Where Do You Draw The Line With Your Privacy Living In India?
Living in India you will find that almost everyone will know your life's story. You can meet a distant relative whom you have never met before, yet they will know every aspect of your life. Or even your neighbours seem to know when your next doctor's appointment has been scheduled, before you do. Not to mention your mother and father in law, best friends wife and husband will all be attending your doctor's appointment with you. Needless to say it is the norm in Indian culture to share every aspect of your life with your friends and family, oh and the family tailor, hairdresser, guru, and grocer. So where does one draw the line when it comes to your privacy? Being in a bicultural relationship I wonder this frequently as sometimes I would just like to have some time to digest things first before I share something with friends and family. Or then there are some experiences that should be shared with just a husband and wife. At times it can feel like I am on the sideline to my own life.
It is human nature to want to share experiences with those we love or to support them when times are difficult. Though one should also be able to respect another's privacy. However living in a culture where it is normal to share your whole life it is difficult to say no. There are certain life events that I believe should be experienced between a couple first before sharing the moment with friends and family. Or even if you share them at all, it should be your choice. Whether these moments are good or bad. Such moments like giving birth, doctor's appointments, applying for a home loan and many other things. Giving birth for instance it should be the woman's choice if she feels comfortable having friends and family in the operating room. It should be a personal choice and not expected that friends and family can join at their leisure. That moment should be between a husband and wife, they should be able to experience holding their baby for the first time together as a family. I am not suggesting that they don't share that moment at all. But simply saying that if they choose to have a private moment they shouldn't be criticised for it. Not to mention that she may not be comfortable with people onlooking whilst she is in pain during labour. I use this merely as an example, rather than drawing from my own experiences.
So when it comes to other moments in life why should it be viewed any differently? My husband and I had this very argument about who should attend my doctor's appointments. If you read my article about Visiting A Doctor In Punjab then you will know that there is next to no privacy in a doctors clinic. Therefore even if you bring friends and family to your appointment and they sit in the waiting area they still get a front row seat to your appointment. Now personally I don't feel comfortable with anyone else at my appointment other than my husband. Why? Because I want to digest the information first before discussing with others. Why should I sit there whilst the doctor speaks Punjabi to my husband and everyone else whilst I sit there as a bystander to my own doctor's appointment. I should be able to digest the information in my own time and in my own way. Furthermore I know I will be bombarded with millions of questions that I haven't even had a chance to process. Don't get me wrong it is amazing that our friends and family are so caring, but sometimes that line is very fine and can become intrusive.
It is difficult for them to understand my need for privacy when they have been raised in such a communal environment, where everyone shares everything. With the exception of taboo topics that are off limits such as intercourse. So my first discussions I had with my family about my need to keep my doctor's appointments private they obviously didn't understand. Perhaps they thought I was being polite and letting them know they don't need to dote on me as my next appointment they invited a neighbour along. Even my husband couldn't understand my need for privacy and had a friend come along in the waiting room. I didn't mind my mother and father in law coming along with us and sitting in the waiting bay. However that was the extent of who I was comfortable having along.
It isn't only moments like these where all your friends and family are involved, they make it their business to know everything about your life. Even when guests visit they rummage through my personal belongings without even considering to ask if I don't mind. They pick up items and open them or flick through them, even if the item is still sealed in its packaging. Even personal paperwork like doctor's notes I had in a folder on a bench wasn't off limits, and before I realised the mistake of not hiding it, they were busily flicking through the notes. I just stared in disbelief before I made comment about how that was not appropriate to do in my culture. However for them it was a way of showing interest in my life. When we had guests over for my wedding they didn't even give second thought to using my soaps and amenities in the bathroom. Personally I always use my own soap for hygiene reasons however it is the norm to share. Their belief is that they would be willing to share with you.
Their behaviour may seem intrusive to some but it is because they show an interest in your life. I love how family oriented the culture is however there are just a few moments in life where you should be allowed some privacy.
Who else has been in a similar experience?