The White Punjabi Bride
Where Do You Draw The Line With Your Privacy Living In India?
Updated: Dec 14, 2020
Living in India you will find that almost everyone will know every aspect of your life. You could even meet a distant relative with 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 for, 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 an interracial relationship I wonder about 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 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. Now this was a specialist doctor to help us with fertility treatments, and not just a general doctor's appointment. Which made it a bit more personal for me than if I were to go and have my blood pressure checked. 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 in these particular circumstances other than my husband. Why? Because I want to digest the information first before I decide if I want to, or am ready to, discuss it 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 the first discussions I had with my family about my need to keep my fertility appointments private, they obviously didn't understand. As when my next appointment came up, they had invited a neighbour along in support of me. Which only made me feel even more awkward than I already did.
Perhaps they thought I was trying to be polite by letting them know they don't need to dote on me. Even my husband couldn't understand my need for privacy as he had a friend come along to support him. What ever happened to husband and wife supporting one another? 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 at that time.
However 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. Which is their way of showing interest in your life, though as I've mentioned before, is a very fine line. Even when guests visit our home they rummage through my personal belongings without even considering to ask if I don't mind.
They will simply 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 a comment about how that was not appropriate to do so in my culture.
Even when we had guests staying over for our wedding, they didn't give a second thought to using any of 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 therefore anticipate that you would be willing to share with them. Which is a little different to how I was raised, and won't use other's belongings unless invited to do so or I have asked. So for those visiting in laws in India, if you don't want everyone to use the last drops of your luxury perfume or to leave hairs on your bar of soap, then it's best to keep your personal amenities locked away in your bedroom.
Their behaviour may seem intrusive, though this is simply how they show an interest in the live's of those they love. Which can cross the line at times when cultures collide. Though I just love how family oriented the Indian culture is however when it comes to your privacy, there are just a few moments in life where you should be allowed to decide as to whether or not you share this with family or friends.
Where do you draw the line with your privacy?