Reputation, Reputation

IHM’s post on ‘izzat’ hit close to home for me  . On second thoughts, I’m sure any Indian girl would find resonance with the all-too-pervasive idea of her ‘repuation’. Actually, on third thoughts (I’ve decided that’s be a valid enough term), I guess there are very few women on this earth who have not had this concept of their ‘honour’ drummed into them.

The first story in IHM’s post was especially familiar.

I too had a classmate, R, who went out in a car with another friend G, whom she was dating.They were ‘caught’ in a compromising position by a busybody cop, who made a big fuss about wanting to take them to the police station. The matter resolved with G calling up some other friends from our college, who  drove over and managed to fob the cop off with 5k in cash.

Unfortunately for R, the matter spread like wildfire through the campus- through the guys who had gone over to ‘help’ them – and the rumours got worse and worse. In the girl’s hostel, she was practically shunned. In the boy’s hostel , she was the subject of intense discussion. People took delight in pulling her down- especially since she was better looking and more intelligent than most people who maligned her.

Not long afterwards, I was in a car with this guy G ( an okayish friend)  who had , by now, earned quite the opposite kind of reputation. The car ran low on fuel in a deserted area and we had to stop. Soon enough, a man walked by , saw us and threatened to call the cops- I suppose it’s a quick way to make money off college kids these days.

I remember being frantic about what they would think and make of the situation- instead of of thinking about my own safety or being practical about how to arrange for fuel.I was on-the-fence about calling my own girlfriends- they had been especially judgemental about the other girl. Eventually, he called his friends to get us, and the man stopped banging on the car and went away.

Instead of being angry about being threatened by a random stranger , I was anxious about known people would think. I was so worried about my ‘reputation’ after that , that I stopped talking to G.Even before the few (but inevitable) rumours

Stupid, I know. In my defence, I was too young to know better.

Luckily for me I soon learned to NOT give a damn . Still, I sometimes cringe at the thought of the silly things I’ve done, in a misguided attempt to preserve my ‘izzat’.

 

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4 thoughts on “Reputation, Reputation

  1. Came here from IHM’s blog…loved going through your posts.
    Having ideas about your ‘izzat’ given by social conditioning honestly is not about being young or old. I have seen many aunties cringe at the sight of being ‘caught’ in a lift alone with someone else’s husband, so much that they prefer waiting for the lift to come by again rather than ride in it with a ‘paraya mard’.
    Also the concept of a ‘ladki’s izzat’ is quite contorted in India. I have been ‘caught’ with many of my male friends however I was lucky that my parents did not have any problem.
    But the shocker came when I was married to my ex-hubby returning late night from a movie and a not so kindly neighbor took it on himself to point out that I could not be the guy’s wife cause I was out so late (it was just about 11:30 PM). Needless to say that I gave the man a piece of my mind but the next day got strict instructions from my ex-in-laws to not stay out of the house after 8PM even if it was with my ex-hubby.
    So in the Indian context you cannot stay out alone with a guy you are not married to at any time and you cannot stay out of the house after X time with your husband. Basically it is about controlling the women irrespective of who you are out with male/female.

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    • Yeah , a protecting girl’s izzat- even from herself, if need be- is almost every persons patriotic duty! Hence you have the comments from random strangers, neighbours and all and sundry.
      When I was 14, some nosy teacher at my school saw me and my friends at the local mall- and went and complained to my class teacher , who promptly pulled us out of an English test to tell us how we had been spotted outside ‘dressed and acting like sluts'(her actual words) and that she was going to be kind and not tell our parents- if we promised never to do it again. All we had done there, was to play at the arcade, talk to some boys from another school and sit at the food court moaning about how we were never going ‘make boyfriends’.

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  2. If more people did what you did, not give a damn to what people think of you, there would be less social shaming in the form of ‘izzat slimeing’. In almost every culture and society, there are some people whose greatest pleasure is in making others miserable – out of jealousy, self-righteousness or just because they are social sadists.

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