The Criminal Act Of Asking Questions – Kruti Shahnotyourwife1214
Q: Why can’t we buy shoes on a Saturday?*
A: You just can’t.
Q: Why does a bride’s family buy so many gifts for both her and her to-be husband’s family?
A: They just do; that’s how it has always been.
Q: How come I can’t go to the temple when I’m on my period?
A: It’s a rule; that’s just how it is.
Is that Q&A between you and your parents or grandparents/elders sounding familiar? You are far from alone. I could fill a good few pages of such questions which had me scratching me my head, whilst I was growing up (and still do!).
“The power to question is the basis of all human progress.” said Indira Gandhi.
So why then, is the curiosity and inquisitiveness of children and young people silenced when they come asking worthwhile questions? Instead of real answers, they are met with glares, neglect, and labels such as being disobedient, over-smart or a troublemaker. Or worse, being given the “that’s just how things are” response. Honestly, I’d rather have an “I don’t know.”
I had my own questions when I was younger, often relating to traditions and customs that many Indian families followed, including my own. Having immigrated to the UK at the age of 8, my identity was being shaped by two distinct cultures. It was only natural that I longed to learn about my heritage and make sense of it so I don’t lose my foundations, all whilst balancing how to fit into and embrace a new environment.
I would probe anything from ‘why it is wrong to cut my nails on a Saturday (or a Tuesday, or a Friday)’ to ‘which God I should pray to’ since there seemed to be so many, and everything in between. Yet, the answers which I could truly feel satisfied with, rarely ever came. It was the same old broken record that I heard. I could not comprehend the hypocrisy of continuing to do something which you cannot even explain the basis of to others. Consequently, I became distant from my religion and spirituality, as well as my culture for much of my youth. It was as if someone had taken away a beautiful gift from me before I even got to open it, as punishment. My crime? Inquisitiveness.
Since no one was fully explaining why we carried out certain rituals and day-to-day practices, or whether they had a valid place in modern society anymore, I dished out my own labels in my community – orthodox, narrow-minded, brainwashed, etc. All I wanted was to understand, so I could engage with my own culture better and not be driven to escape from it! The difference was that I wasn’t keen to follow along blindly. As a child, if I couldn’t rely on my elders to educate me or nurture my curiosity, then what was the point? The rebel that I became was their own creation, not mine, and she wasn’t always going to do as she was told.
That there, is a classic example of the consequences due to the absence of dialogue and open communication between different generations. Now in my adulthood, I am better equipped to seek out the answers I am after, and make informed choices about how I lead my life. However, that child in me laments a little that the dialogue wasn’t there early on because the lack of it resulted in a lack of trust and respect too.
I also acknowledge that playing the blame game is too easy to do, but is futile. Truth is, my parents and elders grew up in very different circumstances, and actually their own questions likely never got answered either. In fact, the opportunity to ask much or speak up was not as readily available as it was for my generation, and it was easier to “do as you’re told” which they accepted as the norm. I can’t keep condemning them for sticking to what they know and doing what seemed best. My learnings tell me though, that I need not continue this cycle.
While I may write here in terms of culture and tradition, as this was where my personal experiences lie, the problem is not limited to this topic. Children are curious by nature, and they will ask about many other aspects of life they witness around them. Each time we ignore their queries and shut down their invitation to discuss something, we are subconsciously signalling that it’s not okay to speak up, or to disagree, or even to simply ask a question when something is unclear. This seeps into our adult behaviours too – for example, I have seen this in myself during my early career as well as some colleagues in the workplace, where in a meeting we would not raise any questions or ask to clarify anything because past experience showed that doing so would not get us far. If by chance we said something, we would be seen to be causing trouble.
Well, what have I done about all of this? I am essentially doing what I do best and made the act of asking questions my ‘bread and butter’ by becoming a Life Coach! This time, though, my questions are not for my benefit, but for my clients because they have more answers within them than they know. It is said that change starts with you, so why look everywhere else when you can first look within? As a coach, I facilitate my sessions by asking thought-provoking questions that help individuals unpack layers of subconscious behaviours and conditioning.
My heart swells when I see my clients light up when they realise what they have been held back by, when they can lower their guard and accept their flaws but are no longer limited by them, or simply when they create an action plan to move forward because they have had a safe space to be listened to and think aloud!
So folks, one thing is for certain, our power is in our questioning, both of others and ourselves so don’t stop. Because if we stop, we allow acts like dowry in all its guises to still be the norm, we allow leaders to abuse their position of influence, and we allow complacency to reign and hinder our progress. As for those shoes – well, I just want to be able to buy them on any day of the week that I fancy!*
Peace and Love,
Kruti Shah | @kfor_coaching
* I looked up this tradition; in Vedic Astrology, it is considered that buying black leather shoes on Saturday brings failures in work. Good news is that I don’t buy leather anyway, so I think I’ll be fine here.