I find in India only three types of parents; indulgent, overindulgent and indifferent; sadly no ‘normal’ parents!
Understandable in the Indian milieu, as matrimony and children are indicators of one’s social status as viewed from several aspects of a man or woman’s life; normal, happy, blessed, and socially conscious above all an intelligent planner of the evening of life. Unfortunately, none say that these are just myths and nothing to do with each other logically or even politically correct speaking. With the result, today we have social media and the social workers crying hoarse about the ungrateful children and the suffering aged parents.
Let me explain the three different kinds of parents I mentioned at the start.
The ‘indifferent and overindulgent parents’ belong to the two extremes of the financial background; the stinking rich and the striking penury. The rich finds hardly time to concentrate on their children and their activities since like any other mark of affluence they need to have children to show their biological normalcy. Upbringing is another aspect; caretakers and attendants can be easily bought with the wealth they have like a car or a computer game for their children. The children have to only ask; they get it in the next moment. It adds one more feather to the parents’ status cap also!
Conversely, those who live in penury, the concepts are the same; marriage, children are must for them again as a status symbol and for social acceptance. Having children there is all the more important; their ‘innocent’ IQ will find fault with the biological lacunae in the man or women if they fail to get an offspring; if they don’t get, their society, kith and kin will look down on them; the men as impotent and the women as sterile. Once the child is born, there bringing up the child is the responsibility of the mother than father. When they reach teens these children whether education is there or not they are expected to earn to take care of the family which may have a drunken father, younger brothers and sisters. So for the ‘poor,’ children are expected to earn and support their families at the earliest. The character, activities or education are not essentials to those in abject poverty. For them children are sources of income.
The ubiquitous middle classes are the ‘indulgent’ parents. They decide not only the time of their birth, name, school they should go and the degree they should get and the job they should land on and ahem, the country they should go and earn. In some cases, the extracurricular activities like sports, music, and art are imposed on them right from their tender age. Anyway, as expected if they excel in education or art or sports, the quality is attributed to the genes of their lineage and if not the blame is squared on the society. Further, these indulgent parents try to save and leave a legacy in the form of houses or jewels. One of my cousins when I met lamented since they have bought two houses in Chennai and two in Bengaluru for son and daughter but they seemed to have no inclination to come from USA and UK. It is just one example; there are many aged and ageing parents who are here keeping houses/flats ready for their wards to come and enjoy from abroad. In a way, they have successfully contributed to the inflation of the country but not able to influence their children. But, the sad fact is those children have no ideas of returning here.
These middle/ upper middle class parents land in senior citizen homes. They do have grudge that the joint family is impossible now. But, they conveniently forget that their attitude is also part of it.
Indian parentage oscillates between over indulgence and indifference.
In the western world and elsewhere each one is considered as an independent individual; good or bad. After 18, very few children only stay with their parents. My student who is in The Netherlands said that they even move out earlier and earn by working in departmental stores or libraries or take up odd jobs and earn, study stay with their friends. They thus know the value of money, job, education as well as life that they choose is good or bad. The parents, ofcourse, suggest and support but not impose their views or values.
We ape the west for many things in life but not in this as we consider our ‘family culture’ is superior and unique.
The indifferent invest nothing on their children but expect ‘something’ from them; the indulgent invest a lot and expect ‘many things’ from their wards while the over indulgent care a damn about either their investment or returns.
However, I am really amused while I read a verse of Adi Sankara’s celebrated ‘Bhajagovindam’ who advocated as follows in those ‘good old days’ itself;
‘Arthamanartham bhaavaya nityam
Naasti tatah sukalesah satyam
Putraadapi dhanabhaajam beetih
Sarvatraishaa vihita reetih’
Meaning ‘Wealth is calamitous, thus reflect constantly: the truth is that there is no happiness at all to be got from it. To the rich, there is fear even from their own son. This is the way wealth everywhere.’
Adi Sankara also lived in Kaliyug, isn’t it?