Tag Archives: parents

The Indian lecture culture

Being lectured. And lecturing. The two sides of a coin. We all hate being lectured to. Nothing more annoying than that really. On the other hand, we love lecblablablaturing. When we get the opportunity to lecture, we believe we are wisdom personified. We just go on and on. We don’t get (or maybe we choose to ignore) that the recipient of the lecture is getting pissed off.

I’m Indian and this article is from an Indian standpoint. I’m not sure at all that this applies to other nations. In India we grow up and age on a staple diet of lectures. Everyone thinks it’s their birthright to lecture us. We just don’t know the art of stating things smartly. We need to make everything sound like a lecture. It starts with our parents. They lecture us for everything. If you dig your nose you get a lecture. If you climb a slide backwards you get an earful. If you eat with both hands – God forbid – you’ll be lectured about the demerits of eating with your left hand, until your meal is digested and passed out of your system.

Then we start schooling. That’s really 12 years of unending lecture sessions. Every subject teacher thinks we all need a lecture on diverse topics ranging from tidiness, discipline, running in the corridors, doing homework, presenting work neatly, revising your lessons, handwriting, asking permission to use the toilet or to drink water, doing extra reading on the subjects we are learning, eating healthy food, coming to school on time, polishing your shoes, cutting your nails, how boys should have short hair and girls should have long hair and not the other way around, revising your answer paper before submitting it, how to avoid silly mistakes in exams…and so on. On any given day, teachers can find many exciting topics and they unleash a flurry of words on a captive audience of bored students. I’m sure they are well meaning talks, but the student’s space out and go about their business of drawing nasty cartoons of the teacher in their rough note. Not a word of what the teacher says registers in the mind. Which is a pity, really.

You’d think, we’d be done with lectures once we leave school. But no. It continues in college. Worse still, here even the teachers graduate to being called ‘lecturers’ and they live up to their name! College lectures cover pretty much the same topics as the school ones. Only they are longer and more intense.

hairpullYou graduate. Hurray! And you think you’re done with lectures. You’re about to get into the corporate world. You’re free to do what you like. Think what you like. You’re officially an adult – who earns. But the joke is on you my friend. Because the lectures now come from all your bosses down the line. They get nastier in fact as each one takes out their anger and frustrations on you. Tips on how to do the job right. Do’s and don’ts. Rights and wrongs. These days you get to attend concalls from clients abroad and you hear lectures in myriad accents – on interesting topics like how to plan your work better and meet your deadlines.

If some of you are smirking out there saying, you’re a home maker and these office politics don’t apply to you. Well, I have news for you! If you thought your mother was the lecture expert, your mother in law, takes over the mantle with aplomb and runs with it wholeheartedly. How to cook healthy meals, how to maintain a home, how to manage maids, how to bring up your kids…oh yes the list is endless.

Apart from these regulars, random people also lecture you:

The auto driver – if you dare to argue about the exorbitant fare he demands, he will lecture you on the rising cost of living.

The vegetable vendor – If you so much as raise your eyebrows upon reading the price tag on onions, the vendor will unleash upon you his theory of how the government deliberately hoards onions, increases prices and makes money on it.

The milk delivery man – If you go OMG about the milk prices – you will be subjected to the above mentioned onion like lecture on government atrocity.

The digital set top box repair guy – He will give you the works about how to use your remote and set top box right. So that it never breaks down and you never need his services ever again.

The family doctor – If you come down with the flu or something, then the trusted doctor will lecture you on how to take care of your health. What exercise to do, what vitamins to pop in so that you build better resistance.

Your friends – Oh yes. If you’re stuck with the wrong bunch of friends – they lecture too! If you don’t attend their parties. Or if you attend someone else’s parties. Or if you go off for a movie without them. Or you plan a trip with some other friends…then they give you an earful.

Your housemaid – The housemaid bunks work. It is her birthright. If you question her, she will lecture you about how you live in comfort and get running water in your taps. She has to pump water and carry them in pots and buckets to her home. This makes her sick. How dare you question her!blah_00033341

Your siblings and random cousins – If you forget to make those mandatory calls or write those emails updating them about your whereabouts…then you’ve had it!

Your yoga teacher or gym instructor – Oh boy! The lectures you get! Let’s not even get started on this…

All this while, mind you, the lecture from parents continue. In India, parents assume they need to keep teaching you to do things. Even if you are 60, your 90 year old mother will scold and lecture you on how to do things right.

The flip side?

By the time we are forty, we Indians are masters at giving lectures on any topic. And why not? We hear it every day from every possible source. So do lectures piss us off. Yes! Do we love to lecture. Yes! It’s a vicious circle. And we are well and truly trapped.

Note: Definition of lecture
– speech read or delivered before an audience or class, especially for instruction or to set forth some subject
- a speech of warning or reproof as to conduct; a long, tedious reprimand. verb (used without object), lectured, lecturing.
- instruct by lectures.
- to rebuke or reprimand at some length


The success meter

Life could be so simple, if we expect very little from it. If we wake up each morning and thank the Lord for that roof over our heads and the hot food on our table. Sigh. If only…

It’s unimaginable what a big ‘if’ that is! It’s incredible how we as human beings manage to complicate our simple needs. We build prototypes into which everything in life must fit. Be it what we eat, where we live, what we wear…everything must be as we imagined it to be. Otherwise we suffer from heartaches.

Now…what brought this on, is a recent meeting with a very dear friends’ parents. This friend G has an older sister K. All through his childhood G was compared with K. She scored much more in studies, sports and extracurricular. G found himself running all the time to catch up with her achievements and his parents’ expectations. I don’t think he ever really got there. Now at this point I wonder – why it never occurred to the parents that their younger child cannot be a clone of the older one! Perhaps he had skills of his own that they never really got around to discovering.

Anyways the good news is that despite that kind of upbringing G turned out to be rather a cool kid and did extremely well for himself in life. He moved out of India and away from the shadow of his larger than life sister! We met him at this juncture – in Muscat. We had some great years together until the topic of his wedding came up. Being Punjabis – his parents wanted him to marry someone from their community. They kept sending him photographs of fair, robust, Punjabi girls and our man kept rejecting them. He could not fathom how he could agree to marry someone just by seeing their photograph. He at least had to meet them. So meetings were arranged with prospective girls – but he rejected them all much to his parents chagrin. Oh and his able sister in the meantime had found herself a wealthy Maharastrian and was well set in life with 2 kids, 2 dogs and a host of domestic help…

Finally G found himself a girl in Muscat. She unfortunately was not a Punjabi girl but a simple, homely Rajasthani girl. It took him nearly a year to convince his parents! Eventually his persistence won and he married his lady love. Though his parents – till date – have not really accepted her. She does not fit their mould you see.

Today G has two kids (no dogs, no palatial 7 bedroom bungalow and no parade of servants…tut tut).

So yeah, like I was saying, what brought this on was a recent meeting with G’s parents. They were staying in their daughter’s oh-so-cool bungalow. It’s a really, obscenely huge and cold house! A massive basement, a ground level which houses a living room the size of a football ground, a dining area, a huge kitchen, a study cum gym room and two bedrooms. I’m not joking when I say that voices echo around the cold walls of the house. No amount of smart furniture can add that warmth to it I feel. Then there’s upstairs – a den to watch TV etc and 3 bedrooms, the boy’s bedroom has a car theme and the girls’ has a princess theme. Don’t forget the bathrooms with matching blue (for the boy) and pink (for the girl) décor. G’s mom took us proudly around the house, panting, wheezing and waddling up the stairs. Every second word she uttered was about how huge and lovely K’s house was! She insisted that we examine every detail – even the thoughtfully done up bathroom tiles. Oh then there were terraces with mood lighting. One for small parties, one for barbeque nights and so on. Then we went up another level to a huge terrace (for kids’s birthday parties). There was room up there with a swank home theater and hold your breath…the bathroom here had a Jacuzzi. So wow huh?

We were there for almost 2 hours and all the time we heard about how big K’s house is. G’s house is nice too…but rather small, you see. Only 3 bedrooms and that too small rooms. They felt suffocated there, they are so used to large spaces you see. And…gasp….only one servant. Poor G with the small 3 bedroom apartment.  Some day, they hope, he will do well too.

But we, for a fact, know that G is doing pretty well for himself. He has a sweet little family and is happy. Now does that state of mind and heart add up to anything at all? Or do we need to measure happiness and success by the size of his home and the number of servants he has?

As we said our goodbyes and left…I felt sorry for G’s parents. They were so torn and worried about G. He is not as successful as K! They are so fixated in their definition of ‘happiness’ that they cannot see how happy he really is! Pity.

I thank my lucky stars that for my parents success is simply measured by how happy we are. That really, is all there is to it. Isn’t it?