Private: No Entry

In the 90s my sister and I were singing along to a very popular song on MTV with lyrics along the lines of ‘it’s my life, my problem’ to which my mum responded in jest but with a hint of truth: it’s not YOUR life and it’s MY problem!

I do feel very lucky that I have been raised with the best of both cultures but sometimes I still find it confusing determining where the boundaries are with regards to my private life.

When I was at university, I didn’t mind that my mum would open my credit card statements as she was the one who was making the payments but I know many of my friends would find that strange. When I am in my family home, people just walk into my bedroom without knocking and I don’t care or even notice but I wouldn’t accept this behaviour from a flatmate. A bit contradictory isn’t it?

When I am in India, people feel quite comfortable asking me personal questions or confidential questions about my business. I feel more comfortable answering the personal questions (are you married?) but not the business ones. I often have to politely respond that I’m not giving private/confidential information.  I don’t make it into a big deal and people often just need to re-phrase questions however it is quite fascinating watching reactions.

But do Indians feel much privacy, or the need for it, when they have full time live-in maids and helpers? You’re never really alone or able to have private conversations unless the helper doesn’t understand English but even then, they are still there reading body language and gestures. Every domestic has an audience, sleeping arrangements are open knowledge, what you watch on TV, your movements and whereabouts are noted (in or out of the house) and guards log every entry and departure from your gated community.

Perhaps the boundaries just change depending whether I am in a good mood or not because there’s no real logic behind my feelings.


3 Comments to “Private: No Entry”

  1. I take your point that it matters who is invading your privacy in order for you to take offence.

    I remember moving in with my sister and a cousin – the cousin was shocked to see that we would happily sit on the loo while the other brushed her teeth!

    Recently my partner picked up my mobile to read a text out for me – I had not asked him to do so and felt this was a HUGE infringement of my privacy. I was glad when he realised the text was from an ex-boyfriend. Serves him right for being so nosey.

  2. Some people get told by their families where they are allowed to spend their own salary!

  3. I know of a girl whose father has managed her finances all of her life – she’s in her 30s for god’s sake! I suppose now her husband has taken over the role. By the way, she’s a chartered accountant.

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