All the world is my Family

Each time I walk in to our hostel’s bathroom, I return irked. [Ok, not each time – let us say each time that I go there without eyes half-closed 😛 ]

There it stares at me – a hand-written note reading “Think of the cleaning people as your relatives who are helping you and do not leave behind shampoo sachets, napkins etc in the bathing stalls”.

Any free-of-manufacturing-packaging-and-marketing-cost advice is prefixed with a “Tujhe meri beti samajhke keh rahi hun beta.. jaldi shaadi kar lo.. dekho mummy-papa kitne tension mein hain tere waje se!” (translation : I tell you thinking of you as my daughter child.. Do marriage ASAP.. See mummy-papa are in how much tension cos of you!”)

How many times have we met Aunty-jis oozing maternal warmth proudly declaring “Oh, hamaari maid ko to hum family member hi samajhte hain. Diwali pe uske liye bhi naye kapde liye the – woh bhi uski marzi ki” (translation : Oh, our maid – we think of her as family member only. On Diwali, we took new clothes for her too – that too of her choice).

You dare think this extending family member “status” to the whole world habit is restricted to the north of India? Do you want a time-wasting challenge? One that I am bound to win? Pick 3 tamil movies – any 3 ‘entertainers’ aka masala flicks – sit through them for the total 9hrs. I’ll buy you the big Cadbury Silk with Orange peel (yummy) if you do not see a male indulging in street harassment or rape and a male/female confronting him with “Nee ellaam akka thangachi-oda porakkala?” (translation : You all did not take birth with elder sis/younger sis?). [In no other language is the dialogue that standardized & delivered with such conviction! Me loves Tamil cinema!]

Talk about women’s rights to dress as they wish & there is always someone who asks “Would you let your sisters/wife to go out wearing such clothes?”.

Talk about rape becoming a national hobby & there is always someone who declares “If it happened to my sister, I would waste no time thinking.. I would go & shoot him from close-range!” (ok.. wife is not included – a raped wife is damaged goods to be returned to the shop).

The list could go on..


So, am I capable of treating people decently only if I think of them as a family member?

Can I be concerned about someone only if he/she is my son/daughter?

Will I take the effort to stand up for someone only if they share loads of DNA with me?

And of course, it is only my wife/sisters who should dress modestly & stay off lecherous eyes while all other “paraaye” (‘belonging’ to others) women can behave any which way & hence get harassed left and right!

Moral of the story : We, as a society, are not capable of empathy unless it comes qualified with “family”!

All the world is my family? Really?  Does all the world NEED to be my family for me to practice basic decency, courtesy & empathy?

Why do I find that insulting to my ability not to be selfish all the time?

Am I the only one frustrated with this exceedingly accepted, respected, revered, totally patronizing & “me so noble” attitude?


12 thoughts on “All the world is my Family

  1. Totally get your point on this ..

    the aunty who bought the clothes for the maid knows that is she goes away , who is going ot do all the work and how is aunty going to survive

    I think we need to treat others as we want to be treated ourselves .. this will make a big change i think …

    • True. But nowadays, I have started wondering if it should not be even “treat others as you wd want yourself treated”..

      For me, I take myself for granted & do not have too high expectations of how ppl shd treat me. Simply because others do not come from where I come from, probably do not share views about how we want to be treated, what is insensitive/hurtful/insulting/demeaning etc.. What I find harmless fun might be patronizing for someone else.

      We probably need to err on the safer side & treat ppl how *they* might want to be treated.. or, at least NOT treat them how they don’t want to be treated.

  2. Oh I’ve got the “you are like my daughter and would love to see you married” bit…gah! I think as long as we treat people without intending to hurt them, we are doing all right…because let’s face it, different people get offended for different things. We might still hurt someone without intending to do so and I guess the best we can do is acknowledge we have hurt them and apologise.

  3. What I have found frustrating is that people are so different with their families – all sugry and caring and completely heartless with strangers. And this is very different to the western societies. There people are usually very nice to strangers.

    • Yep. I really don’t understand why family & non-family need to be treated differently – especially on basic courtesies. I think that’s where racism starts. . partiality towards family first, community next, caste next, religion next, race next etc. Frustrating is the word.

      • On the flipside, based on quite a few IHM-posts I’ve read, Indians tend to be more respectful and/or more involved in the family they’re born with, but less so in their own core-family. I see a lot of people struggling with the relationship betwen mothers in law, fathers in law, husbands and wives.

        Here, it’s pretty clear that the core family (husband, wife and children) takes precedence over family that is more removed. You’d rarely see anyone, wife or husband, wonder where his/her loyalties should be in a conflict.

        So when it seems that westerners treat strangers more like family, I think a lot of that isn’t that we treat strangers so much better, but that we consider extended family so much *less* important.

        I consider friends much more important than extended family. (offcourse sometimes a person can be both!) Friends are people I’ve -decided- to care about, usually because they’ve proven themselves worth it. I consider this much more important than randomly sharing some fraction of DNA. Thus I consider, for example, *you* to be more important than several of my cousins.

  4. I hear you. Forget treating others as ‘family’, I’m tired of all the fake family obligations too. Say something to them, say something else behind their back. So many do that, and it’s sad. I think friendships make so much sense that way – you are friends because you want to, and treat people well because you want to, not because you ‘must’.

    • Precisely what I think. Fake or real, people ‘must’ be sweet & nice to ‘family’. And somehow, being nice to non-family is something extra – something to be applauded, sometimes considered unnecessary. Dumbness at its height.

      Welcome to this blog Shivya. 🙂

  5. When I got the ‘ you are like my daughter’ so I want to see you married; I calmly asked the relative to add my name to his will ( he was drafting one then) and also asked him to fund my education (in jest). Needless to say, i am no longer the daughter.

    The point is, the family ties are conveniently raised to prove or coerce a specific issue. It certainly raises a personal impact ( imagine your sister gets molested triggers more hormones than some 14year old gets molested). I will partly blame the media, then the underdeveloped society to use this excuse!

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