Sunday, September 16, 2012

Do Parents Really Love?

In our society, the idea that parents always work for their children’s best interests is instilled right from infancy in our minds. The statement is so overused as to have become clich├ęd. The ICSE council has even set an argumentative essay topic based on this concept. For most people, this idea has become such an intrinsic part of the psyche that they can easily overlook the weightiest of proofs against it. For such people, this article might seem to be an outrageous insult to parents and all elders in general. However, to those who like to think logically, it might start a new train of thoughts and beliefs.

In the many ways that my life has been different from my friends’, one very important factor is that people of all ages keep coming to my father looking for advice or just sympathy, and often my father tells me their stories. Nowadays, even my friends have started treating me as a father (mother!) confessor, so that I come to know of the darkest secrets of many of them, and by putting myself in their shoes, I am able to live many lives at once, which helps broaden my mind. And, from the many experiences I have heard of, I find it very difficult to conform with the idea that all elders, especially parents, always know (and want) what is the best for their children.

When I was in primary school, I remember my friends gawking at me with disbelief clearly etched on their faces when I told them that my parents did not beat me. Those were the days when thrashings were a part of everyday life for almost all my friends. One girl had even gone so far as to inform me that since my father did not beat me, he obviously did not love me! It was during this very time when, after the results of a class test had been declared, many of my friends had started weeping profusely. One girl was beside herself with terror, and kept saying that her mother would not let her enter the house, and thrash her for not getting full marks. She had got eighteen out of twenty. Today, I can swear that I have received more love from my parents than half of my class taken together. And no, I have not been beaten more than four or five times throughout my life, but never to the extent of being badly injured, and certainly never because of my results. In fact, the last time I was smacked was five years ago!

This thrashing is not even a childhood thing. One of my friends told me his father regularly hit him even when he was in class twelve. In fact, things had turned so nasty in their family that he had actually started hitting his father back (well, not exactly hitting back since he was not a monster, but the self-defense was violent), and breaking glass windows in his anger! My father had a student in class ten who once came to class with huge angry-red weals on her arms. Apparently, her mother had burnt her with a hot ladle as punishment. As for black eyes and sprained arms, those are regular sights in my class.One girl who came to my father's class had multiple deep scars all over her body.

For some reason, parents seem to feel that hitting their children is their sacred right. This has nothing to do with wanting to correct one’s children; it is just a perverted yearning to display one’s superiority. The mother of one of my father’s students has actually acknowledged this at a counselling session. She says that she somehow cannot stop spanking her daughter even though she understands that it useless.

Hitting children needlessly is only one aspect of how parents think of everything but their children’s welfare. My friends tell me that their parents often shout at them because of their low marks not because of their lack of hard work or knowledge but because the parents won’t be able to show off in front of their neighbours, colleagues and relatives! So basically, what their children learn is the least important consideration; children are just their parents’ status symbols, a means to satisfy their already bloated egos.  

As a rule, parents select the kind of higher education, the career, even the spouse for their children. The children are not allowed to have opinions, choices of their own. I have heard from my friends (and some seniors as well) that their parents have threatened not to pay their school and college fees unless they abide by their parents' choice. So it all comes down to that: the bread-earner is the only one who has any say. At one point, all that counts is sheer animal superiority of one over another. But the paradox lies in the fact that when these same children become adults who earn their own living, the parents will use the sentiments of love and respect to demand the same kind of obedience that they used to get by force earlier.

It is this very mindset which when pushed to the extreme leads to female foeticide and other such heinous deeds. Delhi, the capital and one of the richest cities of the country has the highest rate of female foeticide. Obviously, this has nothing to do with poverty or illiteracy: the elite of the country indulge in such activities. Parents in our country leave their newborn babies in gutters. The rate of abortion is high among urban people who realize too late that they have ‘made a mistake’. I don’t require highbrow theories and far-fetched examples to make my point: it is all there much nearer home. There are many girls in my class who face constant discrimination in their homes because of their gender. The son, no matter what kind of a person he might be, is always better, and so he deserves the best of everything, even if it is at the cost of his sister’s welfare. Well, I should be calling these parents better; they at least stop at discrimination only. There is someone I know whose grandmother tried to poison her (if not with her father’s consent, at least with no strong resistance from him) because she did not like her daughter-in-law and her grandchildren much. So much for parents always loving their children.

In the article from The Hindu, the parents have protested loudly against the idea that they could batter their child badly enough to have to hospitalize him. However, I have fallen down from the bed enough times (once, directly on my head) to know that a mere fall from the bed doesn’t result in such grievous injuries. And judging from all the anecdotes I have heard firsthand, I don’t find it at all difficult to believe that the parents are at fault. So what is it that is lacking in Indian parents? What is wrong with them? Why do they treat their children like their property (and not even property that should be well taken care of)? How can their mentality be changed? I wish I knew, I wish I knew…