The previous post marks the end of romantic descriptions about culture and all.
Present day scenario – I have been mentioning things which are not followed strict now (or have even disappeared) and things which are being adopted from other communities.
The sad part is the disappearence of language. I have mentioned earlier my reasons for not speaking Maithili. I was often chided in my childhood by relatives and family friends for not speaking it, but seeing the situation now, it seems I was only little ahead of time. For the kids of the next generation, even in villages people are encouraging the use of Hindi; urban areas its almost a norm. While I am trying to learn, others are unlearning. I remember I was once calling up a cousin sister of mine who stays with her in-laws in a village of Supaul (closer to “uttar”). Hers is a big and joint family and considered very traditional one. Normally she would not pick up the phone herself and hence I decided to talk in Maithili with whosoever picks it up. Else, it would not appear very good; so I thought. I wasn’t quite comfortable with Maithili then. But I thought it was a matter of few minutes, after which the phone will be handed over to my sister. As it happened my brother-in-law picked up the phone, and then I regretted having spoken in Maithili. With him I had to talk for sometime and he didn’t intend to buzz from Maithili when he heard me using it! But the surprise was yet to come. I talked to my sister and then she handed over the phone to my little nephews (with whom I had not had a chance to talk earlier) and they started talking in Hindi! After finishing the conversation I was looking surprised and then my mother gave me the clarification that in her family all the kids talk in Hindi only. Well, I thought the family prided itself in its “traditional” values.
No, do not get the notion that I am too partial to following tradition, no matter what; of course I do not believe in throwing away things just like that.
Tradition brings with it bad things, which must be thrown away. For example, “parda”. Parda system is still very strict in Maithil society. It is more strictly followed than in many other communities around, even today. The progress has not been very much. There are some interesting aspects here too. Though parda is there with all elder male members amongst the in-laws, the most prohibitive of the relationships is between “bhaisur” (”Jeth” in Hindi – husband’s elder brother) and “bhabho” (a man’s youger brother’s wife). As daughter-in-law gets settled in the family, with time, it might be acceptable to talk to father-in-law, especially if no elderly lady in the family is left, but not with Jeth! Similarly prohibitive relationship is with “Mamia Sasur” (husband’s maternal uncle). But of course, this one does not matter much, since it would not be very often that one would come in contact of “Mamia Sasur”. Since my mother had gained quite some bit of fame for observing several nuances of parda in my native village despite having been brought up in an urban setting, I keep hearing stories about it from time to time. It was after 25 years of her marriage that she, for the first time, stepped into somebody else’s house in my village! Of course, it was possible only because she would visit the place only occasionally (say once or twice a year). Still – that’s pretty much a reason for her to be have gained (+ve) fame
The situation of dowry, I have already talked about. That leads of the situation of girls. Most of the time brought up simply to get married! Once in a while I have been chided by some “concerned” relatives for not getting up early enough, for letting my brother make tea when I am there, for not knowing how to cook, for not waiting with the jug of water after giving somebody a glass of it etc. etc. I remember once I was studying and my father was drinking water, when I asked him to give me a glass too. One of my relatives was visiting us then; and as I came to know later, this incidence had become quite a bit of story! Similarly once my mother was ill. I was at home for summer vacation. Just then some other relatives came to visit us. Out of habit, or probably because I wouldn’t know where she keeps the things in the kitchen anyway, my mother asked my brother to make tea and I did not show any initiative either. Around 6 months later, my mother heard concerns over my not knowing how to make tea in a function where several relatives had come.
Not to say that one should not know how to cook, or make tea or wait with a jug of water, but I would have accepted these suggestions better without the qualifier “being a girl”. Of course it would be unfair to say that it is the situation only in Maithil Society. This is a pan-India problem – in one form or the other. And nor do I see future as completely bleak. We are making progress.
The partiality for male-child is also there and shockingly even in my generation!! At this rate, it seems it will continue for quite some time. There have been cases where upto 5-6 daughters have been brought in this world to get one male-child! With the attitude towards the career of girls given and soaring dowry rates, one might wonder what will be left with the parents to give to the male-child who is born after half a dozen sisters! Again not a problem exclusive to Maithil Society though.
We are all living with a mix of good and evil. So are Maithils.
(Okay, chill now. This was the last post in the series If you are a new visitor, please do not read just this post. This will give a rather gloomy picture. Read at least couple of other posts in the series.)