As expected the Indian media is quoting Oprah (while being interviewed by Barkha Dutt in Jaipur Lit Fest)
“Another thing that struck her as wonderful was the Indian sense of family and tradition. ‘I remember asking Abhishek and Aishwarya [Bachchan] on my show, I asked them — How do you still live with your parents, what’s that all about? And Abhishek replied, ‘How do you not — what’s that all about?’ It’s a glorious thing that in this country, families take care of each other.’ ” [link]
It’s all too complex for a foreigner to ‘get it’. Oprah didn’t (seem to) understand that the wonderful Indian family and tradition allows and expects only Indian sons (and their spouse) to live with their parents; and as a result daughters either don’t live, or if they do, atleast not for long with their parents. Daughters remain unwanted by their parents because they are going to care for somebody’s parents and not their own. And despite all this, ‘100 per cent of the elderly surveyed stated that their daughters-in-law abused them the most’. [Link] It seems Indian daughters are made to give up their self reliance, freedom, aspirations, happiness, even lives for a system that does not even work.
Oprah also visited the widows of Vrindavan and was appalled that our wonderful Indian sense of family and tradition did not stop us from disrespecting family members if they became dependent on us. (These were not her words, she was too polite to judge a culture she didn’t quite understand).
She noticed that we seemed to have ‘no respect for nursing homes’ and prefer to care for our elderly ourselves. I doubt if Oprah sensed that our family values didn’t include the common sense in ensuring that widows had empowerment through financial security.
She also seemed to think excluding widows from festivities could be compared to their being treated as being less-equal in the West. Educated, middle class widows staying voluntarily away from religious rituals and auspicious occasions because they don’t want to give someone a chance to humiliate them by asking them to stay away would be difficult to understand for someone who doesn’t really know that the biggest blessing an Indian woman can be given is that she dies before her husband – i.e. dies a sumanagali. No widow, no Widow-ashram. That’s how India solves problems.
Dheeyaan dee maa rani, bhudhaapey bharey paani (A mother of daughters lives like a queen while the girls are young, but has to fill water in her old age, when the daughters are married)