My second encounter with the Indian culture

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When we parted at London airport, we promised that we would look for each other when we return to Munich. And we kept our promising, which was even simpler than we thought, because it turned out that Bharti’s husband worked at the same university, where my husband, and on the top of that they even lived nearby from us in a leafy area in a beautiful detached house.

Our second encounter took place in the university buffet. It was a cold day in March so to my regret instead of her turqoise sari, Bharti showed up in a jeans and a T-shirt but looked radiant. After getting our hot chocolate, we sat in the bar’s black and white lounge into a comfortable rocking chair. „And what are your first impressions of München?”-I opened our chit-chat with that familiar question. -Well, compared to India the weather is of course colder, but at least not as much rain falls and the sky is really a “Bavarian” blue. In Munich everyone is friendly, helpful and speaks good English, so it helps to adapt easily. We love our home, with 6 rooms, and the landlady is very motherly, she invites me almost every day for a daily afternoon tea with a cake.- So, all well and good, and absolutely positive! I am sincerely happy for you.- And aren’t you bored at home? -Oh no, no, no- she shook her head -because now we are in our honemoon- she said and blushed.- My husband always comes home for lunch, then after eating we can take a nap. Do you mind if I spoke about this?- she asked me again.- Oh no, if you do not mind!- because I knew how hard it was to find a confidential friend when I moved to Belgium, far from the family and old friends. -And something has changed in your relationship since your wedding?- Oh, yes, yes, yes!- she repeated vigorously.- I feel I am in love with my husband,-she said pressing the world-. Well, then I’m so happy for you and I invited her and her „other half” to a dinner on Friday next week.

When I opened the door and saw behind Bharti’s shoulder her husband, I immediately recognized him of the picture of their wedding’s pillow. He was small, physiquely slim, had a little mustache under his nose, what made his boyish look older and was paler-skinned than his wife. -Meet Vaibhao-introduced us Bharti her husband and after some formal greeting phrases we led them to our living room.

As the husband was talkative on the nice way, as taciturn was Bharti in the presence of her husband, later I figured out that this is one of the important teachings of Hinduism. A woman should be silent in the presence of her husband! (How many Hungarian husband fancied that teaching, and broke his arms and legs to rush to India to pick up the Hindu religion or rather a Hindu wife!) Vaibhao talked about his work how he’s dealing with the neurological research (Alzheimer) in the institute, and then he diverted the converse into his root, so we had learned that that he had already been the second-middle-class generation from his family. Meanwhile he was talking I realized that we have no idea about people’s struggles in India where parents pay high price to educate their children for a better future and behind someone’s degree there is an the incredible self-sacrifice, but in Europe as people live better living condition children don’t appreciate the effort of their parents that much!

After dinner when we all sat comfortably in our living room the word turned on the marriage in Indian style. The rest of the guests were PHD students, about the age of late twenty or early thirty, (so it was an exciting topic ) but we, my husband and I also listened with great interest to his sayings about one of the oldest culture. He said that before he had met Bharti, he did not have much experience, because virginity is required not only for women but also applies to men. By the time Peter, a 28 years old Hungarian guy, interrupted him and proposed the next question: -and how do men repress their sexual desires, when they are excited?- Vaihbao replied that there are for the Kama Sutra and there are chapters for men to practice their temperance.

As I listened to that men and women’s lives are governed by the Hindu doctrines, I started not to agree what I heard. Does it make any good if Indian people live their lives among a lot of prohibitions, which are really required by Hinduism, Buddhism? Okay, do not eat cattle, do not drink alcohol, do not use drugs they are not at all bad things, I mean I have no difficulty to comply, but I had a feeling that women had to live in their houses to accept a non-stop family service, but the question is does it fill in their expectations of married life? But after a second thought I realized that maybe it does because firstly these are the principals of the Indian culture meaning that the Indian women are happy to bear their fates, (and also because of the limited work possibilities) secondly they are brought up being less assertive, less self-centered than the Europeans and they live not for making a career, but for a happy marriage.

-And is there prostitution?- asked curiously a German student. What will happen to one who breaks the rules prescribed by society? For my great surprise Bharti took the floor:-Well the society cast them, those women who are virgin going to get married, but if someone gets pregnant, better lose one’s fortune than one’s honor because of the exclusion is equal to the death. Without a man, family and friends a woman will starve.- Hearing that I added that it happened the same to a woman about 100 years ago in Europa-, when a woman got pregnant before tying a knot in the altar was condemned and casted out.

Then for a counter example Bharti brought on a popular English movie: A Tale of Love which was one of my favourite movie as well, a fine carefully told tragedy in the context of 16th century India. It portrays a woman’s plight in that time, the question is marry or be a courtesan in a harem. A bit ellaborate: the plot is the tale of two girls, Maya and Tara, one is a lowly servant, the other is a noble princess, both raised together as children. They are best friends but Tara forever reminds Maya of her subordinate position. Though her striking beauty and her skills of seduction learnt through the Kama Sutra, the Indian book of love, Maya exacts her revenge on Tara by seducing her husband, the maharaja the sole heir on her wedding day thus it is the beginning of a destructive struggle for power where revenge is the goal, but the outcome is a tragedy. 

-Congratulation! You have won our “case” because Maya’s way of thinking and her deeds were indeed like a 21st century modern woman’s. -So I lost!-I repeated and she accepted that with a great laugh.

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