As Indians, we are led to believe that age is something that HAS to be respected. You don’t argue with elders. You don’t look at them with defiance. You don’t contest their decisions, that they made for YOU. And if you manage to touch their feet at every opportunity there is, you are a winner. I don’t subscribe to this kind of assumed, obligatory respect.
I was at the pharmacy today just browsing through for some random stuff and waiting to be attended to. There was a girl right before me, whose temper seemed to be rising by the second. There was an elderly person who there giving you stuff and making bills. It’s very important to mention that it was a typical Ayurvedic pharmacy cum treatment centre. This should give a fair idea that the elderly person was also a typical one who expected respect from anyone younger and more so from a younger girl. The girl who had been waiting since long time suddenly couldn’t take it any longer and started telling the elderly guy, “Uncle, I have been waiting here since the last 2 hours and I can’t take it any longer. I need my money. I am not from here I need to go back to Hyderabad”. The uncle was taken aback of course. How could a girl talk to him like that? She said, “No I won’t take cheque. I want my money and I got stuff from here only because you promised the last time that I’d be immediately refunded if I had to return it for some reason.” And to my utter shock, the elderly uncle shouted, “Chup baith tu!” I went blank for a second. How could anyone possibly talk to someone they didn’t know like that…and to a customer, at that? The old man suddenly got defensive and started saying he didn’t have money in the morning. I totally understood the girl’s point which was it wasn’t morning for one and that it wasn’t her problem. And then the drama got more interesting. There was another middle-aged woman there who started telling the girl’s mother who till then was just sitting there not knowing what to do. The woman actually asked the mother to convince her daughter to let go because he was an elderly and very respectable person. She started telling how the man would absolutely return the money since he was such an old and honest human being. The whole discussion just turned around at this point and the girl was made to look like the bad guy. At this point the doctor came out and asked the girl to keep it low as the other patients were getting disturbed. She chose to completely ignore the older man who was yelling and creating quite a ruckus. The man also started telling the sympathetic middle-aged woman in Malayalam how the girl shouldn’t have yelled. Everyone just started cornering the girl. To the point that even her mother started convincing her to come back in the evening. The girl retorted, “why didn’t you tell this to me before. Why did you make me wait for 2 hours? Why should I believe you? and what if you make me wait for 2 hours again?” All of these were very valid points but the girl still had to back out and reluctantly agree to come back in the evening.
I don’t understand this. Where is it written that you HAVE to respect older people? And even if it was, just because it’s written doesn’t make it right or valid. Wouldn’t people like to earn respect instead of claim it for age which is just a number and needs no contribution whatsoever from them? I am surprised how the expectation of respect from a person is directly proportional to their gender. If you are a woman, you HAVE to respect anything. I also fail to understand the irrational importance attached to touching people’s feet. Okay, I get it that it’s a sign of respect and acceptance of someone’s power. But what has age got anything to do with it. It’s very unfortunate that even today, when girls do everything that only boy’s traditionally did, this meaningless gesture is still the yardstick of a girl’s character a.k.a her docility and readiness to submit to authority.I hated touching people’s feet even as a child. I felt I was being dishonest to myself every time I touched my grandmother’s feet. Why I was being dishonest to her too. She didn’t have any quality that to me defines a person worth respecting. She disrespected and mistreated her daughter-in-law, she demanded respect, never commanded it. When I couldn’t take it any longer I stopped doing it as often as I did it earlier. But due to the embedded need to show if not have respect for someone, I still did it occasionally. It’s funny how I’d feel guilty when I didn’t. And it felt guilty even when I did because there was no emotion behind the physical activity of bowing down.
I don’t believe in numbers when it comes to respect. I have respect for anyone who has respect for other’s point of view and for other’s right to have an opinion and express it. It’s high time we started questioning meaningless gestures we routinely do without any feeling. What do you think?