Recently, a friend who has been living abroad since a couple of decades, stated that he was shocked and disgusted to know that some relatives in India were not inviting his recently widowed mother home as it is ‘inauspicious’.
Quite a few friends expressed distress about this matter. However, all were relieved after one of his family members clarified that, of the persons who had called on his mother after his father’s death, many had invited her to visit them. Some had not explicitly invited her, but that did not mean she was unwelcome.
I completely agree with him that such behaviour (treating a widow as ‘inauspicious’) is disgusting.
However, I am surprised that he said that he was shocked. While he has been living abroad for over 20+ years, he did live the first 20+ years of his life in India. Surely, he would have observed this kind of behaviour among his relatives, if not his family. At the very least, he would have read about the lousy status of widows in certain communities, including the one he was born into.
One may claim it is possible that a person is actually unaware of certain kinds of discrimination (or social situations) simply due to lack of exposure. For example, people who have always lived in cities and have never been to remote villages would have absolutely no idea there are people living in places without electricity, tap water, toilets, roads, etc., which are taken for granted in cities.
I don’t agree. Even before the advent of internet, well-read people in India were aware of the discrimination faced by coloured people in countries that they had never visited. The term ‘apartheid’ was known. So how can we claim we don’t know about various forms of discrimination that have been going on for centuries in our own backyard?
There are many forms of discrimination being practised around us. Often, when we see some form of discrimination being practised and we know it is wrong, we don’t act or speak against it.
Sometimes, we are indifferent because we think it is harmless.
Sometimes, we are indifferent because we think we cannot make a difference.
Mostly, we are indifferent because we think it doesn’t directly affect us.
But, we are shocked and disgusted when the victim is one of ourselves. That’s when we realise that it’s not harmless and that we should try to make a difference, even if a particular episode doesn’t directly affect us.