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Culture Shock.

When I first married Yash and came out here to live in India, I had worked among Indians for over eight years.  I had also read every book, article and news report I could on life and culture in this country.  Therefore, I did not suffer from culture shock when I came out here.  I wish that was true.

While it's perfectly true that I knew a lot about the food, literature and culture of this country and had more than a passing knowledge of the language, I didn't quite get everything about the culture of this wonderful and mystifying (for westerners!) country, while it could be said that I understood a great deal.  I also found out one of the more obvious things in one of the most difficult ways possible - personal experience.

When Yash and I got married, we decided to try to have a child straight away as we were both quite mature in years.  We didn't want to be at retirement age while our kids were still at school. We were both delighted when I got pregnant immediately.  One morning, when I'd just completed the eighth month, I woke up to find that my uterus seemed to be dripping water.  A quick trip to the hospital confirmed that my waters had broken so the hospital took me in and induced my labour.  At the end of a long day (well, about six thirty in the evening), our first child, a boy, just a tiny scrap of humanity, made his appearance.  Unfortunately, he'd inhaled some amniotic fluid during delivery.  Some agonizing days ensued when we weren't quite sure if he would make it.  Thankfully, he did.

Finally, battered, bruised and somewhat traumatized, I arrived home with my precious bundle to begin life as a mother.It wasn't easy.  I both adored and was terrified of the baby.  He was so tiny, I was afraid he'd fall and get hurt.  I was afraid he'd fall asleep and never wake up.  I had this urge to protect him from everything.  The situation wasn't helped by the fact that the paternal grandparents seemed to think he was theirs.  Not mine.  Theirs.  Every time I turned around, they'd picked him up and made off with him.  To add insult to injury, whenever he got a cold or something (which he did, a lot, that first year), they used to scold me for not looking after him properly.   Once, one of them, can't remember which, actually claimed that because of the premature delivery, I'd nearly harmed their grandson, but thank God, God was great and he was okay.  I was severely upset by this kind of useless talk which was clearly just a throw away remark not at all meant to be taken seriously.

Looking back now, I realize that I suffered some kind of trauma at the delivery.  There had been very little pain relief, apart from some injections - no epidural, as many of my friends in Dublin had when they delivered.  Moreover, I suffered an excruciating form of torture  known as an episiotomy at the actual moment of delivery, which aided a quick birth because of the emergency situation, but which had to be rather painfully stitched up afterwards.  Lying on my back during the birth, I had no idea what was going on down at the other end of the table.  No wonder I nearly lost my mind.  I think I was in shock.

It took a while to recover.  What a time to learn that in most Indian as well as many other Asian cultures, the mother is simply considered as the birth giver of the child.  The true guardians of a child are considered to be the paternal grandparents.  In a culture where very young marriages under the guidance of the elders was formerly  the norm, this attitude probably made sense long ago, but seems irrelevant today.

Well, you live and learn.  I know I did.

This is my weekly post for the Loose Blogger Consortium. We are a group of bloggers from different parts of the world with diverse views and styles of writing, and we post simultaneously (well, we try to) on a weekly basis on a given topic.  Our members  are, in no particular order,  Anu,  Maria Silverfox,   Magpie, Will Knott,   Rohit,  Noor, JoePaulAkankshaDelirious, Padmini, AshokConrad, Maria, Grannymar, and Rummuser.  This topic 'Culture Shock' was chosen by me, Maria.


  1. ;-) We both mention having a baby in our posts today. Life is never the same, it really is a culture shock and no matter what they reach, they will always remain our babies!

  2. I think there are many aspects to culture that you can't read about in a book. You have to live in the culture to begin to understand.

    Giving birth is a type of culture shock in itself! Women can talk about their giving birth for hours on end without getting bored. It can truly be a traumatic experience!

  3. That's very interesting.
    Some of it is the shock of motherhood.
    But the grandparents taking control can be very traumatic and irritating and hurtful - as well as a delightful welcome relief. Depends on the parents and grandparents I suppose.
    I guess you had only the one set to contend with. I thought I might have neither, but mine jetted over to be there to welcome us back from hospital. I was pleased to see them, but the pleasure wasn't universal. Understandable I suppose. Sometime one justs wants a bit of peace, regardless of how well-meaning the intervention may be.

  4. As someone who is permanently stuck in two races, this reminds me of the quote from T.E. Lawrence - aka Lawrence of Arabia:

    "Pray God that men reading the story will not, for love of the glamour of stangeness, go out to prostitute themselves and their talents in serving another race.

    A man who gives himself to be a possession of aliens leads a Yahoo life, having bartered his soul to a brute-master. ..."

    If I had to do it all over again, I would!

  5. I must say I expected the usual culture shock related things in your post that most westerners experience in India. But never this. Sorry to know you had to go through all of that in those early days.

    I would like to say something however, with regards to what you said you feel is the case with grandparents trying to own the child. This is not in defence in any way but simply an attempt to provide a different perspective. Most things you see in Indian culture have their origin in deep and complex philosophical/spiritual system that underpins every little thing one does, says, thinks and experiences. One way to understand this is to never discard anything you experience at face value. While it is true that in the Indian dark ages young marriages caused the attitude of grandparents to change, there is another side to it. The emphasis has always been on living life experiencing all material pleasures while at the very same time being detached. This comment box is limited to provide an elaborate response and I hope to cover this topic soon on my blog. To summarise though, it is only a natural instinct for a mother to get attached to her child, and inadvertently cause more harm than good trying to be overly sensitive and protective. Grandparents trying to take most care in early days is not only meant to lighten her burden as well as make her realise the truth that the child is not owned by anyone at all even in her agony. A subtle innuendo here also relates to the fact that human mind most readily accepts truth only when it is in two states...ecstacy and agony. If told then, it stays, takes root and transforms into a realisation.

    The mother does not own a child in this culture, and neither does anybody else. The belief is that a soul chooses the womb according to its past deeds and all its relatives and friends who come in its life at different stages have only one help this soul fulfil its destiny by paying off any debts and achieving liberation. There is so much more to this and again, this place is not sufficient.

    Please don't think I am trying to add another insult to your injury, my intention in writing this is purely to provide a different perspective. I do think that one can only completely understand the Indian culture if born in it, but then again, any such differences are but superficial :)

  6. @Grannymar - yes it is indeed true, the first experience of motherhood is a culture shock no matter where you are and you have to go through it to experience.

    @Delirious - I used to get bored senseless hearing mothers talking about this stuff before I became a mother myself. Then one fine day, after that first delivery, it all made wonderful sense!

    @blackwatertown - the reason why I probably responded with such annoyance to grandparental interference as such is, I feel,probably because of the trauma of that first experience of delivery and that too in a foreign place. Thankfully, things settled down after a while.

    @Looney - it is a mixed blessing indeed to be caught between two cultures.

    @Rohit - yes, that makes sense all right. In a way it is true - no one owns the child. Indeed, I've always felt that children are simply lent to us to care for and nurture in those first few years until they go and live their own lives. But I was somewhere else after that first child was born. My response was like a tigress protecting her cub. Totally material and material based. I've always been possessive of my kids, but not as much of the later ones as of the earlier one. I was much more confident later on.

  7. In my LBC post I had expressed my keenness to see how you would tackle the topic but this approach is a googly, but a very interesting one nevertheless. As a man, I did not quite feel the same as you did, when Ranjan was born. But, I can tell you that no experience, ever before or afterwards, has come any where near the awe, not quite shock, that I felt that we had produced that wonderful life. I visit that experience often in my musings and share with him what I felt then and I do now, often, much to his embarrassment.

  8. @Rummuser - it goes without saying that the male and female experience of the same thing differs greatly.

  9. Do you believe that everything that goes around comes around?

  10. It must have been a terrible ordeal not having much help from pain relief but the worst thing of all was to have your baby *taken over*. That would really have got me down.
    So pleased that your first born lived and didn't put you off having the others.
    maggie X

    Nuts in May

  11. @25Bar - Yes I do.

    @Maggie May - When you're a believer, it doesn't mean bad things won't happen, but if you have faith, it means you'll come through a winner every time. I think you and I both know that!


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