My Culture Disagrees With My Values

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I grew up believing in god.

I remember praying before I slept every night. I remember my grandmother telling me how I could turn to god when things got tough. I remember seeking solace in faith when I felt helpless.

But I’m now a hanging-by-the-thread-agnostic who is convinced that I have no faith. So what changed?

Surveys say that most millennials identify as spiritual but not religious. So were we just accidently born into a godless generation?

In a country where the religious affiliations haven’t changed in about a century, that seems slightly unlikely.

I want to say it was a dramatic shift for me. Something that made me decide to walk away from god. But it really was not. Actually, I did not walk away from god at all, I walked away from my entire culture!

Let me explain. I grew up in a VERY stereotypical middle class Maharashtrian family. The kinds that frowns upon people dancing, and celebrating new year’s. But somehow I was not indoctrinated into this. My parents sent me to secular and cosmopolitan schools, exposed me to the larger world, and encouraged me to be a part of it. Now they wonder why I am so different (sigh, that’s another rant for another time).

So anyhow, I grew up having an opinion, despite my extended family not being on board. I inculcated openness and kindness from the world around me. That’s not a brag, I’m just not a bigot. I started identifying as a feminist very young. And in 2010, it wasn’t cool or woke to be one. I’ve literally never once thought that hey, these people are gay, something must be wrong with them. And we had a sex-ed lecture about how being gay is not an urban myth but definitely weird.

Now this is where it gets interesting, sometime around the time I started observing. The god I relied on, supposedly did not like that I menstruated. The culture that were my roots, tells me that I have a role to perform, which is beside(or behind) a man. The people I love, believe deep down, that women are inferior to men somehow.

I did not like watching all the women in my family cook till kingdom come during all the festivals, as the men sat around waxing eloquent. I did not like the fact that despite there being several married men who are known philanderers, the one woman who cheated on her husband was shunned and ostracized. I did not like that even though half my hometown houses minorities, my family members ran donation drives for religious propaganda.

Despite all this, I cannot hate my family members or those around me. I have seen these same people show ridiculous acts of kindness from time to time. They have helped complete strangers, and did the right thing when it was convenient not to.

This is why I don’t begrudge myself for letting myself distance from everyone. I started living in a bubble. An elite cosmopolitan bubble that was very much a result of my privilege. I went to the best schools and colleges, and had the most diverse friends, after all.

But now that I look back, I haven’t travelled in a bus in a decade, I haven’t read anything in Marathi in 4–5 years, I haven’t participated in any festivals in as many years. This is not because I’m snooty but the collective misogyny of this world pushed me into this bubble. The buses were never safe, and I came across so many sexist texts when I read the likes of Savarkar or even Dalvi. But now I find myself with very little sense of community and belonging. I am perfectly independent, and perfectly safe, but I am also untethered.

Is the onus of this on me? Because I try to reconcile with my roots every now and then. May it be in the form of getting back in touch with people, or agreeing to let my mom set me up. It blows up in my face every single time.

Did you know that the upper middle class Maharashtrian diaspora across the world still wants wives who can cook, clean, and play second fiddle to their husbands? Did you know that those like me cannot even express their ambiguity over wanting children? Did you know that my clothes are still the talk of the town whenever I visit my grandmother?

I didn’t mean to make this a sad rant. But I have been struggling with conflating my values with my roots. And I don’t see a reasonable solution anywhere around. So if you have any thoughts or suggestions, I’m all ears.

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Preeti Kulkarni

Content and Marketing enthusiast. Feminist. Political. Follow for insights and myriad expressions. Posts sporadically.