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South Asia: Tradition and Contemporary Experiences

Syeda Warda Ahmed : South Asia is the southern region of the Asian continent, which carries a population as big as 1.89 billion. This zone consists of 8 nations of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bhutan, and Maldives, that speak over 20 major languages and even more minor dialects and lingos. Alongside the diversity of languages, South Asia is the home ground to many major ethnic groups and religions, which makes summarizing their culture an incredibly difficult mission.

Regardless their cultural differences, the 8 countries that make up South Asia have some mutual traits that they regard to. These 8 countries share traits ofdaily lives, customs, traditions, beliefs and ideology of people from all over the sub-continent.

Girls: Nurturer, Boys: Financer

It is a very customary behavior found in most South Asian communities that expects females to stay at home providing nurture and care while the males are out of the house making money for the family. Women are often seen as a figure of safe-keeping and love, and the men are viewed as powerful and tough. Most South Asian women tend to stay home, before and after they are married off, often doing household chores like cooking, cleaning, taking care of the children and so on. Men, on the other hand, are these money-making machines who are sent off to work and are expected provide finance for both his parents, wife and children. This phenomenon is mutual to most South Asian countries and is highly contrasted in our country in Bangladesh.

Family Oriented Culture

Unlike Western cultures, South Asian culture is Family Oriented; instead of being Individualistic, people here in South Asia follow a principle that puts family at the center and focuses of their values, strengths and relationships. The family values are given more prominence than the individual values, while believing in harmony with nature. South Asian communities involve people that are heavily dependent on each other, which makes them prefer stability over mobility. While Western cultures enjoy independent decision making opportunities, in South Asian communities the family elders are often responsible for any conclusions made. The ideology of Family Oriented Culture is quite relevant here in Bangladesh.

Liability-Cycle of Parents and Children

Fusion of the preceding two concepts, the liability-cycle of parents and children is the ideology that is expected in South Asian communities which involve children to look after their elderly parents, both financially and at home, when their parents grow out of their age. Girls are anticipated to take care of her parents and/or her in-laws, often at home, with nurture and care, helping with all kinds of household chores. Boys are again, anticipated to go out and make money to deliver food, shelter, medical care and other necessity for his aged mother and father. While on the other end of the world in Western communities, when kids grow to the age of adulthood, they are set off to their individualistic path of life where they have full control of self-liability.

Conventional Towards Females

A very controversial ideology where some people may beg to disagree, but I’ve come to deduce that South Asian cultures can most often be conventional and conservative towards females. Frequently seen in Bangladesh, that most females are expected to act upon what is generally done and believed in the norm. Any action out of the ordinary role of women can put them under extreme social criticism and exclusion. A gesture that is viewed ordinary for a male, for example, smoking in public or staying out late etc. is considered to be scandalous for a female. Even though such ideology may be seen all over the world, it is very much highlighted in the context of South Asia and especially in Bangladesh.

Purity and Pollution

Purity and Pollution is a famous Hindu ideology that deals with the major aspects in understanding the hierarchy process of the caste system. I felt the need of including this concept of thought because of its substantial reference throughout our South Asian lives, even within non-Hindu communities, to the point where it’s not only a Hindu ideology anymore. People of the minority groups and of a lower class are often viewed as “impure”, where they are usually discriminated in the society. Bangladesh worked out to be a good example for the discrimination of people of minority groups, a result of the concept of purity and pollution.

In Conclusion

South Asia has undergone great deals of social and ethical changes throughout the past, which seems to still be on the shifting each day. It is a place of great cultural diversity and variance, but the roots still seem unchanged. Even though some ideologies may not seem ideal, it is what makes them unique to this culture. Years and years of thought and practices has landed the people of this subcontinent to where they stand. But now that globalization is taking over, our ground seems uncertain. Are we going to assimilate or stay true to our roots? Should we assimilate or stay true to our roots?



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