Desi Parenting: Raising Devoted Sons
It is often said in Indian communities that to have good children is a result of one’s good karmas from the previous lives. Desi parents invest in their children especially sons with a hope of receiving old age care as organized state sponsored senior care is not an option. It becomes imperative for parents to keep their sons emotionally obligated to take care of old parents when the time comes. The socialization for this anticipatory duty begins early on. Often mothers shoulder the important task of socializing young men into obedient sons who in future will unquestioningly serve their mothers and sisters.
Here is one example of how desi families tame their sons into men who are still boys at thirty. Meet Pinku, the first born of the two, raised with lots of love and daily dose of chants on how he is the keeper of his mother when she grows old because her husband failed to take care of her. His mother sings every day how she took all the nonsense from her in-laws and his father just because for the sake of her children. She made all these sacrifices for them. She can’t expect anything from her daughter she is not even worth counting rather he’ll be the one to take care of his young sister when she has trouble in her sasural. In other words, after years of living with a man who could father her children and remain emotionally absent, a son becomes a man substitute for her. Her whole life is spent on emotionally manipulating this son so that he’ll never ever develop real intimacy with another woman his own age. Oh we were talking about Pinku…
When Pinku moved to another town to complete his B. Tech he religiously called home every day to save his mother from a heart attack. Every month when he came home he was indoctrinated to bring some gift for his mother and sister. If he failed to bring something because he ran out of money or he did not have time, his mother would start crying “this is now, what will happen when you’ll get married. You won’t even bother about me. Oh my God! All the sacrifices I made are wasted. I should rather die” To escape this drama Pinku believes in buy borrow or steal but buy mummy ji a gift or he is a dead meat. Sometimes mummy ji just demands what she wants “my friend tells me you get best bhandhini saris in Jaipur…” She doesn’t have to complete the sentence Pinku knows she needs it and he has to get her the sari or she’ll make his life miserable. If he brings just one sari it is a problem because he forgot his sister, the sister who loves him so much and ties him rakhi every year.
By the time Pinku was ready for marriage he was conditioned like Pavlov’s dog every time mummy ji would start a sentence with “I like that thing Mrs. Sharma has… .” Pinku knew he had to bring it for her or his life will be in crisis. Mummy ji wants Pinku to marry Mr. Chaudhary’s not so beautiful daughter. But Pinku has been seeing Rinku for two years now, she is growing impatient so he has to drop the bomb on mummy ji. To his surprise mummy ji is open to the idea. Pinku is skeptical but is happy finally he’ll get to sleep with Rinku legally. At wedding things had to be exactly like mummy ji wanted. Come to our town for the wedding; bring this give that to my daughter because Pinku loves her so much. Rinku and her parents have abided by mummy ji’s every demand both willingly and unwillingly. Finally they are married. Rinku is relieved thank God they do not have to live with mummy ji for more than few days every year.
Yes, Rinku is in for a surprise although mummy ji is not physically present in her two room apartment but her life is over ridden by her subtle body. Pinku religiously calls mummy ji every day to tell her what he did and what time Rinku woke up. When he buys Rinku something he makes sure he buys one for his mother and another for his sister. Rinku detests it and told him this should change but Pinku is immune to it. One time when they visited his parents he ironed her sari and mummy ji had an attack of hysteria her son has become a “joru ka ghulam” (uxorious). Now she is worried if he’ll care for her in future. When Pinku was not around mummy ji told Rinku she’ll make sure Rinky is thrown out within a year of her marriage and then she’ll bring bahu (daughter-in-law) of her own choice. Rinku asked mummy ji if she was so against her then why did she consent to their marriage. Mummy ji sagaciously replied “I could not lose my son. If I had resented he would have turned against me or he would have committed suicide. I want him but not you so I’ll make sure you’ll leave him.”
Pinku and Rinku have moved to the U.S. now phone calls have changed into video chat. Pinku spends long hours after work on the computer talking to mummy ji and Rinky sits in front of the T.V. until he is done or goes to bed. Pinku doesn’t know what is Rinku’s problem his parents do not even live with them. The other day Pinku was crying while they were watching “Baagbaan” the bollywood melodrama of daughters-in-law ill treating retired in-laws. Lately she has found Pinku sleep talking “Mummy I am sorry, mummy please do not die I’ll leave her.” “I am sorry mummy forgive me don’t leave me, I’ll listen to you.” Lately, after making love he runs to call his mother as if is trying to announce his allegence to mummy ji and feels guilty for sleeping with Rinku.
Rinku feels they are three people sleeping in the bed but she can’t tell anyone what the problem is as her in-laws do not live with her. Is she cooking it in her head or it is for real… .