Monday, August 1, 2011

This one says "Don't worry, be happy"

Well, I'm home, sick, today so as I browsed through some Facebook updates, I stumbled upon this recommended article. The title of the article (which, in my honest opinion, could've used some serious editing and better authorship) is "Don't worry, be happy" and it tries to explain why a whopping 87% of Indian women are stressed compared to say, an average of 53% of American women (according to a survey). It covers a number of issues by way of explanation, ranging from female infanticide to female jealousy. It's not a terrible attempt, but I'd like to offer an explanation or two of my own to explain these numbers, which I think, could very well be close to the truth.

Also, I'd like to focus on a narrower section of the Indian society, one that I can relate to - the middle class. Rather than seek complicated theories, I think I'll start with the more obvious things that we've all seen our mothers deal with.

The Indian mother revels in a life-long of worrying. It's almost a duty. And it begins when your kid first steps into school. Emphasis on education and grades is so high in India that the average mother (or more so, the Indian mother of the "average student") is constantly worried about her son or daughter not doing well in school. Then, as they get older, there are the 10th board exams, followed by the 12th exams, followed by myriad "entrance exams" to gain admission into a decent University, followed by admissions into post graduate programs, all of which give Indian parents sleepless nights for financial and other reasons. Because, even today, a good education is the only path to a comfortable life in India, and Indian parents cannot see their kids making the cardinal mistake of not paying attention in school. By the time this long saga of education is over (consider multiple iterations for multiple children), it's time to worry about getting your daughter and/or son married. Indian parents, unlike parents in the West, are rather involved in finding a their children's life partners for them. This is no joke and I can only imagine the pressure this puts on a parent. This can take years, and the wedding itself is typically 6 months or so of pure, unadulterated stress. After this, it's time to help the kids raise their young ones (if you have 2 kids, you can assume 4 grand children).

So, honestly, when does this end? Also, I'm not saying that Indian fathers are not worried. They are, but like all other men, they can fall back on cricket/beer to distract themselves every now and then (not being critical, just envious). Women on the other hand can seriously obsess. Anyway, that was my two cents. Can I offer solutions? Actually, no. A large part of this stress is cultural - the need to solve all your children's problems. And that gets handed down from generation to generation. Until that changes, the stress will remain.