Youth, elders, and the weight of tradition | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 25, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:19 AM, February 25, 2021

OPINION

Youth, elders, and the weight of tradition

Sylhet is a city where the majority of elders are always preaching traditions. Maybe you are familiar with parents boasting about their own childhoods, forever uttering statements like: "I would always listen to my parents when I was your age, but kids these days are disobedient." Or "We never questioned the choices our parents made for us. They knew what was best for us." So on, and so forth.

This is where the conflict begins between the traditional minds of Sylheti elders and the modern and ambitious young citizens who foresee vast opportunities ahead of them.

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Sylhetis are known for being conservative and traditional, even secluding males from females in the fear of the females turning "bad" or having their "reputation tarnished" because of the opposite gender – which all boils down to lack of freedom and choice of an individual. Embrace tradition. Climb up the social ladder. Respect, pride, honour. That is all one needs to think about. The idea of protecting generational "pride" and "honour" is implanted into most children's minds.

Where is our individuality? Looking left and right, there are many, many opportunities for us. The modern world provides us with everything we could ever ask for. Why can't we embrace ourselves and enjoy life then? This conflict between Sylheti parents and children is ongoing and continues to be a tug of war for many. While many want to pursue their dream careers, they have to face the consequences and hurdles of constant blackmailing, guilt-tripping and emotional manipulation from their strict and conservative parents and elderly.

The hurdles are greater for females when it comes to freedom of choice and what they can do and how they can act, speak, or even move. Parents and elders live in fear that their daughters will not find worthy suitors in the future if they do not act a certain way and accomplish certain things in life. Because of this fear, heavy restrictions are placed upon women. Autonomy and agency is taken away – though, they deny this when confronted because of a lack of broader perspective and their backdated mindset. They don't know what autonomy and agency is, let alone understand its importance.

This is very problematic for young females with dreams, as they constantly battle their parents and elders to achieve them and become independent individuals rather than depending on a man for the rest of their lives. It's almost as if they forget that women are human too. Women are treated like accessories for men to this day, and it is a very common scene in Sylheti households and society here in general. Dehumanising women has never been uncommon; the wider world is doing something to change this.

We need to communicate more. Be open minded and open to change. After all, there is no progress without change. And there is no change without cooperation.

Sadia Shyra Choudhury finished her A Levels in January 2021. Reach her at sshyrachoudhury@gmail.com

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