Tradition Vs Values

I’ve just received some disappointing news…  I received a letter this morning from Anila who lives in the SOS orphanage we support in Alwaye, southern India.  She’s just completed a degree in fashion design and is one of the brightest young girls I’ve ever met.  She’s 17.

On 7th November, she has been told that she is to be married and will leave the orphanage to start a new life with her, as yet, unseen husband.

When I last saw her in March I asked her what her plans were now that she has achieved her degree qualifications. “I want to open my own shop, just like your versace shop, but with my own designs.” She told me.

Tradition though doesn’t allow for an orphaned girl to have her own shop…

When Kate and I decided to get married, we gathered all of our family around to tell them.  They were all delighted and planned a big party to celebrate. The excitement and joy of our news soon rippled out to our friends, our family friends and even to people we hardly knew.

When I told Kate and our family about Anila’s marriage, I was met with silence.

Tradition, I think, is important, but could it evolve as our values and beliefs change over time?  Tradition after all comes from the past, and in the past orphaned girls in India didn’t have any opportunities to get a degree or even gain employment.  Marriage is a traditional ceremony, especially in India, but I just wonder whether, at 17, tradition could make way for choice…

It would be wrong for me, a westerner, to try to change the traditions of another country, but I can’t help but feel disappointed that such a young girl is now unlikely to fulfill her dreams.

Thanks for reading. Toby

By |2016-12-19T17:30:26+00:00October 19th, 2010|SOS Village|4 Comments


  1. Vinay Parmar 19/10/2010 at 11:43 am - Reply

    Toby, nice post.

    What people forget about is that India is still a relatively young country – they only got independence from the British Empire 60 odd years ago. Tradition is deep rooted in Indian life and it will take several generations for it to change – especially out side of the main cities such as Mumbai and Dehli.

    The culture clash is an interesting by product of globalisation and technology connecting distant worlds together. Do I agree with what’s happened to her? No. I think like you, we should live in a world of choice. But then the people who are looking after her probably think that its better for a young girl from an orphanage to be married and settled down with a roof over her head.

    My dad got married to my mom just seeing her picture – they were married over 25 years. My uncle never saw his wife and got married to his wife based on my dad meeting her and telling him she was nice – they were married for over 25 years too. It’s a far cry from the world I live in today!

    I got married to Jem after an introduction. We went out for a while before we got married – it was still arranged so to speak but time had moved on. When I think about India (my daughter) she’ll probably find her own partner and do things the way you did.

    India (the country) is changing. I hope in my life time I am able to hear more about girls like Anila, taking flight and being able to make more choices.

  2. Mimi Sidhoum 19/10/2010 at 1:32 pm - Reply

    I have read the news and Hey took me back years…. I know from experience that nothing can be more stronger than pleasing your family, more your mother, and go against any beleives you grow to learn and accept as part of your individuality. Tradition, culture, fear. The young woman will, at certain stage of her life, say, enough is enough. She will certainly find another path, but obeing by certain rules are a stepping stone. She will learn and get strong enough to say NO to traditions that are not her own choice. I know I have done it and still marked by it.

  3. Jaz Binning 19/10/2010 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    It’s about tradition AND values.. both change and evolve through a persons life and the lifespan of civilisations. People’s values and beliefs change all the time but changing traditions/cultures means going against a larger number of people than yourself, being brave enough to be the first, to be different, losing a perceived comfortable place in society, changes in relationships with friends and family… it takes a brave, soul to be true to themselves. May everyone find the strength they need 🙂 x

  4. Lisa Ames 20/10/2010 at 9:46 pm - Reply

    It’s possible that Anila’s future husband is of the same ilk as Vinay and Jaz, therefore something great will come of it.. Or maybe Anila has gained enough inner strength and possesses the resources to gently persuade him of a better way, over time..

    If that proves to be not the case.. Kate, Toby, Sue and alike, weave your beautiful magic at every opportunity.. Use every skill you have and expose your Indian friends to you BEING the change you want them to embrace..

    Wishing Miss Anila every happiness 🙂


Leave A Comment