Cultural differences

The tale of two India

2:11 PM

I'm a regular reader (ok subscriber) of the magazine "Mother & Baby" which is a gold mine of information and tips for moms and moms to be. This August edition was of course dedicated in large part to India's Independence with lots of patriotic articles, one of these was called "Mother India" and had the testimony of ladies of all walk of life living in India about what is best about being a mom in this country. Two of these testimonies caught my eye and attention.

The first one was from a lady called Esther Suzanne Crastha who lives in Hubli is a fitness trainer and has a 2.5 year old kid:

"I look after my baby myself and adopt a more traditional approach to bring up my child. I want him to grow up to be a sensitive person relationships and be a good human being with good values, principles and take his own decision. I want him to have the best education in best schools as I wish to enhance his talents in sports and music and have him participate in all the activities.
Upper middle class people like us have no choice but to go to the best teacher to enhance their child's talents. Which are costly in India.
According to me, there are several benefits of being a mum in India. The typical Indian mother is always open to giving up her career for the sake of her children She cares for her kids selflessly and unconditionally, perhaps more than the European mother"

The reason this testimony caught my attention is in the parting line, I will not pretend I'm not offended by it. How dare this lady say that the Indian mum is more caring of her kids than Europeans? Is it because of the giving up career thing? Does she even know what she is talking about? Does she have any idea of what it takes to be a mom in Europe? I can say that in Switzerland, unless you are the wife of a CEO it is difficult to have a kid on a single income due to all the compulsory insurances one has to pay, and the high cost of life (no one in Switzerland belonging even to the upper middle class can afford a maid to come daily). I re-read this blurb several time, and I can say she is that typical upper-middle Indian lady who wants the best money can buy for her child and is more worried about "enhancing" a talent through massive bank account bleeding than worried about what her child really wants (does he really care in music and sport at the same time) and in what I came to recognize as a trend here, will dig for sympathy by making it looks like she is sacrificing something: "Look all the personal trainers and tutor I have for my son and how much it cost! Alas I have no choice" which will elicit that type of comments from the target of her grief : "I know dear, but look it is really for your son's best, you are a very brave and good mother I admire you"
But I will stop judging here, after all I'm the harsh less caring European here what do I know?

The second testimony that stood out is the one from a lady called Goroti Gagrai, she is a field labourer mom to a 4 year old and a 2 year old and she lives in Kotuwa, Jharkhand:

"I'm from the Ho tribe and in our community, the men do not help so much at home. I gave birth to all my kids in my hut and my midwife was there to assist at the births. But yes, my husband Kudrai did help a little bit after the birth of my youngest child. He was keen that I rest for at least one week after I delivered.
After that, it was back to work full time just as I'd done through my pregnancy until I gave birth...working the fields, brewing haandyia, carrying the haandyia barrels over long distances to sell it to other labourers, sweeping my home, collecting firewood, cooking, washing, etc. Feeding the new baby and looking after her was part of the process. My older daughter helped me a little bit, but as I'm keen that she attend school and get the education I never got, I had to manage mostly everything on my own.
My husband doesn't have a job but he spends his day smoking and talking to the other men from the village.
As a woman and a mother, it is I who manage the home and family. I don't know how it is in foreign countries or other parts of India, but I know I am lucky. My Husband doesn't beat me and he tries to help me whenever he can."

This one actually moved me more than anything. This lady is clearly from a rural background and from a lower class of society as well, the transcript of her testimony must have been the work of a reporter and translator. Her testimony is humble and simple, she doesn't pretend to know about other cultures and countries, she simply counts her blessings as modest as they are.

The it struck me how the upper middle class lady's testimony and this one were each in total contrast and at the very opposites of a broad spectrum. On one hand you have a woman who has it all and feel the need to complain about the money it takes to "enhance" her child, on the other you have a field labourer, probably illiterate, who works the double shift and handle work, home and family singlehandedly who is glad her husband doesn't beat her and is keen to give an education she never had to her daughter without seeking the best school, simply having her child attend is enough of a good thing.
You have on lady who thinks the Indian woman is selfless because sh gives up career for her kids and is therefore better than the European lady who works, and a field labourer who has no other choice but work work work in order to make ends meet and still has time to take care of her family with no help at all. And you have one who makes assumption about how it is in other parts of the globe in what I can only describe as arrogance and superiority while the other clearly admit that she doesn't know how things work in the rest of India leave alone the other parts of the world in what sounds like a very humble way. One irritated me by insulting my kind out of ignorance, the other moved me.

But overall, my feeling is this: Money clearly don't seem to buy happiness, in the first lady's statement I detect regret, and bitterness, all masqueraded under "Indian pride" and how what she feels and does is the way it is supposed to be that she has no choice. In the second Statement I cannot detect any regret, I simply read contentment with what she has and how well she worked with the hand that was dealt to her, unlike the upper middle class she doesn't seem to be fishing for sympathy, she simply tells her story bare and naked as it is.

Both stories remind us that India is a land of harsh contrast.


  1. Here here! I can totally relate to the second woman. It's hard to raise a child under what most people call normal circumstances, but even harder when you have additional "things" to deal with like working very hard sun up to sun down just to try to make ends meet.

    And the nerve of the first woman! Sheesh! Had I actually been in front of the first woman, I probably would have slapped her. LOL

  2. You know what I think I would have found it difficult not to slap the first woman too. Like I said, the first thing that irritated me about her statment was her generalising European ladies as less caring than Indian ladies, and I'm sick of these stereotypes I hear them all the time, and they are probably just made up from watching too many bad TV series on the English channel and movies as well.


Blog Archive