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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Respecting the elders

In a hierarchy driven society such as India, elders are considered worthy of respect by virtue of being elders only. It is ingrained in our culture to respect and honour elders be it a sibling elder by a minute or a great grand father, or in fact elders not related by blood or marriage. And the honour is not merely perfunctory in the way you address them but deep rooted in that one doesn’t reply back to, talk loudly to or in front of, counter against, look down upon or raise a hand on elders. It is not uncommon to see people, young and old, bearing deep hurt and shame, sometimes even violence, for years on end through hands of elders of their family and yet keep quite. Of course, sometimes the limit is crossed, either because action of elder has become unbearable or younger is not versed in manners of respecting the elders. In regular, normal, decent families, though, elders are sacrosanct. Why no one responds back to Dadisa in Balika Vadhu is example enough. A person who respects elders is considered virtuous.

Expecting someone to respect the elders is expectation of good cultural upbringing and behaviour. However, what surprised me distinctly in my quest for life partner over last year, was consistency of this expectation from fairer sex, almost always stated explicitly. I found this in girls I met in person and in girls I met/read about online. Surely, the request itself was not unjustified, but near complete unanimity of the wish was marked. What is so special about this, I wonder?

There are hypothesises my brain can come up with. Perhaps it is a way for girl to ensure that her side of family gets respect they deserve from their son-in-law since it not inconceivable to imagine that boy may not respect girl’s side of family. Asking for general respect to elders is cover for respect to her parents. Perhaps all the girls somehow consider this a litmus test of boy’s character. Among hundreds of other things a girl can ask her would-be, why this thing tops across is a mystery difficult to resolve for me.

Some, those believing in traditional values, consider respect for elderly a default position. Others, those product of modern individualists thoughts, consider that respect has to be earned and age alone is not worthy of respect. I am somewhat in middle of these two extremes. I respect elders by default until they un-earn it. I start with respect due to age but it has to continuously earned and maintained with actions, words, gestures and thoughts for me to continue to hold it. Any act of un-earning will result in loss of respect despite the age superiority. Same things holds for me with respect to respect due to position. What is your take?
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