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.

 

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We all have ideal families, don’t we?

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.

Arranged Marriage vs Love Marriage

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V/S

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This is an age-old debate, much like the tussle between men and women. However, with changing times perspectives change too, and so does the meaning of relationships. Back in the day, an arranged marriage was a pretty strict affair. It wasn’t a union of a man and a woman, it was a union of two families who were economically, socially and caste-wise matched. All the dendaari was discussed between the parents in the absence of the two people who were actually getting married. It was a business deal camouflaged as a wedding.

Love marriage, on the other hand, was not completely accepted because as they say, love is blind and does not see caste, economic or social status. The families were eternally torn between allowing their kids to have their way and log kya kahenge. Countless Bollywood movies have mirrored this situation. However, what they have also done is romanticize the idea of a love marriage and made it seem like saccha pyaar is everlasting and transcends all mortal boundaries. The ‘honeymoon phase’ of a relationship is the one that needs to be taken least seriously, but unfortunately, couples are blinded by their saccha pyaar to the extent that they take the plunge while their hormones are in an overdrive and decide to get married after only a few months of courtship.

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Guy says: “I love you!” Girl says: “Let’s get married!”

As times have progressed, the idea of ‘love’ has slowly been condensed to a few factors – the relationship status on facebook, not ignoring whatsapp texts, cheesy late night discussions about future plans (about a beach house, a dog named Rosy and kids called Shona and Shonu) and saying “I love you” to each other at every chance. This sentence is now being thrown around so casually then I fear very soon people will start greeting each other with “I love you” instead of “How are you?”. What is love? I don’t know yet, but I know that it’s none of the above either.

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Marriage is the ultimate commitment, and cannot be made on the basis of a few stray dreams sold to us by companies like Hallmark, Archies and Bollywood. It’s easy to stay together when the world is pink and emotions are raw, but the real test is when you hit a rough patch and still find the strength to be with each other. Everyone has a temperamental and weak side that they hide, especially in a relationship. Occasionally it does come to the surface, but the thing about being in “the romantic kind of” love is that people ignore each other’s faults. They keep telling themselves “Oh he’s not like that, he would never shout at me infront of everyone again” or “She won’t flirt with him again, it was only this one time..” But this can be ignored only for so long. Eventually it creates resentment and hurt. This is usually the time when most relationships fall apart, and partners claim that only recently saw each other’s “true self”. The truth is, it was always there, albeit hidden or ignored. The question that then arises is – Didn’t you know the person you loved and decided to get married to?

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Check: if you can hear violins playing each time you see your partner, then it’s not the right time to make important decisions. However, if this continues then you probably have schizophrenia.

Which is what brings me to the next part – why this generation needs arranged marriages. Arranged marriages are not what they used to be. Now they’re progressive. Although the family still looks for the potential partner, an individual has the right to say no if they don’t click. What happens here is, that people skip the honeymoon phase completely. They know they have been brought together by their family for marriage. They haven’t met each other before. They aren’t in love (as defined above) so they give each other a real chance. They don’t overlook each other’s faults because they aren’t blinded by saccha pyaar. If things work out, then the relationship follows the logical path and the two people fall in love after getting to know each other. If not, then they can amicably say goodbye.

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I’m not against love marriage. In fact, I used to be an ardent advocate of it. But then I realized that what’s important is free will and personal choice. Dowry deaths in arranged marriages are still happening and so are honour killings due to love marriages. One should have the freedom to choose. Of course, given the rate at which the meaning of love is being compressed to fit a Karan Johar song raises quite a few concerns about the sustainability of a love marriage in my mind, but there are people who do give their relationship enough time before making the commitment. They do spend years being in a relationship, gauging their compatibility, before getting married, which is something I respect and admire. As far as the concept of chat mangni, pat byah is concerned, I’d rather just watch a Bollywood film.