I just checked the date and it seems it’s been a month since I updated my blog. Clearly I need someone with a hockey stick right on top of my head, threatening to bludgeon me to death to make me work…which is a matter of serious concern for my future prospects.
I’m visiting my extended family this week, which is almost always an overwhelming experience. If the fact that I sit behind a computer for almost 8 hours a day wasn’t enough to prove it, let me say this out loud: I’m not good with people. Sometime a year ago, I figured out that I’m quite the detached person. I find it very hard to empathize with someone. I can sympathize, hell yes, because I love being the ‘savior’ in every situation, but I can’t empathize. Clearly, I’m a product of an extremely dysfunctional family.
Any who, a lot of jumbled up thoughts, feelings and emotions led me to write this. We are brought up to idolize our family. We are taught to respect every member and every relationship. Everything is perfect, hunky-dory and beautiful. Our families are so great that even Suraj Barjatya could take inspiration. I grew up believing that too. Unfortunately, I did not have the tools to cope when that illusion shattered and reality showed it’s big ugly face. The truth is, no family is perfect. Every family has it’s share of dark areas that they try to conceal, not just from the kids but from each other as well. We all want to live believing that everything is okay. Denial is one of the most common types of defense mechanisms. Hey, ignorance is bliss.
India as a society is very uncomfortable with displaying negative emotions. We try to brush sorrow, anger, dislike, disappointment and hurt under the carpet. It’s all about putting up a front. We’re never really taught to deal with any of these emotions, which is why most of us are clueless about how we should express them when we feel them ourselves. We don’t know how to channel our anger, how to deal with our sorrow, how to express our disappointment and dislike and least of all, our hurt. We bring in our own permutations and combinations of defense mechanisms to deal with our emotions, but never really confront them.
As long as you are going through and dealing with these emotions on an individual level, it’s fine. At least your family is happy, at least the bills are being paid, the food being cooked, the clothes being washed and the dog being fed. You feel safe despite everything. But what happens when that structure shatters, and a lot of realities that were brimming under the surface, come out? Say the family is struck by a financial crunch. You suddenly find out about the debts your family is under. You suddenly discover that that uncle who used to be over every weekend is nowhere to be seen. Your mom has so many resentments that it’s hard to fathom how your parents ended up married. Your paternal and maternal grandparents only have insults to throw at your mother and father respectively. Your father isn’t as strong as you thought. Your extended family wants nothing to do with you.
What happened to the perfect family picture? Weren’t you all supposed to be the big happy Indian family? How are you supposed to react now? Are you supposed to accept what you see or continue pretending that things are just perfect? Until yesterday you were being taught to do Namaste to every relative that enters your house, and now suddenly your parents are heartily bitching about every Chachi, Maasi, Bua, Phoopha etc they’re associated with. The truth is it takes a pretty bad bump to reveal the realities of the perfect car. We can’t get rid of the bumps, but I do wish that we were brought up to believe that our family isn’t perfect, everyone doesn’t love us, everyone isn’t great, but we’re making through each day with effort and that’s how we plan to do it for as long as we can. I wish that we were taught that respect is earned and not offered to just anyone on a platter because they’re ‘elders’. I wish we were not taught to feel obliged to greet people we didn’t want to. I wish we were given the freedom to explore our relationship with every single member and discover how much we would like to be associated with them ourselves.
It takes a lot of time to realize that not every word that comes out of your parent’s mouth is a gem. Not everything they do has to be idolized. Not every part of their life is an inspiration. They’re human beings too and make mistakes. Those mistakes have carved their experiences and have led them to where they are now. They’re a part of who they are, for better or for worse. We all grow up telling everyone that our parents are the best, that they’re simply amazing and that they always do the right thing. Not true. There should come a point in every kid’s life when both the parents sit down and explain where they went wrong and the circumstances that led to it. No matter what happens then, it will only make the kid respect them more in the long run – for showing trust, confidence and vulnerability. It will make the kid a much more independent person, and will make him or her realize that they need to think and make decisions for themselves, and stick to the consequences.
Let’s start accepting that mistakes happen. Both intentionally and unintentionally. Instead of teaching kids to not make mistakes, we should be teaching them to be strong enough to deal with the consequences, and to learn from each mistake and move on. Let’s start showing our vulnerable side to our kids. They can handle it. They can learn from it. There is no such thing as the ‘Perfect family’, but there can be a happy family if we all stop pretending and be real for a change.