being fair to families that are already struggling on their own to find way to happiness? I believe the answer is “No” and what I realized afterwards was that when a tragedy falls on an Indian family, the pain has to get deeper whether one puts years of hard work to make good days come and the community around is always there to remind them what they’ve lost. On the other hand, if the same family has reasons to celebrate, extended families and relatives start cutting off their relationships. From experience, I can comment on this one and this has resulted with me cutting off the family members I was once close to, living in my own city, and I have no regrets. Life in fact taught me that I made it without them and I shouldn’t keep people in my life who are not willing to create happy memories with me or who don’t want to cherish the good things that happen to me.

As my journey continued, I also met some new friends with different cultures who were in the same boat as me. These girls were just like me living only with their mother and didn’t have their father in their lives. Little did I know but those girls too had more restrictions because of the fact that there was no man as the head of the family. As my friends and I shared how we felt about it and we realized that those restrictions mainly come from the idea that if we do anything wrong, then our respective community would start gossiping and get the opportunity to say that our mothers failed raising us. And sadly, our mothers being in so much pressure by the community have eventually chosen to obey those rules than giving us the freedom that we have a right to have. Isn’t it pathetic how the various communities first reject us and then expect us to have restrictions on top of cultural limits? This is not fair at all and it creates a barrier for us to become independent and to move forward in life. It’s as if our respective community wanted us to live life miserably and that we should always behave as if we can’t do anything on our own. I believe whether there’s a man as the head of a family or not, the society should seriously let the women do as much as they can and stop making them feel inferior to men.

All this was surely not easy for me, especially when I was a teenager, but as I noticed many things around me including people’s behavior, I was always aware of what didn’t seem right. As for the Indian culture, I will admit that I grew up with a lot of good values from it but this idea of women being weaker than men always irritated me and was a big obstacle on my way. Sometimes, cultures have such principles that make it so hard to evolve toward a better future. When I asked what is there to benefit for women to be considered less than men, the only answer I would get was “This is how it’s been in this culture for ages” and the discussion had to end there. Nevertheless, actions always speak louder and I decided that I will remain quiet until I prove that women can surely move forward on their own. Speaking of myself, I tried my best to bring my family to the same height as to where my father would have brought if he’d be here and I must say that I feel more peaceful that my efforts didn’t go in waste. I wasn’t able to take my father’s place in the family and I would never want to because he is irreplaceable but I tell myself that the good thing is that I didn’t accept defeat just because I was a girl. Yes, I did fall several times and the fear of failure haunted me so many times but today, I see how much things have changed in the past ten years and that’s what matters.

I know it will be always hard to deal with cultural beliefs but at times, it is important to get yourself heard instead of just going against these principles because the latter doesn’t solve anything. I did my attempts, I expressed what I felt was wrong in my culture and I moved forward with my beliefs. I knew walking away from the house would never make anything better, so instead my hard work and my confidence on how my intentions were clear and right helped me to make things around me the way I wanted and also for my family to feel that good days are finally coming to us. People get attached to their native country’s culture but there is no point in carrying values that may only benefit those who have everything and that will disadvantage more those who’ve already lost a lot in life. A culture never defines anybody and I strongly believe that nobody should reduce a value of anybody to his or her culture as this really makes it hard for people to move forward in life. It should be really up to each one of us to decide what we want to carry from our culture and what can help us grow toward a better person. 


  1. This was so touching Priya. I wish I was there for you through the tough times. I will definitely make up for it and be there for you through the ups and the downs. (I will private message you who I am :))

  2. Great read and I totally agree.

  3. Very touching and very true.