Coming from a fairly pious family and joining a media college there are expectations from your parents that you behave in a certain manner and follow some routines. They have set norms and rules which they want you to observe though you are stepping into the media industry (generically expected to be progressive, nonconformist and an eccentric section of society). So, entering a completely different set up where people are so called “open minded” and liberal becomes a little bit of a culture shock.
Considering the fact that they have trusted you to study away from home you don’t want to disappoint your parents. In this case the fear of people judging you is very high. You want to go the mosque and hence you need to wear a parda (refeered to as rida in my community– Dawoodi Bohras), so people look at you, they stare. People judge you instantly; purely based on your clothing they evaluate your personality.
The frivolity of the scenario keeps you quiet, you try to ignore, but fail, so you hide. You attempt and avoid eye contact because you don’t want to face them or be asked stupid questions. But people obviously ask imprudent questions like –“where are you going, why are you wearing this, you look so different, where did you buy this dress?” So you have no choice but to answer and then they ask some more questions- “Are you religious, why is your parda different from the others, I didn’t know you were a Muslim etc. etc…” Then if you admit to being religious, you are judged as backward and orthodox. As a result you are then torn between these self-declared forward-thinking liberals and your religion (widely considered to be traditionalist and conservative) which you want to follow.
Then of course there are instances in class when there are discussions about people being orthodox and backward. You have an opinion, you wish to say something, but you can’t because you are obviously tagged as one among the persons who is backward (purely based on attire and not thinking). So you shut up because people are going to criticise and critique. Society (read classmates) is bound to think that she wears a parda (rida) how can she talk about being a liberal? Now you are basically confused as to what to say and what to do…
Studying in a media college definitely has an impact on your thought process; you start to question surroundings, customs, norms which you earlier followed blindly. You begin to interrogate your parents about things you don’t want to do. This leads to a constant fight inside about what you are and who you want to be. However, there is also this inner urge to stick to your roots because deep down you have your faith and you don’t want to lose it. You want to cling onto it, because that’s an integral part of your personality, that’s how you were brought up, you can’t and don’t want abandon it.
Now, after going through all these confusing phases have decided to let go because of exhaustion. I have tired and I have to admit only “try” to stop caring because no matter what happens people will ALWAYS judge you. Nevertheless, it’s also hard to not be bother because one always craves for acceptance and an over thinker will forever find meaning in the unsaid.