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What will people think? - A snippet from a philosophical counselling session.



“My daughter wants to marry a boy who is not from our community and I am worried”

“That is understandable. What exactly are you worried about?”

“I don’t really know”

“Are you worried the boy is not right for her?”

“No, the boy is okay. I have interacted with him. He is a nice boy”

“Are you worried she is making an impulsive choice?”

“Not really, she has known him for two years”

“You are concerned that he is from a different community.”

“Yes. that is worrying me”

“What is it about his community that is worrying you? They are higher/lower than yours?”

“Not really. I am worried about what people will say.”

“You are not concerned about the community part. You are apprehensive about what people will say when they see your daughter is marrying someone from a different community.”

“Exactly. To me it does not matter that the boy is from a different community. He is well educated, good looking, in a decent job and cares for my daughter. But will people accept it?”

“Is your husband okay with the match?”

“He is cool about it. For him, it does not matter about the community. He is actually relieved she found the boy for herself and he did not have to get involved.”

“Are you worried about what your two sisters will say?”

“That is not a big concern. My one sister in the US has s son who has married a person from a different religion itself. My daughter is only marrying a different community. So what will she say? My other sister in Australia does not have any kids and she is not close to me. So she won’t say anything.”

“You are worried what your husband’s family will say?”

“Not really. His family has a lot of mixed marriages.”

“So whey you say, you are worried about what people will think, it is not the immediate family but some friends.”

She stared blankly for some time.

“I wonder, what my mother will say.” she finally blurted out.

“So when you say you are concerned about what society will think, you are saying it is not yourself, your husband, your sisters, his family your friends, his friends but just your mother. Is that it?”

“When you put it like that, yes. I can handle other people but don’t know how my mother will react”

“Do you see that ‘other people’, ‘society’, ‘public’ etc in your mind just boils down to just the opinion of one person?”

“Yeah that is true”

“You have to talk to just one person and for all you know, your mother may be okay with it too. Is she close to your daughter?"

“They are very close to each other. In fact, my mother dotes on my daughter. She pampers her more than she ever pampered me.’

“Do you think it is a good idea to let your daughter break the news to her? It may become more acceptable.”

“Yeah, that may be a good idea. I can let my daughter take the responsibility for her decision”


Note for Counsellors: Words like, “Other people”, “Society”, “Community”, “Family” makes us imagine a large number of people and it scares us when we have to confront large numbers of people. Whenever someone talks of large numbers in a counselling session, it is good to break it down and understand who exactly a person means when they talk of such groups. Then the issue becomes easier to resolve. Philosophical Counselling is a method to break down the concepts in a person’s mind by repeated questioning and help them get clarity over the concept. It is not about vague abstract concepts but concepts that shape everyday life. The philosophy of "What will people think" "लोग क्या कहेंगे?" was at the heart of the session. Philosophical Counselling is taking counselling to a deeper level.

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