I think the laws of life with sub-sections like growing up, experience, maturing etc are wonderful source of enlightenment. Many people try and avoid the learnings. I tried to side-step this like the way I cut classes in college. But it doesn't work. While you can spend time outside college, you can't spend time outside life. Once you step outside the country and spend 2 years as Grad Student, your eyes open up to a whole new world around you. The locals and other students you interact with -- stun you with their maturity and sense of political correctness. You don't get to meet well-oiled corporate employees here, you only get to meet raw students who are the same age as you are and from different parts of the world. Students were from remote villages in America, who have never seen a forigner before, students came from Kenya, Spain etc. It surprised me so much that nobody asked even a single question that could be construed as an invasion of privacy. While I was stunned by many Indians who asked deeply private questions (hmm.."is she your wife" is a private question ;-)). So I went on to investigate the psycological basis for (many if not all) Indians to be so intrusive and insensitive to personal space.
I compared this to my school-kid life, where on the first day of school, students were asked their name, their father's name and his employment. This was how we were asked to introduce ourselves when we were kids. So many times I have seen kids cringing with inferiority complex, when they had to say "un employed" or "mechanic" or "Tahsildar office pune". It became worse when they had to say " I don't have a father (and upon further pressed for info about their mother)... she does domestic work" . Looking back at that, it was the first time I realized "hey! that was wrong and very bad thing for the teachers to do". The very (noble) purpose of having uniforms in school was to make sure there is no differentiation. This "introductions" vitiated that intent. Thinking back friends-circle got formed based on these introductions. Students from poorer backgrounds developed complexes. People who were perceived as rich were surrounded with friends (because they would buy chocolates for everybody in canteen). This insulted the rich kid's intelligence also because they were pursued for their father's money. While this was not always the case, you can never deny the fact that this happens in school.
The same thing happens with grades. The bad manners of scolding students publicly in the class for bad grades. Openly comparing them with other students. How does this help the student? if at all it does anything, it reduces her self-esteem and makes her develop a complex. Thinking back, looking at classmates who got yelled at by the teacher, I developed a low opinion about those classmates and thought them as people who were bad and incapable. Most of my other classmates thought they same too. They once-in-a-while talked and moved with such students as acquaintances, but thats it. Because a judgement was implicitly passed in our minds. As a result academically poor kids moved only with similar kids. In my second year at college, they stuck our first-year mark sheets in the bulletin board. Everybody's mark sheets were on the publicly viewable notice board. I have to say that incident alone directly led to a mini caste-system in our college. In my 3rd year, a lecturer read out everybody's grades during class. We were a class full of people sitting and she read out grades like she was announcing election results. While, at the time I let out a huge whistle of relief that I passed in all subjects, I didn't really think about the people who did badly. They would lose out on friends and even a decent conversation because they did badly in an unrelated field. What has friendship got to do with grades? Even if you did not judge them based on their marks, s/he would develop the perception anyway. For the people who did well in studies -- they have to live with nonsense comments like "you are a big guy.. you have no worries..you are a brilliant person". While they can't reply anything but just give out a stupid smile, the "brilliant guy" begins to worry about a dispropotionate reputation and things like "drishti" etc.
The problem why asking for personal information is bad is because, people tend to transalate that into other unconnected fields." you said your father was some General Manager, but you don't know how to eat properly with a spoon". There are things like " you get college first etc.. but you dont know how to hold a cricket bat". Then comes " you are earning so much, you dont wanna spend more on xyz, you wanna split lunch as dutch treat. Why are you so stingy". Sometimes when you think of saying "thats bloody none of your business".. then you get replies like " oh!.. he is showing off.as if he is the only one who is the son-of-a-GM/College-first/high-salary earner"
In a new place (like a foreign country), where your experiences is not normal or is just among one of the many alternatives, Your opinions (silently or otherwise) get challenged by your friends, room mates, and sometimes even professors. Suddenly normal is wrong here. You are now standing in a neutral ground, where you tend to question your education upto that point. I think this is true for everybody who falls in the grad student-work-GC formulaic category -- while we knew that discussing job offers in the final year of education with room mates and friends were okay, we sort of knew that -- that would be it. We woudn't be able to discuss salary with the very same people two years later. Side Note: (as a result of some comments in the previous post) For a person going to US as a so-called "H1-B party" or a "H4 Party" this "realization" could happen the first time they get snubbed/ridiculed when they ask for salary information from a collegue, which invariably is another Indian. I sometimes think the direct H1-B folks from India are unfairly ridiculed by the F1 (student) -> to -> H1B (work visa) folks. While students have had a chance to make mistakes and correct themselves in a relatively secure school environment, the H1B folks get exposed in a more volatile corporate environment. That is the big (if not the only) difference. End Sidenote
One you step into a corporate environment, it is almost cast in stone that asking for salary information is bad manners. In the eyes of others it is uncivilized and reflects poor upbringing. I believe it is true to a great extent. 9 out of ten times, people ask salary for the wrong reasons. Yes! sometimes it is genuine, elders want to know how times have changed ( but then in that case they should get it from their sons/grandsons etc). I have been advised by some good friends, that I am capable of earning more and I should negotiate better. I have told some other friends that they are underpaid and they should look around for better options. These are the right reasons. But it is in minority. For two people, to exchange salary information, there should be mutual trust. Otherwise it could lead to huge problems. For example: One of my relatives was paid very well, he told his father his salary and his father told his friend whose son was working in the same company as my relative. That "son" found that he was getting paid less and argued with my relative as to why this was happening to him. So sometimes if you see someone refusing to divulge information to his own parents don't judge him so soon. For example 2: On my first week at my current company, an unknown person (who I later found out to be an idiot) asked me "what is your salary?". I was new and in a moment of weakness, I told it. But I lied and told a lesser number. Then he went on a long lecture about how he was grossly underpaid. Later everybody he talked to knew my salary. A degree of closeness is also required to discuss salary. Me and my friend "Thanga Balu" have argued many times on whether it is appropriate to as for peer salary information, just to know if you are being paid on-par. I was naive then and thought this was okay. But it is wrong. It is NOT right to find out if you are being paid on-par by directly asking others. You have to work for it. You dont go to a good looking girl and ask her if she would like to go to bed with you and have sex with you --straight away. There are guys who are helping chics do groceries, walking their moms, running up astronomical restaurant/movie ticket bills, learning poems, starting and arresting gossip -- just to acheve the same objective. What do you think -- those hard working guys are idiots ? :-)
There maybe many motivations to ask for a person's salary information. Not all of them -- in fact most of them -- do not justify really asking them. 90% of the time it creates jelousy, unwanted competition even animosity. The two factors "fathers employment" and "grades" in the examples above. Remove them and replace them with "salary" and read this blog again. The results would be the same. Salary is just the same shit but goes by a different name. It causes the same problems and creates the same polarity those two factors created. To me -- asking for such salary information is like asking a guy's underwear size or a girl's cup size. There maybe 1000 reasons why you want to ask that. It maybe sexy to know even if you aren't doing anything with that info. Just don't ask it.