If you were to go around your social circle asking the question: ‘What is the one big taboo in Indian society?’ I guarantee you that you will hear the word ‘sex’ mentioned more often than any other. The reluctance of Indian culture to open up to sex has been blamed for many ills; rape, female subjugation, sexual abuse in families, incest etc. Popular television shows such as Satyamev Jayate have gone on campaigns urging India to awaken, to cast off the shackles of repression.
But there is another subject that ought to give sex close competition: money. It shares many attributes with sex; we like to have it, we’re constantly thinking about it, we immediately get awkward when it comes up in conversations, and we fear the lack of it. Indeed, many neuroscience studies have shown that the arousal we experience when we think of sex and when we think of money are remarkably similar.
I would allege, though, that money is a bigger taboo than sex. With the latter, though we don’t discuss it with our family members, we do discuss it with our peers, and we have a natural curiosity about how it works which drive us to seek information regarding it. And needless to say, if our population is any indication, we seem to know enough about it to get the job done.
But what of money? First, there is no financial education in our schools or universities. Second, it’s never considered good form to talk about it with our parents or siblings. Third, we don’t discuss it with our friends or spouses. And fourth, probably the most crucial, we don’t have the same levels of curiosity about money that we do with sex. Also, money is perhaps a more complicated subject than sex is, so understanding it could take longer.
What all this has done is that it has made us all terribly unequipped to deal with it. Wives fight with husbands, brothers fight with sisters, parents fight with children, all because we don’t understand what money means to the other person – and before that, what it means to us.
With liberalization and the rise in disposable income, there is a generation of people in India now who are drawing large salaries and are yet broke all the time. I fear for them, because many are my friends, and I fear for our children. I can’t help but think that the first step to break this cycle is to begin by talking to one another about money. More specifically, what does money mean to you? What does it stand for in your value system? And how much of it do you need?
After having seen the amount of wastage and destruction that a lack of money-talk causes versus that caused by a lack of sex-talk, I am more than convinced now – especially after finishing a book on the subject – that money and not sex is Indian society’s biggest taboo. Do you agree?
Image Courtesy: Take it Easy