Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Things To Ponder

Lately in India they have been passing some new rules at the schools. First, colleges in the southern part of the country passed rules against male and female students sitting together in class. Colleges, mind you. Next, sex education was taken out of schools in several states. Frankly I was surprised to hear that it was ever in the schools. Most recently, two Mumbai schools banned boys and girls from touching each other on school grounds. No hugs, no holding hands, no high fives, no hand shakes. Nothing. They will even be penalised for accidental contact.

This is an interesting subject for me. I admit that I have conflicting feelings. At first it seems absurd. It even seems a little scary because it makes me wonder what, or rather who, is influencing such changes. As fanatical religious factions try to gain a hold in the country, this seems to be a sign of success. When the initial upset over the new rules dies down, what will be next? Will the girls' hair or faces be considered too much of a distraction? Perhaps they shouldn't be in school at all.

By the same token, many people consider me a religious fanatic. After all, I actually expect my children to abstain from sex until after they are married. I have all manner of rules that I expect them to follow during their youth that most people in the western hemisphere would consider unreasonable, or at least unrealistic. In this light I feel that I should be particularly careful when judging actions taken in the name of morality, or religious beliefs. Unfortunately religion and politics are so often intertwined (or disguised as one another), it is difficult to trust that the motives are so simple.

Finally, on a purely cultural level, I really don't get India. Most single adults live with their parents. There is little if any dating. Most marriages are arranged. They have laws against kissing in public, men and women don't even hold hands in public. Aspiring judges make names for themselves by making headline grabbing decisions, such as issuing an arrest warrant for Richard Gere after he kissed Shilpa Shetty. The vast majority of films don't even have kissing. The few that do are very controversial. Modesty is a must. Midriffs can be exposed, but legs are covered. In some parts of the country it can be down right dangerous to be seen in what is considered immodest clothing. Yet they have perfected the art of every other type of almost-sexual behavior. In films, the leads dance or romp, often while soaking wet, in such a way as to leave no doubt as to what is being represented. Commercials and print ads are so suggestive in the manner of dress and poses of the models that even I, a desensitized American, was surprised. Apparently modesty and morality don't apply if commerce is involved, but then, that is nothing new.

I know that the US is full of it's own unique contradictions, but they are the contradictions that I am used to. It is very interesting to see things from the outside. It leaves me wondering how foreigners in America see our culture. Perhaps one of them has a blog I could read....

4 comments:

nataliemma said...

I just wandered across your blog and had to leave a comment about how interesting it is! I love your stories of the culture and people and everyday adventures there. Maybe if I read back far enough, I will find out the reason you moved there. Thanks!

Aunt Carol said...

We watched a program on a travel channel about India, mostly about New Delhi. There sure is a difference in classes. It also discussed the not showing of legs. Very interesting.

Nataliemma... Yes Go all the way back to the beginning and read the beginning blogs. She does a great job in writing about the Smiths.

mr smith said...

I just have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this blog entry. It was insightful and well written, but noticeably absent were more of those beautiful, professional-looking photographs taken by your husband. You should use more of those... :o)

Mr. Smith Goes to Delhi said...

Nataliemma,
Welcome! I think you are our first random reader, that is so cool! If you are still interested, I tell why we moved here on the April 25th entry.