WWPS is an acronym for What Will People Say Syndrome and in some parts of north India it is the “Log Kya Kahenge” Syndrome” and in my land which is God’s Own Country it is the “AAlkaru enthu parayum Syndrome”.
We Indians seem to be afflicted with a very curious syndrome known as the “What will People Say” syndrome. This affects people across gender and age. 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 over at a friend’s place” 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 want to do but molded by our fear of how they will be interpreted by society. This mentality of worrying about what people will say is worsened by the fact that Indians are by far the most inquisitive and interfering people I have ever come across. In other places, 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 !”
My family is not afflicted with this syndrome and would love to let me live my life the way I want if it wasn’t for our “well wishers”. They just can’t seem to get over our bohemian attitude! Once a neighbor asked my dad, “saarinte mol bangalooril thaniye ano thamasikkunne, alkaar enthu parayum, nalla alochana varumo?” (your daughter stays alone aren’t you worried about what will people say, will a decent proposal ever come for her!) My dad, my superman tartly retorted “aalkar parayum ha avar avarude mole etre independent ayittanu valarthiyathu ennu !) (People will say look how independent they have made their daughter!)
“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. Parents are more concerned about their girls getting married “at the correct age” not because they want them to find a suitable 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 or staying alone 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. 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 do 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. I know a couple of them who have defied social norms and chosen to live life according to their rules and they have faced and are still facing the wrath of the society.
Well if we Indians are becoming westernised in all negative ways possible, I wonder why we can’t adopt a bit of their culture and do the right thing.