Mar 25, 2011

The "What Will People Say" Syndrome !

There is this strange syndrome we Indians seem to be afflicted with, and it’s known as the “What will People Say” syndrome. This syndrome afflicts people of all ages and sex but the biggest causality is the Indian woman. The one sentence that the Indian woman fears the most after the much dreaded “Please Adjust” is “What will People Say “. Their whole lives are governed by this statement. Want to stay out and party all night?” Oh No! What will people say” Feel like giving your husband a hug in Public – “Che Che What will people say!” Don’t want to get married? “Oh No! What will people say ! “

I wonder if we realize how much we let this syndrome rules our lives! Our behavior and actions are not a result of what we actually want to do but are molded by our fear of how they will be interpreted by society. This mentality of worrying about what people will say is made worse by the fact that we Indians are by far the most inquisitive and interfering people I have ever come across. In other countries people don’t give a damn if you are single, married or living in, straight or gay, have kids or don’t have kids. Not so in our country! People will not only pry out every intimate juicy detail of your life, they will give you free advice and then make all the information fodder for gossip! Since our society spends half the time meddling in others affairs and the other half gossiping about it, it makes us even more conscious of doing anything without first thinking about “What people will say !”

Thankfully my family is not afflicted with this syndrome and lets me live my life the way I want but our “well wishers” can’t seem to get over our bohemian attitude! Once a neighbor asked my mother, “Aapki daughter akele rehti hai aapko dar nahi lagta log kya Kahenge” (your daughter stays alone aren’t you worried about what will people say!) My mother tartly retorted “kahenge ki inhone apni beti ko kitna independent banaya hai !) (People will say look how independent their daughter is!)

“What will People say” has seeped so much into our mindset that we unconsciously do only the things that society wants or expects us to do. Restrictions are imposed on women after marriage (what they can wear, if they can work or not etc etc) simply became now society expects them to behave in a certain manner! Parents are more concerned about their girls getting married “at the correct age” not because they want them to find a life partner but because people will talk if the girl is unmarried. I know couples who’ve had kids because people expect you to have kids after 1-2 years of marriage. Otherwise they start asking questions. Somehow I always thought you have kids because you want to and not because society wants you to procreate!

On a serious note, I have seen so many examples of the “what will people say” syndrome ruin lives or thwart dreams. A lot of women don’t walk out of unhappy or abusive marriages not because they are scared of staying alone and starting their lives over but because they are terrified of the social stigma they will face. Women don’t mind if their kids grow up in abusive families but they don’t go for a divorce simple because “the flak my child will have to face once people find out he comes from a broken home”. I wonder if this same society of wagging tongues will actually come and help when the woman is going through torture. Or Take the case of a girl who still hasn’t found a husband. She may be perfectly happy working and living with her parents while she waits to meet the right guy but society literally makes her life hell with their persistent questions till she marries the first guy that comes along through sheer frustration ! I have even seen examples of midle aged females living alone who dont encourage their male cousins or friends to visit them for fear of what people will say !

The biggest irony is that we are worried about what people will say but don’t realize that the same “People” will talk whatever we do. Either way It’s a lose – lose situation. It’s like this very famous story of the Old Man, young boy and the donkey. What we do can never please everyone so we might as well as do what we want !

 I am not suggesting that we defy social norms and live a sort of anarchical existence. Our social dictates as well as fear of social pressure does keep us in check and prevents us from unethical and unacceptable behavior or actions. But I wonder how many people think about what “People will say” when they are breaking rules, littering the roads or even misbehaving with females, asking for dowry etc?

What really surprises me is why we let society overpower us so much. Don’t we have our own sense of right or wrong that we have to look for society’s approval each time? Why can’t we listen to our inner voice and do what we really want to do! It takes a lot of courage to defy society and live the kind of life you want. Ask any woman (or even man for that matter) who have decided to go off the beaten track. But it’s high time we stop being a puppet in the hands of “People” and learn to live our lives the way we want!


  1. Yes The biggest casualty is the Indian woman...not only for not marrying , even for deciding not to have a baby.

    So right , the dowry seekers never think about log kya kahenge...

    But there is one thing for sure , sometimes more societal pressure makes you more determined about what you do , may be it works like more introspection ...makes you more aware of how you are going to achieve what you want from yourself..

  2. New to your blog. Good post.

    Completely agree with the last paragraph. People will talk whatever you do, it your life, and you live as you please!

  3. @sangeeta - yes sometimes social pressure has the opposite effect !

    @BLueHornBill - thanks and welcome here !

  4. You know something, people have long tongues and short memories. They talk, speculate and then move on to the next target. If we give in to such talk, we are the only ones affected. The gossipers have already moved on. Can you imagine getting married because of people. They've moved on. Your life has changed ....

  5. How right!!
    We have lived all our life just thinking about "What others will say", and have sacrificed so much!
    Such a kind of society level pressure is put only in India!! We never live for our own sake!!
    Don't know when this will change!

  6. "Since our society spends half the time meddling in others affairs and the other half gossiping about it"

    We are a country full of 'jobless' people, aren't we?? All the time in the world to poke noses into everyone else's affairs and then perform the role of a newspaper by disseminating the news! I wish these people would do something worthwhile with their time.

    "Parents are more concerned about their girls getting married “at the correct age” not because they want them to find a life partner but because people will talk if the girl is unmarried"

    It is these wrong reasons for marriage that makes me condemn it roundly. Like you said, people will talk anyway, so why bother about them??

    "they don’t go for a divorce simple because “the flak my child will have to face once people find out he comes from a broken home”

    This is the only true problem that the children of single parents face, the 'flak' from those interfering nosey-parkers. What actually affects them negatively is the tongue wagging from these people, not the single-parenthood itself. If some way could be found whereby these tongues could be frozen each time they tried to open it for their false sympathies or hurtful barbs , the children of single parents would grow up as normal as any.

  7. It's pathetic to see such an influence of this syndrome on people and it affects them mostly negatively.

    While it's most important that individuals realize that they don't need to get bogged down by people's possible reaction, it's equally important that the society itself becomes more mature.

  8. @PhoenixRitu – Long tongues and short memories – how very true !
    @Vaish- I sometimes wonder why we have some much social pressure only in India !
    @ Shail – I agree. The problem does not lie in getting divorced or not getting married or raising children alone. The problem arises out of society’s attitude towards these things !
    @Haresh – Welcome to my blog! Yes Society, especially Indian society needs to change. It still has a lot of “growing up” to do!

  9. Very sad and very true Ruchira.

    I have also seen that those who don't bother about the society's opinion do fine (mostly) because the society or 'the people' are not going to be of much support anyway - all they do is talk.

    I have heard people say 'nothing succeeds like success' so if someone is fine with their three daughters marrying men of their choice,and if they look happy, the society also starts wondering if maybe choice-marriages are not such a bad idea. I guess those who are sure of their own minds and choices, are the ones who can change "the people's" mindsets.

  10. Am always reminded of that song *kuch to log kahenge; logon ka kaam hai kehna'
    I feel really bad abt ppl who take certain steps giving in to societal pressure and wish and yell they dnt :(

    Am just glad I know there are ppl, who hv learnt to fight it out too and LIVE their life! Hugs :)

  11. @IHM - very true ! If you are very sure of what you want, nothing that people will say can stop you !
    @swaram - awww ! thanks swaram :)

  12. well written adn i totally agree.....beat the trodden path and you get the brick bats and dont beat the trodden path and you get this kind of nonsense:P
    rock and a hrad place :P

  13. First time visiting your blog! VERY impressed!!!!

    What I will be 10 years hence(wisdom-wise), you already ARE! Hats off!

  14. @rampyari - yeah its rock and a hard place isnt it !
    @Nilu -Welcome to my blog and thanks for your kind comments :)

  15. reminds me of the song Kuch to log kahenge .. Logon ka kaam hai kehna .. so why bother ..

    Yes we shud live our life I myself beleive that one shud do one's heart says ..

    Sometimes thts how things work out to be, If we keep thinking of people we will never get to do what we want to .. end of the day Self happiness is much more worthwhile then others ..

    excellent post :)
    Now i am here will keep coming


  16. Followed your comment elsewhere and ended up here... if you can come up with a post in Hindi or any Indian language, definitely do so... that will add variety to your blog. Though not obvious, it has a deeper impact many Indian readers. (........sorry, could not resist some unsolicited advice).

  17. it is not just in india its an asian mentality. anywhere in asia, indonesia, japan or anywhere, people like poke their nose in others's matters.. tokyo mein to bahut dekha hai... i have experienced it myself.

  18. it is not just in india its an asian mentality. anywhere in asia, indonesia, japan or anywhere, people like poke their nose in others's matters.. tokyo mein to bahut dekha hai... i have experienced it myself.

  19. Amen to that! God knows how many times during a day I hear "what people will say" comment. If I say anything against that, then I am "too young" to understand how the society works. I think it is about time that we leave this mentality behind and move forward. I do think that our country would have progressed even more if we didn't have this mentality.

  20. Very true. I used to tell my parents that "society" is not going to lift a finger when you need support. Now, I have to tell my 4 year old that he should just focus on what he wants to do and listen to his own mind, not bother what others will think

  21. Hi, hopped over from IHM's.
    What you've written is so very true. We are a nation of nosy-parkers who delight in not minding our own business.People try fiercely to put down any hint of rebellion against the accepted norms by circulating vicious stories sometimes leading to social ostracization. Not everyone has the strength to put up with it.

    Some do brave it,however, and I have observed that they do just fine eventually. So much for this 'log kya kahenge 'syndrome.

  22. I totally agree with you about the way we suffer from 'What people say' syndrome... but why are we all so bent up on putting this as an Indian Stigma? May be this doesn't affect the so called "developed" nations that much but this haunts others as well..

    Coming back to the issue you've raised.. Yes.. Yes.. Yes.. We definitely need to get ourselves out of such non sensical behavior.. We need more Education than more "degrees"..
    And society is we all.. we need to check ourselves when we say anything against our neighbors, people we call friends, our relatives.. and then there is where the "new society" begins

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