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Friday, January 20, 2012

Assumptions of a Culture


The class had a brief. They had to prepare a story where a parent disapproves of his/her teenager’s  dress, but when s/he sees the brand, s/he suddenly changes his/her view in favour of the outfit. This brief was the way it was because this was no simple creative writing class. It was creative writing geared to students who belonged to the advertizing and marketing stream, and we had been talking of brand loyalty and brand obsessiveness etc.
The stories that emerged were of course, as usual, unusual and wonderful, some more so than others, but creative nonetheless. Reading out her response to the brief, one student talked of how Sita wondered what Ram would wear for the evening party he was to go to, and it was half-way through the rendition of the story that another student piped up, “Oh, Ram is Sita’s son?” and the incredulity was evident in her voice. “Yes,” shrugged the story maker and teller of this tale, and continued.  
And so we come to what struck me as the assumptions of a culture.  Since we are so steeped in or aware of the Ramayana, we automatically assume that to every Ram, every Sita can only be a wife. Of course, a modern Sita can name her son Ram, and maybe her husband is called Ravinder or Manoj or some other name. The point is that for a long while into the story, some of the students had to make a mind shift to think of Sita addressing her son  Ram, and scolding him for not dressing in appropriate clothes for a party, and later saying, “Oh, it’s a …….shirt, then wow! I adore this brand, why didn’t you tell me this was their latest…” etc. J
So changing what is ingrained in our minds takes time, even if it is a simple story that shows this. And of course, to a non-Indian, or one unfamiliar with the Ramayana, Sita and Ram as mother and son would not have a question attached to it. Or an incredulous response.  

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