Dear Indian Parents, why so entitled?

Now this is something I feel I need to talk about, especially in the context of our society. I haven’t written in a while and my writing skill has become quite rusty, but I have been feeling extremely confused, hurt and misguided lately and I needed to vent. So, coming to the question I am trying to pose – Dear Indian parents, why are you so entitled? Why do you think that you are entitled to your kid’s love, respect, obedience, compliance and support? Why do you think that your kid, in some way, is obligated to make you happy?

Because you went through pain to have them? Because you invested time, money, emotions and energy into raising them? Because you made sacrifices and compromises? Because you fought with others to keep them happy and safe? Because you put their well-being above your own? So now that they’re a little grown up and have a mind of their own, you expect something in return for everything you did? Wait. Was this arrangement supposed to work in this investment-ROI like fashion? Why wasn’t I told?

Before addressing the core issue here (which is extremely unhealthy and screwed up) I would like to pose another question – Why do people decide to have kids? Is it because you are already in a happy place in life, and feel emotionally, mentally and financially secure and strong enough to be able to share love with another human being without expecting anything in return or is it because you’re extremely unhappy with your life and feel that a kid will make it better? or because you’re lonely? or because you’re too bored in life and want a ‘project’ to work on? or because you can’t stand your spouse and want a reason to stay in the marriage? or because you are concerned about your old-age? or because you want someone else to fulfill your incomplete dreams? or because you want to fill a void in your life?

What is it?

I truly feel that people don’t decide to become ‘parents’ for the right reasons, especially in our country. Even if we exclude the people who are pressurized into having a child, the remaining percentage don’t have very healthy reasons either. That is where the dysfunction begins and keeps spiraling out of control. If you decide to have kids for any reason other than unconditionally sharing love and raising a healthy human being who will be (and should be) independent enough to make his/her own choices, then you my friend, have a problem. You are invariably going to download all your problems, issues and sorrows onto your kid and expect him/her to somehow a) either give you a solution or b) be the solution.

There are so many parents who tell themselves – we will not end up being like our parents. Well, bullshit. You are your parents plus more issues. It is so difficult to dissociate ourselves from our parents’ identity and personality in our culture – it takes a lot of awareness and almost an entire lifetime’s work to achieve that. Why? Because most of us are brought up within enmeshed relationships. Boundaries? What are those? Our parents have a right to know and interfere in everything. Free will? What’s that? I can only go out with friends that my parents like and marry the love of my life as long as my parents approve. Questioning parents’ decisions, opinions and beliefs? Prepare for a crash landing, kids. That’s never going to fly.

We’re never taught to be individuals with our own separate set of beliefs, opinions and principles. We’re always an extension of our parents. Any form of disagreement is seen as disrespect. (Because ‘respect’ is gulping down your opinion and putting your parents’ happiness above your own) Respect is a concept that only works one way, because parents will never respect our choices and decisions. And if those choices fall way beyond their radar of “what’s ok” – then you’re officially a rotten kid and have given them so much pain you should die in a pool of guilt. In short, the term ‘Indian parents’ should officially be synonymous with ‘insecure’. They’re so insecure about themselves that they cannot stand their kid being too different, or else – a question is raised on everything they did based on their belief system so far in their life, and they cannot be in that uncomfortable position of accepting that they might have been wrong at some point. (The horror)

You see, part of being a secure and mature human being is the ability to empathize and accept your mistakes when you make them (everyone does). In my understanding, Indian parents are neither. But the blame isn’t just theirs, it’s a dysfunction that has been passed down generations.

Coming to the core issue – if you think your kids owe you anything in return for your love and care, then you have issues that need to be dealt with before assuming that you deserve to be parents. Love, respect and care are mutual emotions that should be given unconditionally without expecting anything in return. If you are going to guilt trip your kids about your sacrifices and financial investments – Don’t be a parent. If you’re going to use the victim card to get what you want – Don’t be a parent. If you’re going to expect your kid to support you emotionally – Don’t be a parent. If you’re going to shove your beliefs and opinions down his/her throat – Don’t be a parent. If you have a problem accepting your kid as a separate individual who will have different opinions – Don’t be a parent. If you cannot accept the fact that your kid will not always agree with you – Don’t be a parent. When you bring a child into this world, he/she needs you and depends on you for physical, mental and emotional well being and continues to need you until he/she becomes an adult. You do not, and should not, need or depend upon your kid for any of those.

You don’t have the emotional bandwidth or maturity to be a parent. Please deal with your issues first. Also, if you do your parenting right – your kid will shower you with unconditional love and support, without you having to ask for it. A child’s first impression of the world is his/her parents. If you have truly loved your child without emotionally fucking him/her up – he/she will always stand with you and before you. Try it.

A kid’s love is a precious gift. It’s not your right. You chose to have a child and bring another human being into this world. If you’re putting your best foot forward to take care of him/her, it’s not a favor or a debt the kid has to repay later. If you have problems, they’re your responsibility, not your kids’. In US, if you put undue pressure on your kids or raise them in unhealthy households, the social security services will come and take your kid away. They have an accountability system in place. Raise your kid in a healthy environment or lose your right to be parents. Unfortunately in India, just having given birth to a child is enough criteria to qualify to be a parent. You can do whatever the fuck you want with that child. Because maa ke charnon mein swarg hota hai.

If a kid is being abused emotionally and physically in a house, there is absolutely nowhere he/she can go to seek safety and protection. We just have to wing it. And the number of kids being raised in abusive and unhealthy homes in our country is shocking. What is even more shocking is that most of them don’t even know they’re being abused.

I may not be a human child’s parent, but I am a pet parent to a wonderful and amazing dog called Brownie, who I adopted out of my own free will. It is my responsibility to make sure that she receives care, love and a safe environment. I didn’t do it because I wanted a watch dog or because I was lonely. I did it because her being there truly made me happy. Sometimes I have to put up with messy situations, she poops and pees anywhere, she tears everything apart, she whines for no reason and doesn’t listen to a single command, she demands too much attention, interrupts work and hardly shows any affection in return – I get annoyed sometimes. But I have to remind myself that I signed up for this. If I wanted a picture perfect dog who would sit when I asked her to sit, stand when I asked her to stand, mingled only with the dogs I liked and showed affection to me all the time – I would just sit and watch Scooby Doo on TV.

Even after 4 or 5 years, if I give her too much stress or take away her sense of safety, she will either show me aggression (biting) or simply run away, and I wouldn’t be able to do a single thing. She felt threatened and left to preserve herself. Is she obligated to stick with me despite the stress and abuse, just because I took care of her for so long?

NO.

I am just glad that I have a dog who will bite me if I cross her boundaries, as compared to a human child who will continue to suffer in silence thinking it’s okay just because I’m a parent. Nothing scares me more.

 

Found a gem!

So I was watching Sultan the other day and one thing that really stuck with me, other than some truly heartfelt scenes, was this song:

First thing that I thought of, immediately afterwards was – I hope this is an actual song in the album and not just background score. It is such a beautifully composed and an even more beautifully written song. Vishal Shekhar deliver these silent gems and unfortunately they are forgotten amidst the crowd pleasers. Even though I like Jag ghoomeya as well from this album, this song is by far and without any doubt the best song I’ve heard in ages. It’s bittersweet in a melancholic way and the way it has been placed in the movie can bring tears to anybody’s eyes.

Compared to Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’s Bulleya, which is great in it’s own right (especially the lyrics by Amitabh Bhattacharya) this one is no doubt better. It is more subtle and hits all the right chords in terms of emotions. And Papon’s voice is magic. I have no idea why Arijit Singh is such a hot property with singers like Papon around. Remember Moh Moh Ke Dhaage?

Wish songs like these got their due!

Granted l Dance Film

I had been toying with the idea of this piece for a while, ever since I saw a poster of a short dance film contest. Inspiration to create something always hits me like a running train. Then I just have to do something about it. I’m so happy to have managed to finish this film in 15 days and for it to have come out the way it did. I truly believe dance films is a virtually limitless form of expression. You can reach out globally and present your work to n number of people.

Kiss dat ass!

No one is free of bias. It is one of those traits that makes us humane. To say that x person is “unbiased” is nothing but a personal opinion and someone else might not look at it that way. Parents have a favorite child. Children have a favorite parent, a favorite teacher, friend, sibling, relative. A boss has a favorite employee. An employee has a favorite colleague. Its endless. Our minds are equipped to make opinions about people very quickly in this rapidly changing world that has no time for anything. A look, a word, a small gesture, a reaction – is all it takes for us to form an opinion and develop a bias. Sometimes we don’t even realize its there.

We can never really live in a world without biases. What we can do, however, is recognize that they exist within us and try not to act out on them. Especially if we happen to be in a position of authority where the smallest of our actions can lead to the downfall of someone’s self esteem. Educational institutes are perfect examples of bias and how it impacts people. Every teacher/professor is biased. Some are better at hiding it. If you happen to be one of the “favorites” then hakuna matata for you, my friend. If you’re not, then you’re in for ride that offers greater resentment at every turn.

I recently decided to go back to college for my training in dance. When someone like me looks at a prospect like that, I simply zoom my focus in on the training part. I need training. For that, I need to find a good school and enroll. Boom. End of story. What I forget is that school means an environment where other students also exist and there will be a teacher who will invariably display preferential behavior. No institution is an exception to that. Suffice to say, I have encountered a couple of outwardly biased teachers already. They continually praise their favorite student in class, point him/her out with words like “Now look at her..this is what we’re looking for”, hardly seem to find anything wrong with them and even give them the power and liberty to go correct other people. While I have no problem with a teacher pointing out something good about a student; I do have a problem when it comes from a place of bias rather than actual appreciation. There are other students in class who sometimes display better skill, but then I doubt if some teachers even know all our names.

So, why are teachers biased? All of us have certain comfort zones, and when certain people fit into those comfort zones, we want to keep them there. For example, when you walk into a party/event/gathering that consists of people you don’t know very well, but then hit it off with person and stick to that person for an eternity. After that, no matter what that person says or does you will not openly disagree with him/her because you don’t want to lose your comfort zone. Similarly teachers, who find their comfort zones with a few students – maybe because they agree with them, or they suck up to them and kiss their ass, or simply because the teacher finds them pretty – try not to breath down their necks. They will point out others’ mistakes, missteps and errors to make a point. Like I said before, developing a bias or a comfort zone is quite natural; however acting out on them can be damaging, especially if you’re a teacher. Not to mention this constant process of putting a select few up on a pedestal makes their heads bloat bigger and faster than Aunt Marge’s entire body in Harry Potter and they throw their weight around everywhere.

One of the things that I mentioned above – kissing ass – is a rather overused term. But despite what people might say, it does actually work. It may not be sufficient enough to land you a dream job, but sufficient enough to help you glide through the mundane hiccups of daily student life – you don’t have to deal with too much hostility, you get praised all the time (as I said before), you constantly feel validated, other students look up to you and suck up to you (what a vicious cycle) and you might even sometimes get directly picked for some projects. While these may not be huge things in hindsight, but when you’re a full time student, they seem like the biggest achievements.

Personally, I despise ass kissing and ass kissers more than a lot  of other abominable things. It’s a proof of lack of faith in your own talent and skill. You would rather be a hypocrite and be admired than be hated but actually learn something. You would rather get off at power tripping than focus on yourself. You would rather get a good grade and a good comment from your beloved teacher than question him/her because you didn’t understand something, or because you didn’t agree with something. I am officially convinced of the fact that ass kissing is a religion that transcends boundaries more than anything else. It’s prevalent everyfuckingwhere. Both the ass kisser and the ass that is being kissed gain infinite validation and ego massage in the process. The ass that is being kissed feels special and powerful, and the ass kisser feels privileged and “superior” too. Exceptionally profitable bargain.

Being good at what you do and being a good teacher are two completely different things. You can be brilliant at what you do but still suck at teaching. Teaching requires the ability to keep a lot of personal judgement at bay, the ability to understand each and every student’s needs, the ability to divide attention, appreciation and criticism equally among all students and most importantly the ability to display faith in all students. Unfortunately not too many teachers have passion for teaching to have faith in someone else. They have passion for their fields, but not for teaching. And that is very, very unfortunate.

Favoritism, bias and partiality – I’m not new to these concepts. I have never been at the receiving end of any of these, in fact have mostly been at the other extreme where most teachers despise me. I’m just not a likable student. But I would choose hostility over bias any day, because I have faith in my skill and am not dying for a good grade. This choice gives me the freedom to not give a fuck when I don’t want to. And most of the times, I don’t.

Chapter: New

Adjusting in Singapore hasn’t been as much of a hassle as adjusting in Europe was. Indians do occupy 9.2% of the population after all.  We have an entire community called “Little India” dedicated to us. If being in a foreign land ever bugged us we could just catch a bus and go there to be […]

Choices

The power of choice is not given enough significance in our country. People attribute their predicament to almost any factor except the one that matters most – they chose to be where they are. It’s a difficult concept to grasp, but everyone always has a choice. People like to look at themselves as victims in a lot of situations to escape the burden of that fact. Saying “I had no choice” is a defense mechanism we all use to make ourselves survive the night. Coming to terms with the gravity of the fact that no one is to blame for who, where or what we are besides ourselves can be overwhelming.

I have come across different sections of people constantly using the “I had no choice” card in our country – specifically middle aged women who are disappointed with everyone and everything in their lives. They’re miserable and blame people around them for their misery. I don’t know how many times I have heard someone from my family say “I couldn’t leave him. I had no choice”, “I couldn’t continue with my job. I had no choice”, “I couldn’t follow my dream. I had no choice”, “I couldn’t take a stand for the right thing. I had no choice”…and on and on and on. They paint such a sad picture that even Nargis from Mother India would watch their lives in awe. Hearing their tales of sorrow makes me feel sympathetic for a while, even pitiful. But my sympathy and pity only extend so far. Letting things happen without taking control of your own life is nobody’s fault except your own. You chose to be powerless. Period.

The other side of the coin is the never ending blame game and guilt tripping. They blame their husbands, in-laws, children, relatives and even neighbors for the smallest of their problems. Had to quit working? Husband’s fault. Had to be submissive? In-law’s fault. Had to work like a slave in the house? Children’s fault. Your child is more interested in movies than studies? Relative’s influence. There are mosquitoes in the house? The neighbors probably didn’t drain the water from their cooler. They’re simply the helpless victims who are at the epicenter of everything evil. What is unfortunate is that their children perceive them as victims and grow up believing that everyone around has wronged his/her mother in some way. They tend to develop a very skewed idea of what’s “good” and what’s “bad”.  The absolute worst is when their mothers use that perception to guilt trip them all the time. Ever heard the following lines?

“I did so much for you. Is this how you repay me?”

“I went through so much pain to raise you. All those sacrifices. For this day?”

“I work like a slave every single day, just to provide you a good life. What do you do for me?”

“You will take care of me when I’m old, right? I have no one other than you”

Etc. Etc. If your child is your investment – you’re doing something wrong. If you’re child is your emotional punching bag – you’re doing something wrong. If you think your child is obligated to do things to make your life better – you’re doing something wrong. If you think your child is not doing enough things to make you happy – you’re doing something wrong.

It was not your child’s decision to be born into your family. It was yours.

Which is not to say that men don’t act the victims or don’t play the helpless card. I have come across my fair share of men constantly cribbing about how destiny has failed them at every account. How they had to do what their parents demanded of them and how they had to marry a girl of their parents’ choice. These sad, miserable men then dump all their unfulfilled wishes on their children and then start the blame game all over again. It’s quite the vicious wheel that can keep on spinning for generations if we don’t stop and see what we’re doing. Are we parenting or are we just finding ways to channel leftover resentment through kids who had nothing to do with it?

What I’ve also seen is how people tend to fall apart when it comes to making a choice. They may appear strong and decisive through words, but when push comes to shove and they actually have to choose between X and Y – their whole graph crumbles. Life is a journey that is full of difficult choices. We can try to dodge such crossroads all we want but they will keep coming back unless we make a decision. We can take a longer route to buy time, or try to find an easier way out; but it never really works. Passion or money? Relationships or career? Kids or no kids? To fight for what you believe in or settle for a comfortable life? To voice your opinion or swallow it to avoid hurting someone close? To be honest and get hurt or lie and be safe? To do what’s right and stand alone or to do what’s easy and stand in the crowd?

It’s not easy making a decision. We may talk all we want about what we would do if we were faced with a situation hypothetically – but honestly we don’t know how we will react until it hits us in the face. You don’t know how you’re going to dance unless the music comes on. But you do have to dance; their is no avoiding that. Unfortunately  most people leave the dance floor despite having made tall promises about their ability to be courageous.

In the end, there are two universal truths: 1) You’re always looking for ways to sleep better at night. 2) You always have a choice. Make it.

When love conquers all

2

This only happens in Bollywood films, when the hero takes the heroine and elopes away into the sunset and they live happily ever after. When the hero fights with the entire world for his lady love and protects her like a shield from all the evil in the world. When they sacrifice everything for love and set a legendary example. We have all grown up watching those films. We even have those typical aashiqs slashing their wrists and writing names of girls on their arms with blood. Yes, it all seems very attractive. It ‘sounds’ cool, doesn’t it?

Reality is different though. There are no knight in shining armors. There are no lovers who would actually follow each other to the edge of the world. There are no men who would fight with all the enemies to be with their women, and no women who would break every other relationship just to maintain one. Love in reality is very calculated, safe and convenient. Couples fall apart at the drop of a hat. Relationships don’t sustain beyond the first sign of resistance. “I love you” is a very absolute statement. It doesn’t really leave any room for doubts or second thoughts. It’s isn’t subject to terms and conditions. It’s a commitment that should be fulfilled with life, if need be. You don’t measure pros and cons after that. You don’t think about society, family or money. You don’t think about consequences. All you know is that you would do anything to be with the person you love. Everything else is just a blur.

But maybe that’s just me. Maybe I’m just not familiar with the term ‘duniyadaari’ that we Indians so dearly love to use for all our fuckups. Maybe it’s because I see the world in the shades of white and black and nothing in-between. Maybe it’s because concepts like ‘khandaan’, ‘money’ and ‘society’ make me laugh when they’re used as excuses to not fulfill commitments. I’m just not in tune with the very many factors that come into play after the three words are uttered. Thankfully, I’m not.

I used to think that I’m the only one. But then something happened that made me believe that maybe there still are some people who would go the distance. Despite everything they had to face, despite all the hurdles, despite all the pain, suffering and torture – they made it through and saved their love at all costs. Their story is classic bollywood. Girl and boy meet. Become friends. Fall in love and decide to be with each other forever. But the girl’s parents resist and make their lives a living hell.

Starting with a temporary house arrest, the girl’s parents do everything they can (and more) in their power to separate the two – they snatch away her mobile, stalk her social media, don’t let her leave the house alone, follow her around like hawks and manipulate her day and night to leave the boy. They forbid her to meet him for 3 months to prove that their love is true. They cut her off from the rest of the world completely. They take away her ID proofs and her financial means. She only has a 100 rupee note in her bag at any given point of time, because as per her parents’ calculations that’s all she needs to pay for the auto.

The boy faces his fare share of shit – her parents tap his phone, have a police officer investigate his background, get in touch with people at his workplace, his friends and even his ex-partners. They threaten him time and again to stay away from their daughter. But when both refuse to budge, they bring the 3-month condition into play as a hogwash – to make them believe that they are ‘in the process’ of accepting their relationship. Because the couple is desperate to convince her parents, they agree (By all means, the “we need time” tactic is only used to buy time to manipulate and blackmail more)

3 months go by. 4 months go by. 5 months go by. They meet him once or twice, and by all means – only as an excuse to humiliate and insult him. They ask for his bank statements, his salary proofs, his hometown address, his educational certificates and grill him at length about his financial decisions. They consistently make him feel inferior but he takes it, only and only because of the girl. After all the interviewing, investigating, blackmail and manipulation – nothing changes. Her parents still don’t approve of him and she still isn’t allowed to meet him. One fine day, after a period of 6 months, something happens and all hell breaks loose. The girl’s father beats her up badly in front of the rest of the family and even relatives. He calls up the boy and spews a handful of hindi abuses at him. He threatens to screw up his entire life. He completely confines the girl in a room and doesn’t let her leave. Her mother and brother side with the father too.

It is then that the couple decide that enough is enough. They decide to elope and marry. They go to extreme lengths to make that happen. They would have to shift to a different city, so the boy quits his job and starts making arrangements for travel and marriage. The girl prepares herself to leave her family behind and build a new life. Once every single detail is taken care of – the tickets are bought, the lawyer is hired, the mandir and pandit are ready – they take the plunge.

The girl runs away from her house and takes her flight to freedom. They take the plunge knowing that the consequences can be dangerous. Her parents can have him beaten up, they can file a case of kidnapping, they can have his house vandalized, they can insult his parents and family, they can ruin his professional future – these are scary possibilities. But they still go ahead and risk them all. They know that togetherness will be worth all this and more. On the day of 2nd June, they marry in an Arya Samaaj mandir. The happiness on their faces is hard to forget. All their faces said at that point of time was – “Finally”. It took me all my courage to not weep in that moment.

It takes an incredible amount of faith and trust to stick to your partner through thick and thin. An episode like this could have torn them apart; it would have torn anyone apart. Leaving your life behind for a new life is never easy, especially more when there are so many risks involved and when you have less than a month to plan it all. All your future plans and dreams go for a toss. You spend years building a life in a place and then suddenly have to throw it in the fire and you do it happily, when you could easily have broken your commitment and stuck with your comfortable life. It would have been easier for both to simply bid adieu to each other and continue living their respective lives. The girl in question was a good friend of mine and I know how many plans she had in regard to her career in this city. But she didn’t think twice about that.

Why? Because plans can be remade and jobs can be changed, money can be earned again and houses can be rebuilt – but strong relationships cannot be rebuilt or found again. You have one moment to either hold on or let go, and that moment decides it all.

They are now happily married and figuring out their lives. No jobs, limited money and less time. Financial burdens, emotional pain and the trauma of leaving parents behind – everything must seem so small now. Togetherness conquers all. Love conquers all.

Some people are lucky to have found such partners. Others have to be happy with simply witnessing and writing about such miracles.