We Indians are anomalous. We do things differently than the rest of the world does. The Indian culture has always driven on ‘interdependence and co-operation’, with parents and the very concept of a family being at the center of the whole system. The Indian parents, therefore, have established a power over their children.
Though the lines of patriarchy and hierarchy are clearly drawn, power is exercised in different ways. In our culture, the power relation between a parent and a child is used to control, dictate, and guilt the children into believing that what parents ‘teach’ you is the only way to lead one’s life. The submissive role of a child continues even after they have grown into adults. The line between obsessive control and care is blurred when it comes to a parent-child relationship, to the point that the parent end up determining what, how, and when will make their children happy.
The choices a child makes have to be approved by their parents. For example, if you choose to marry someone whose your parents don’t ‘approve’ of and have a life with them, you are treated as a ‘traitor’, as a child who chose to leave their parents because of some random person who walked into their lives. What the parents did for their children to bringing them up is used as a weapon to guilt a child to give up their choices and always put their parents first. Is it wrong, is it right, you decide. But do you know that the decision you will make after reading this sentence will also be based on your conditioning?
I agree to the fact that parents do much for their children but what isn’t often regarded is that this relationship is not selfless or that parents have a dominant part to play in their power structure. The hierarchy puts women or a girl child much lower in the stratum. Girls are brought up to believe that they are first of all, not living in their own home and are brought up with a mindset that marriage is their ultimate goal in life. Even when you are ‘given’ education which is, of course, a collective decision of the family, and start a job, which your parents ‘approve’ of, we are not independent. Even for using our own money, we are monitored, controlled, and made to feel guilty. This guilt has been internalised so deeply that even when we understand coercion by the family members is not care, we fall into the trap, each and every time.
We can never complain about a parent being abusive or using you for their own means, can we? Because they have an out for that. They say they are the parent and they know better. In 2007, the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) released a study report on child abuse. the study examined emotional abuse and girl child neglect. The study examined two forms of emotional abuse: humiliation and comparison. Half the children reported facing emotional abuse with 83% of that abuse begin conducted by parents.
The neglect faced by daughters was also assessed. Girls compared themselves to their brothers on factors like attention, food, recreation time, household work, taking care of siblings, and many more. 70.57% of the girls reported having been neglected by family members. 48.4% of girls wished they were boys. 27.33% of girls reported getting less food then their brothers. Of the young adults (ages 18-24) interviewed, almost half of them reported having been physically or sexually abused as children. That was in 2007. Imagine the percentage now, in 2019.
So how much control is bad or what can be termed abusive when you talk about parents? And even if you know that your parent is being a control freak or being abusive, can we call them out on it? We can blame it on our conditioning and treating our parents as God and put them on a pedestal. We are made to believe and to know that whatever they do is for our well-being. So even when we question things, we never question their intentions and even if we question their intentions, we shut ourselves up with ‘But, they are my parents.’
The contribution of the conditioning in making us what we are is immense, regardless of whether we agree. Now it all comes down to what we can do about it, to adhere to it or to know what our own believes are and what we want to be. The poem ‘This be the verse’ by Philip Larkin inspires me, I hope it does something for you.
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.
Featured Image Source: Dr. Shefali