Cultural patterns define the people of a country and help in understanding their behavior, mind-set and mode of living. In India, the diverse population of the country shows some singular similarities in communication, inter-personal relations, and views about marriage and family which together constitute the unique structure of the Indian culture. Man-woman equations in the family set-up as well as the position of elders in the house are significant pointers to the culture of India. The Indian Culture
Every culture has its unique characteristics which define its identity and amplify the behavioral pattern of its people. In the Indian context, the diverse languages, religions and regions of the vast country play a major part in the multifarious communication and relation markers within the same cultural texture. However, certain qualities remain uniformly similar within the assorted hues of the Indian culture. As Nirad C Chaudhuri writes: “modern Indian culture was based on a fusion of two independent and unconnected cultures, the European and the ancient Indian” ( The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian 474).
The effect of long-term British colonization and the rich heritage of the Sanskrit past combine to give the Indian culture its distinctive color and identity. By nature, Indians are usually verbose and like sharing/discussing ideas with each other, at times personal problems, even communicating thoughts on public issues from politics to sports. Greetings are usually with folded hands (and the accompaniment of ‘Namaste’ in Hindi, the national language), but significantly, respect to elders is shown by touching the feet of the seniors.
Greetings normally go hand in hand with queries about health and life in general. However, unlike the Western concept of a strict adherence to one’s privacy, Indians by and large want to know what’s going on in their fellow men’s lives, and the questions are expected to be answered with detailed explanation about the current situation in one’s life. Emotions run high in the horizon of the ordinary Indians’ existence, from the annoyance at the over-crowded bus to the jubilation at the Indian cricket team’s victory.
The western concept of direct eye-contact while talking with colleagues or superior suggesting a honest rapport is deemed an act of shamelessness especially with someone senior in age or status. Downcast eyes are a symbol of good values and respect for the other person. The American idea of private space is difficult to follow in the Indian family set-up, especially in the joint-family structure. Time is a relative term of understanding in India, as punctuality and discipline are often dependent on the irregular schedule of public transportation, people’s habit of taking things at their own pace, and long queues everywhere.
Marriage is generally a family matter rather than a personal choice in India. Men and women meet in social and professional gatherings and may emotionally bond with each other. While marriage by choice or ‘love marriage’ as commonly referred to, is on the rise in modern Indian culture, most Indians still resort to an ‘arranged marriage’ to the prospective bride or groom selected by family members on the basis of status, education, and often caste, region and religion.
As Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni portrays in her Indian characters in Arranged Marriage, it does not matter what the origins of the marriage, the ultimate consideration is the compatibility of the partners engaging in it. ( Transcultural Women of Late Twentieth-century U. S. American Literature 210) Unlike the liberated parlors of Western life, sex or topics about sexuality are considered taboo and it is socially unacceptable to discuss or question one’s sexual preferences openly.
The cultural texture of India bars the liberal thoughts and voices on this subject. Premarital sex is discouraged by the unwritten rules of the conservative society. Modesty, virginity are praised in unmarried men and women, especially in the latter. The role of family is of paramount interest to the average Indian. The joint-family set up is an umbrella structure sheltering extended branches of the family – grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins beyond the usual parent-child family of the Western world.
Though nuclear families in the lines of the western model are increasingly popular, the common Indian is rooted in the traditions and customs of his family life, especially the joint family-structure. Indian society is predominantly patriarchal in nature, and the head of the family is usually the eldest son of the family. The equation of the genders in family and society is not evenly balanced, as the women normally are submissive to the decisions of the males in the Indian culture. However, the aged play a positive role in the family context, as grand-parents and seniors are treated with respect and love, and cared for in most households.
Though old people are at times sent to old-age homes by their family members for reasons of economy or scarcity of care-givers at home, usually the aged are taken care of at home, and they in turn, help with the children, spending time with them and instilling in them values and good morals. The women are expected to be the primary care-givers in the family, performing the duties of the kitchen as well as taking care of children and elders. Even if the woman is a career- person, her family obligations are her first priority in the Indian culture.
The man of the house on the other hand is the financial provider, and is responsible for the standard of living. However, in the changing dynamics of modern lifestyle, men and women have become flexible about their roles and responsibilities and the distinct line of difference between their gender expectations is blurred today. References Chaudhuri, N. (2001). The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian. New York: The New York Review of Books. Newton, P. (2005). Transcultural Women of Late Twentieth-century U. S. American Literature: First-generation Migrants from Islands and Peninsulas. Burlington: Ashgate Publishing.