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Is My Family Dysfunctional

20 Jul

Is My Family Dysfunctional


Is it common for desi kids to fake having a good relationship with parents?


In last few days a discussion in personal circles once again emerged about our families of birth and their impact on our adult lives. Going forth and back numerous times decided to re-post this from the tools on the right margin of GGTS under All About Relationships. Click the hyperlink to read comments from desi adult children to learn more about desi family dynamics in everyday lives.

Is My Relationship Reflection of My Family

Stepping into the adulthood many of us thought we could not only leave our family but also our childhood problems behind. However, many of us have found ourselves experiencing similar problems, feelings and relationship patterns, long after we left our family environment. In family environment, growing up children learn their worth and to value their needs and feelings. In many families the communication patterns are such that they limit a child’s expression of feelings and needs thus breeding low self-esteem and a deep feeling that their needs are not worth to be taken seriously by others. As a result, they may face difficult establishing satisfactory adult relationships and often find we are finding people who are almost like our family members.

Patterns of Dysfunctional Families

 Following are the examples of patterns frequently observed in dysfunctional families:

  • Either or both parents subscribe to authoritarian control over the children. Often such families rigidly adhere to a particular belief. Here are few examples:
    • Personal: No child of mine talks back to me; no one in this family marries out of caste; women in this family do not wear skirts/trousers etc. You follow the recipe as I taught you to.
    • Religious: In this family we follow our religious rituals in a particular way; our religion is the best etc.
    • Political: In this family we only vote for X political party because we have been doing so for generations etc.
    • Financial: Money is hard to earn, it is not for spending on fashion etc.

Food & Shelter What Else?

  • Either or both parents are unable to provide adequate emotional support or threaten to withdraw emotional of financial support. Failure to provide basic physical care or provide it conditionally to the children. It is commonly heard in desi families- “We provided you with every comfort, even those that were beyond our financial reach.” “If you disobey me, I’ll disown you.” “If you marry him/her I’ll commit suicide.” Atiya, grew up with best amenities but resents how her mother was never emotionally available. Her mother was always preoccupied with her self and the needs of everybody else in the extended family. Even when Atiya initiated a talk about her day or life it always became all about mommy. Atiya feels she goes emotionally unavailable to her partner for days and weeks because that way she does not have to deal with his problems.

  Needy Parent: You Are Me, You Are For Me

  • Either or both parents treat children as possession and use children to meet their physical or emotional needs. Anuja, grew up in a family where she and her siblings had to protect her mother from her father’s openly sexual demands and his family’s vicious violence. Anuja feels she is observing similar trend in parenting her child. She often asks her son to take sides for minor things. DG’s mother grew up taking care of her sick mother because her father did not pay attention towards his wife, as a result she has hard time accepting even she can fall sick and someone can care for her. Some parents use children to get even with their partner. They ask children to take sides. In some desi families mothers raise sons with a constant reminder to them how they brought them up irrespective of the hardships piled by their father and grandparents; how they are counting on their sons to pay back their sacrifices by caring for them in old age or taking sides in any future family dispute. Some parents treat children as their extension. They expect children not only obey them but think and act like them.

     Angry Parent: Child’s Problem

    • Either or both parents us use threats or physical violence as primary means of control and disciplining. Children may witness physical aggression between parents or experience aggressive disciplining. Some parents force children to participate in punishing siblings, or they may live in fear of parent(s)’ explosive outburst. One time while growing up DG saw a neighbor was punishing his very naughty teens by asking them to slap each other hard. She heard him say, “slap the other hard or I’ll beat you both”; both boys were crying and slapping each other. Recently when she was back at her childhood neighborhood came to know both boys are no longer at talking terms with their father and the older on has pretty bad anger issues famous in the neighborhood.

    All in the Family

    • Either or both parents have addictions or compulsions like, drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, gambling, overeating, overwork, over indulgence in children’s lives etc. these have strong influences on all family members. My high school friend Veenu’s mother followed too many religious rituals- fasting, extended poojas etc. Thus Veenu could never invite us to her home so she refrained from coming to our homes. Our friend Vinita’s mother was like a helicopter, she not only hovered on Vinita and her siblings for home work but was too involved in their lives. Vinita feels her mother was trying to escape her over bearing and adulterous spouse through her children. Vinita finds so many similarities between her spouse and her father. She said “Now I can join the dots, I am actually married to my father. During the courtship he acted just like my father, controlling, emotionally unavailable, making evasive replies,  and pouting if I refused to do as he wanted. I felt it odd but then I thought I could handle it as I had seen my mother managing with my father. This familiarity seemed comforting but now I see how big a problem it is. I see a pattern here, I am just a copy of my mother, something I hate.”  Atiya says she married her needy mother, as her spouse demands too much attention and time.

    There are numerous variations in how often dysfunctional interactions and behaviors occur in families so is the severity of their dysfunction. No family will have an absolute match to the mentioned patterns and some families will have over lapping conditions. If the patterns mentioned above are a norm rather than exception, they systematically foster abuse or neglect. Children may:

    • Be forced to take sides in conflicts between parents.
    • Feel ignored, discounted, or criticized for their feelings and thoughts.
    • Have parents that are inappropriately intrusive, overly involved and protective.
    • Have parents that are inappropriately distant and uninvolved with their children.
    • Have excessive structure and demands placed on their time, choice of friends, or behavior; or may receive no guidelines or structure at all.
    • Struggle with rejection or receive preferential treatment.
    • Experience restrictions on direct and full communication with other family members.
    • Face temptations to use drugs or alcohol and subtle encouragement from parent(s) who abuse the same.
    • Experience physical violence- slapping, hitting, kicking etc.
    • Experience verbal and emotional abuse- name calling, undue criticism etc.
    • Experience “reality shifting,” means there is a contradiction in what is being said and what is happening in actuality. A child may see one a parent hit the other but one or both parents may deny if physical scuffle ever took place.


    End Result

    For children to develop trust in the world, in others, and in themselves they need life free of abuse and neglect. Those experiencing abuse and neglect as children later as adults find it difficult to trust not only others but their own judgments and actions; they have doubts about self worth. They also experience problems in their relationships and their identities.

    Abused and neglected people often struggle to interpret their families as “normal.”  They make accommodations to make their situation seem normal, such as, “I wasn’t beaten, I was just slapped little too often.” “My father didn’t have anger issues; he just had low threshold for frustration.” The more accommodations they make the more likelihood is they will misinterpret themselves and develop negative self concepts (example, “I deserved it,” “I had it coming,” “I am a bad person”).

    Making Changes

    All behaviors are learned behaviors. At times we continue in our roles in a hope that our parents will give us “permission” to change. This permission has to

    come from within. People can ask you or encourage you to change but it is only your prerogative to change. Often people and parents in dysfunctional families fear change; they feel threatened by changes in their family members and children. They may even try to thwart your efforts to change by manipulating you to give up attempts to change or revert to your previous self. For this reasons it is important for you to trust your own perceptions and feelings. Change is difficult but not impossible. Only you can change your self. You can do the following:

    • Identify difficult or painful experiences of your childhood.
    • List your those behaviors and beliefs you would like to change.
    • Against each behavior or belief in the list write what you would like to do instead.
    • Choose the easiest item from the list and begin practicing the alternative behavior or belief.
    • After you have performed the first alternative behavior number of times and you feel comfortable performing it without much difficulty follow the other items on the list.


    You may seek support from people who believe in what you are doing. You can also seek help from professional counselors.

    Best Practices

    • Perfection is not the aim just be comfortable in practicing the change you want.
    • Don’t try to make your family perfect. You can only change your self and inspire others to change.
    • Don’t try to win the old struggles- you can’t win.
    • Set clear limits- e.g., if you do not plan to spend your vacations with your parents say “no” not “will see.”
    • When you try to change your self people around you may not like it. Even if you make small changes be prepared for adverse reactions from you near and dear ones. The anticipated reactions are tears, yelling, temper tantrums, threats etc. Prepare your self how you will respond to these adverse reactions.

     End Note

    Change is difficult but not impossible. It is normal to slip back to your original behaviors patterns because you are accustomed. Change is slow and gradual. If you miss some day do not treat it as an excuse to give up. Instead continue to practice healthier and new behaviors soon they’ll become part of your daily life.


Desi Fathers: Super, Lesser and Some in Between

2 Oct

Yes, DG is still alive. Yes, it’s been a long time to be exact 3 months and 20 days since she last posted on GGTS. What did she do all these days? Not that busy readers are interested in her not so happening life. Her basement apartment flooded and she literally survived electrocution. One Saturday morning in early September while she was still drifting in and out of sleep she thought she was dreaming until her hand hit the floor in six inches of water. She jumped out of bed to find she was still alive because in her sleep she pulled the plug to heat pad and fan. She blessed her stars for she is not a parent. She salutes you all parents out there, kudos for how you do that. Now you have another one for your arsenal, “be happy DG is not your parent, or else you would have been… surviving on raw food, green smoothies, steamed veggies, sitting in 6 inches of water… (You can add whatever to the list). DG is definitely not parent material she is just as good as Gabbar Singh to scare kids in the neighborhood though she is a good auntie to spoil your kids and talk to them about everything under the sun. Her friends tell her she gives very good parenting advice that is possible only because she is not a parent. 😛

Her social life might be nil but her Karma life is pretty interesting… Now everything is almost under control, all suitcases are wet and have gone bad, mission impossible to find a new place is on… Hope readers had a good time while she was away. In continuation to the previous post, though it was DG’s assumption that it will be in two parts but it appears it will be in few more parts.

By definition the super father, did not have to struggle to establish his hegemony it just came by virtue of his birth order. There after he had to maintain it by asserting his might and right at all the important life events in the family such as, birth of children, birth rites, finding matches or spending on wedding and sickness in the family and so on. To have power and absolute power is no big deal the skill lies in maintaining that power over a life time for this a person has to learn to execute power in a balance so as to not alienate the menials or push them into rebellion. Constant stiff upper lip is one way to do this but it is pretty threatening and alienating thus a super father has to occasionally shower affection at distant quarters so as not to destroy his in-control image. For example, a father who is known as terror incarnate to his children is often viewed as kind person by his nieces, nephews and neighbors. He’ll be readily available to guide and support his siblings and their children at the cost of his own progeny; rather he is obsessed with them. According to him his children by default should excel in career and social life and take his baton further. His filial loyalty is secondary to his filial piety (sharing his parents’ duty of raising their progeny, his siblings). Though his children often grow with emotionally absent father and resentful of their aunts, uncles and cousins but he makes sure he gives tips on parenting to his siblings. Often these kids rebel and super father loses grip on them.

With such a super father in picture all other fathers in the family become lesser fathers and they have to establish their own pecking order. There is a natural unspoken competition between siblings for parental attention and approval; all their lives they do tango and once they have children this burden to provide them with identity falls on them. Thus children become poster child of “My dog is smarter than…” So each father not only minds his children to save face but also pokes nose in the upbringing of those of his siblings’ (if possible then neighbors too) to maintain pecking order. In this double and confused parenting their own children rebel and move away from them thus to feel in-control they take it up to themselves to discipline other people’s children. The only way to deflect attention from their errant (rather resentful and disrespectful) children they interfere in other people’s disciplining regimes; they find faults in other people’s children to an extent where not only the children but their parents too resent them. Although the generational reverence and gender hierarchy prevents any direct confrontation with such nosey pseudo fathers but after a point a mother will stand up for son(s). This double edged sword often falls on male children and thus their mother emerge as their saviors.

It is mommy’s job to protect her sons’ from daddy’s unreasonable wrath and that of other fathers in the family. Thus mother son dyad is further cemented as her emotionally absent husband further drifts away. Her rising to protect her son(s) immediately brands her as family breaker and an outside (her association to family is through marriage and she’ll remain outsider until her death, she’ll be inducted into the clan only after sharad, a death feast is organized in her name).

These are not set in cement rules of desi parenting they are just prototypes there are numerous variations and combinations depending upon where they stand in social pecking order. It is true that it takes a village to raise a child but it is also true that too many chefs will only spoil the broth…

PS: These fathers are not bad people they are good providers and law abiding citizens they are just confused and they do not know any other way to behave. It is time we created new parenting role models. The world of desi parenting is evolving and some young men are stepping up to be “Dads.”

Desi Parenting: Cycle of Generational Dysfunction

12 Jun

Yes, lazy DG is still alive and counting her blessings. Previous post elicited a very interesting comment. Glacier and sexantheindiancities answered it appropriately

I know it’s naive to ask this question, but if it is so obvious that many parent-child relationships in India are abusive and based on the control game, why are they often so protected, cultivated and nourished by the victims themselves?

I saw a lot behavior of the type “I had it bad, so you will have it bad for me”. Is there any logic? It should be normal for parents to protect their kids from what was wrong in the previous generation. Instead of that, there is this wheel of misfortune that is passed on for ages. What for? In the name of what?

It is a good question why desis continue with dysfunctional parenting practices for generations irrespective of the fact that each generation incessantly complains about it and yet follows the suit. If this were the case then it would mean no social change took place in centuries. But that is not the case because even though things seem unchanged yet they have changed. Each generation adapted its parenting practices according the trends of its times yet maintained some aspects of the previous generation as sacrosanct, the essence of great and proud desi culture and tradition. This is a two part post in response to the questions posed by intercultured.

There was a time desi fathers could not be affectionate to their children in the presence of their parents, it was considered disrespectful towards the elders. DG can recall an incident her high school substitute teacher narrated (he was retired English teacher substituting for a teacher on maternity leave). He said, he was the only college educated man in his village with a job in the city. One time on his trip home he lifted his toddler in the presence of his father and there was a scene in the family. His father felt affronted and declared his son (teacher) has insulted his authority by insisting his own parenthood. The only way to understand this idiocy is to examine the survival needs of the aging and their dependence on next generation for elder care. In order to ensure old age care it was important for the senior generation to prevent any deflection of attention from them and development of bonding between next generation and their children. This does not mean that he (teacher) buckled to old man’s irrationality but he pushed centuries old boundaries and drew new lines where he retained his right as a parent and assured his role as a son towards his father thus creating a dent in the system. But like many desi men he could not establish an open and out partnership with his lawfully wedded wife, even though it was an arranged marriage.

Desi Parenting From Yore

Karta, the doer; father, the provider and the head of the family model of masculinity has existed from yore across the globe. In desi context this model is collated with primogeniture and thus obliterating all other fathers in the family; the eldest male becomes the “super father” and all other men in the family become lesser fathers (his brothers, sons and nephews). This arrangement could work only if all challenges to the authority of super father were to be eliminated and dealt with a strict hand; reprimand, shaming and sometimes even excommunication.

What could be more effective than evoking the great heritage and the golden age of absolute reverence of age through folklore (a son goes into exile to honor his father’s word and yet another remains a celibate to let his horny father have another wife). Attaching honor thus value to any action cements it in the moral fabric of a social psyche; people assume it is their sacred duty to preserve these values even at the cost of their peace and lives. While reverend Karta ruled the affairs of the outer world his wife became the demagogue within the household, her job was to socialize the young men and women including incoming women (DILs) into the great family tradition and keep the authority struggles in the inner world under check. While Karta made sure the lesser fathers in the family did not bond with their children on the other hand his wife was committed to check any bonding between lesser men and their wives in the family. Remember, this super couple was lesser adults in their youth and in their grey years it is their turn to rule; it is much deserved and awaited for all those years of oppression. Bollywood does its best to revoke this model of desi parenting every now and then to rake moola as desis love to live in a glorious past that never was.

What old man was doing was exactly like in-laws checking development of any meaningful bonding between the newly married couple, discussed here. When in-laws resort to such measures they come to our notice but when parents do the same to their children it goes unnoticed because it is cloaked in generational reverence and parental affection and well-wishing. Desi parenting agendas have to be understood at both gender and generational levels.

Desi fathering was synonymous with providing and emotional restrain towards wife and children; parental and sibling commitment always preceded filial duty. Desi fathers have shown physical affection towards their prepubescent children irrespective of their gender (usually youngest child is an exception post puberty) there after they are usually authority figures to be obeyed and feared not as source of emotional sustenance and communication. Desi mothers filled in for the paternal emotional lacunae in the lives of their children, especially sons. We have to remember desi mothers are wives of emotionally absent spouses hence their emotional needs are met through their children; hence continues the cycle.

Even though the families are no longer live under one roof yet the super father syndrome has persisted. To change this parental equation demands changes in the spousal equation meaning changing the centuries’ old definitions of masculinity and family. Parental relationships cannot change for good without affecting the conjugal relationship of the parents; expecting a simultaneous change without positive role models is a hard sell. It is easier to follow the pre-established tried and tested relationship patterns without much effort and lots of complaining than to stand up and challenge the system. Change also means learning new behaviors (treating adult children as adults not juveniles), unlearn old behaviors (to stop living their children’s lives), taking responsibility for one’s actions (be prepared to be shut out of your children’s lives on crossing the line) and giving up some privileges; giving up control over adult children in a hard one to denounce. Now readers may judge for themselves why generational wheel of misfortune is passed on for ages…

TO BE CONTINUED… Continue reading

Desi Sons,Victims of Their Mothers II: Modus Operandi

14 May

This post is in continuation from previous post. Original comment is here. The bold, CAPs and italicized is addition from DG.

Thank you DG.

My post was not against parents, I loved them and still do but I cannot see them because of the actions they took and think they were right in doing them. It is true that I have not come across a woman as toxic as my mother.

I posted my story partly because I wanted to inform people that there are guys in this mess too. Most desi men are very lost, between two poles 1) wife 2) mother.

Desi parents alternate between two poles :

a) Downright ignorant, nasty, abusive.

b) Controlling, manipulating and over protective.

Narcissism reigns supreme in both forms. Mine were in the second category, emotionally engulfing and very manipulating, in particular my mother. My father’s toxicity was of a different sort but it was my mother that really had everyone wrapped around her little finger.

I am not sorry about estrangement, in my ideal world it would never come down to this because my parents did a lot for us. I had this ideal picture in my mind where I would have done anything for them but then things changed ….

My mother underwent a changing I did not fathom at first and did not understand. It was around the time where I had confessed to her that I want to be self sufficient independent adult. At some point she realized that her only investment is her sons (she openly admitted this many times and made it very clear to me that she will let go, “I will NOT let you go.” … yes she said this many many times). Everytime she said this my stomach would turn but I kept quiet, patient that she might ease up on this.

When an abused declares or decides they will nolonger be controlled and will walk away from the controlling intimate the abuser feels loosing control. The idea of loosing control makes them intensify abuse or induce more manipulative ways to keep the abused trapped in their design. Abusers usually begin with sweet talk, how they cannot live without you if that doesn’t work they employ limiting your access to survival means, finances, social isolation etc. When that fail they resort to violent out bursts. This is a very dangerous time. If you are contemplating leaving your abuser do not declare it to them. Move away and then inform them that IT IS OVER. And thereafter there is no going back or working out until your safety (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual all included) is guaranteed, sorry there are no guarantees in the books of abusers.

However it became worse with time, the mistake I made was that I kept thinking that if I did this one more thing for her she would ease up. But as soon she was pleased she started pressing for something else, her aim was to steal me for me… kill all sense of independence so she can control my life as she desires. The guilt an manipulation I faced for a year before my arranged marriage was probably my most miserable year of my life, I was torn between leaving and staying.

Abusers suck the abused into perpetual cycle of people pleasing. The harder you try to please them the harder it becomes to please them because they have made a choice not to ever be pleased. You’ll finish on task they’ll be ready with another. It is a choice they have made and you can’t do anything about it so stay out of this game of making them happy.

Her strategy was multi-faceted, understanding is golden ….


A general nasty level manipulation tactic was to keep me engaged, keep my mind busy so she can have my time. She would start talking to me in subtle, looking at my face to see my reaction to it and thus adjust her. This was the most irritating form of manipulation because it assumed that I stupid and child like. I used to laugh at this behind my back, I pretended in front of her that her manipulation worked to ward this form of incessant manipulation off.

She would get my brothers to do the same, both my elder and younger brother to engage me, keep me busy with tasks, giving my false praise in an effort to smother me and make me give in. She used to pump my brothers for info regarding me and my brothers fully participated, my mother was very good at manipulation. My elder brother though she was right and younger brother mocked and berated me behind my back many many times.

I took me a long time to figure out this facet as my mother was and is a master of guilt inducing toxic lump. When I realized it I understood that anything I say will be used against me so I better watch what I say, how I say and who i say it too.

Abusers will watch your every move and expression keep a ready log of it and use it against you when ever you try to challenge them. Abusers, especially emotional blackmailers recruit allies. Allies are usually people in your immediate circle who have stake in your life; relatives, cousins, friends etc. If you still don’t give in they’ll summon their allies to convert you and make you submit to their designs. You are exposed and shamed in front of these allies thus to escape such future humiliation you start towing the line. Parents often use siblings against each other to maintain control over all of them; siblings relate to parents differently. Some abusers create immediate allies in strangers by shaming you in public or posing a martyrs in public.


Using circumstances to gain sympathy and induce massive guilt. This was very difficult to figure out because there was extreme guilt involved. Basically my mother would complain about someone (my sister in law, my elder brother or father) about something seemingly horrible they did to her and how she is miserable. After telling me the garb she used to observe my reaction to it and keeping coming back with the same manipulation in one form or the other until I reacted to it in a emotional outburst – at this point she knew she got me. Few days of peace followed then the bullshi* again.

The purpose of facet 2 was to keep me close to her, so I never do anything that I wanted for myself. The higher purpose of this facet was to keep me engaged, she knew my weak spots and attacked them whenever she pleased and when she pleased.

A common tactic was to request a task of me which I had to do, during the task she would give me false adulation and pump me for information about circumstances that were later used against me at convenient times. A fight between my brother and father would be used to press her own agenda on me, she was clever and knew when to press & how much to press.

Abuse is cyclic in nature, in order not to alienate the abused and loose the game all together abusers strategically employ praise and admonishing. Abusers go around portraying themselves as martyrs; making an impression that they can be rescued and made well if you will step up. “I am sad or sulking because you would not do X. I’ll be happy if you do X.” “Look how miserable you have made me.” “So and so wronged me you are the only one who can make it better for me, if you listen to my sob story or do as I want.” Thus it is your job to keep the abuser in good humor. An abused starts believing it is their job to keep the abuser happy this induces guilt every time they try to do something for themselves.

It is important for abusers to keep the abused engaged at all times because time to themselves will make them analyze their situation and ask for a better deal or rebel.


Hate for other women. Toxic or no toxic, this was just plain crazy.

She often used to tell me : “You are naive and don’t understand women”. (Underneath my breath I used to tell myself : ‘but I do understand you …..’). Any women who even looked at were vilified openly. I missed out on women a lot a lot of time girls that I found downright gorgeous.

My sister in law used to face the brunt of this nonsense, she realized the game early on, I requested her to be calm and concentrate on her life. Of all the people she would know why I left my family. I used to feel for her but her life is hers to deal with. She will eventually divorce my brother who unfortunately is one of the dumbest men I know when it comes to deciphering my parents actions.

As abusers recruit allies they also tactfully check any competition. Their competitors are all those people who have the potential to lure the abused away from the abuser like, friends, sympathetic relatives who call out on the abuser or an attractive suitor. Abusers are insecure and will do anything to paint their competitors black. To stay on top of their game they have to systematically eliminate all competition.They prefer to dwell with those they can control thus their allies are their mini-mes.


“I will die …… something will happen to me”.

Geez do I really need to say more? Pathetic shi*

Abusers create so much chaos through drama that abused in an attempt to buy peace and cease chaos gives in. Thus a mission accomplished for the abusers. Desi mothers are known for making suicide threats or they suffer an unknown aliment when attention is one someone else. At T’s wedding her MIL had a fainting spell; everyone rushed to her and they forgot to do the wedding pictures; mission accomplished.

Something will happen to me… is the favorite and nothing ever happens. It is a fear induction mechanism to keep the abused and allies in tow. The fear of blame induces guilt


Plausible Deni-ability.

She would deny everything and shake off her responsibility when it was convenient for her. My marriage was part of this, oh “you said yes to the marriage …. no I did not, you confirmed the marriage while I was asleep and then manipulated me into it”. She chose my wife carefully, seemingly meek and controllable, someone she could keep under her thumb at all times.

Abusers never take responsibility for their actions. They always have a reason to everything they ever did. If they broke stuff in a anger fit, it was because you made them angry. If you call them on their misbehavior or unreasonableness they out rightly feign ignorance about what you are talking about.

I learnt this the hard way, I would suffer in silence, then read about it & THEN realize this is the shi* my mother is pulling. She know what she was doing all along taking satisfaction in putting me through a emotional roller coaster and then taking satisfaction that her goals have been met.

Estrangement was depressing but necessary, wish it was not like this but thats life and it is not all roses and tulips. Peace of mind is good, I love peace and quiet so I invest my time in working towards goals and pushing myself to limits I didn’t know existed. Most people would classify me as a freak given I am away from my family but I can make choices that they can’t, this does not make me better than them but the thrill of having a choice is the essence of being human, remember even God gave humans a choice to accept or reject Him.

Do I hate my parents? No.

Did I forgive my parents? There is nothing to forgive, I forgave my-self and that gave me the comfort of being true to myself. If one does not confront reality it will force itself upon you and you will kick yourself for it, make your choice before you have to make one.

Before we can forgive someone it is important to forgive ourselves because we beat ourselves for being duped.


Desi Sons: Victims of Their Mothers

13 May

DG is usually accused of gender bias towards women’s oppression, her detractors have failed to notice how vociferous she is about the nature and actors of violence in intimate/familial relationships. Many bloggers have lamented based on their personal experiences about desi men’s failure to draw a balance between their mothers and spouses. Some marriages have ended on this point and others are hanging in limbo. Just the other day this comment writer asked if men feel guilty too? This post comes partly in response to that question. Yes, DG will post another post exclusively about your concern.

Familial relationships are very complex, the option of walking out is very limited. A Punjabi phrase aptly sums it

Sharike da kauda daana, pher vi khaana (extended family is nuisance but you have to live with it). Just like the faceless strangers called log we desis lament about.

Women bloggers and otherwise do talk about oppression and discrimination within their natal families and their relationship with their mothers but men rarely talk about how they feel about their birth families and individual members. Both men and women learn doing their gender in the birth families and they become what their natal families make them. In doing their gender they also learn what they can express and what is proscribed. These boundaries on expression never let us know the whole story when courageous few come out and name the game either they are painted black or treated as anomaly. Here is a comment that DG wants everyone to read to see if it is happening in their lives, if yes then what do they want to do about it.  


Desi Girl

This is coming from a desi dude :

This is very true, sometimes I think about my Pakistani parents and it is unbelievable how incredibly toxic they were. My mother in particular with time became emotionally blackmailing, manipulating extremely toxic. This eventually after many years of blankets of guilt led to my estrangement from my entire family, even on the day I was leaving without telling anyone I was covered with guilt and feelings of selfishness. After years of being torn, guilted and manipulated I felt I had no choice but to go.

It is strange several years ago (before estrangement) on a breakfast table when my mother was having one of her hissy fits my younger brother called out to her :

” What you are doing is just blackmail… “,

My mother’s response was :

” … because it works…”.

At another time I recall her saying :

“.. mardon ko ghumana bohat asan hay …”

which means :

” … it is very easy to manipulate men …”

She had become very skilled at emotional blackmail, using circumstances to her advantage, pumping one family member for information regarding the other and using it against both. The aim always was to get what she wants : control over everyone and all dynamics.

I got into an arranged marriage due to this guilt which was inflicted for several years. During this time all family members had turned against me, my younger brother mocked me behind my back denying that my parents were doing something wrong by guilting me into marriage. The manipulation is so subtle it is difficult to recognize it, difficult to pinpoint and say this is what is wrong. Come to think of I had refused the marriage 2-3 times however my mother refused my refusals by countering them with blackmail, confusing arguments. Her strategy was to inflict the blackmail long enough until I break and give in. After I give in my parents smothered me in an effort to convince this is the right thing to do.

I realized the game too late, after I got married. My wife unfortunately was a product of the same codependent system. She was sweet but under the skin the same blackmail, manipulating personality existed – she just did it in a different way. I realized with time that she would just be a copy of my mother in a few years, be possessive, crazy and toxic. She was also emotionally unstable and was not very good at managing her feelings, having wildly conflicting emotions one day to the next.

So one day I got very angry with myself when I realized the game my mother was playing. The thought of estrangement depressed me, I lose whatever I do : I go I lose, I stay I lose – geez what a situation to be in. Slowly I began to accept that if I don’t go I’ll be stuck in this forever : stuck in my mother’s basement and an imported wife from desi land.

Then one day I decided to stop giving a *hit. I went away (I almost did not) & never looked back, got a divorce, full of doubts although the understanding of my mothers actions had helped curb the damn guilt. It’s only when I went did I realize that I won the desi game. This is the secret to this game : “you can never win, the only way to win is to depart the game”.

One thing to grasp is that people in these living conditions think this is normal. They don’t know anything else but don’t more importantly don’t want to, they are convinced they are right. Then one day they realize life went by them, the outside world away from this mesh of dysfunction did not care about them. All there is misery and regrets, what a waste of life.

My biggest regret was the time I wasted in this and my biggest gain was I got control of my life back.


Desi Parenting: Daughter vs DIL

2 May

DG often jokes about the definition of a desi daughter-in-law, an enemy brought home with marching band and fanfare. Other bloggers have blogged about failure of married men to draw a balance between their two prime relationships, female parent and wife. A statement made by a psychologist posted by IHM attracted DG’s attention, “…Your mother loves you unconditionally and will ignore disrespectful behaviour, but a wife has expectations and cannot forgive transgressions…” It strains DG’s grey matter, why a mother will ignore disrespect shown by her child and how and why unconditional love ought to be devoid of respect. Then there are others who keep asking this question why MIL’s and FIL’s don’t accept the DIL as their own daughter and why DILs’ don’t oversee smaller things as they would with their own parents! DG has contemplated and reached this conclusion…

Why MIL and FIL don’t accept the DIL as their own daughter?

Beacause their daughters are not what they are very proud of. Their daughters talk back to their parents, throw tantrums, engage in emotional blackmail and even make unreasonable demands. They pout, give silent treatment to moms and pull out skeletons from the childhood closet. Children are what parents taught them to be. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, same applies to their sons. Parents have trained them and have invested time and emotion in them so they take nonsense from them. Are they ready for that from a new person in their homes? Doubtful. That is the reason they have two sets of rules for daughters and DILs. DILs have to fulfill their fantasy of an ideal daughter they could not make :)

Why DIL’s don’t oversee smaller things as they would with their own parents!

A DIL can tell her parents, “Mom Dad enough is enough I have heard this story million times,” can she say that to her MIL and FIL? DILs are daughters too, as daughters they do the exact things your daughters’ do- talk back to their parents, throw tantrums, engage in emotional blackmail and even make unreasonable demands. Are the parents-in-law ready for a replacement daughter? Again, it is doubtful as they want to retain their right to be the dominant party with right to unconditional reverence from a relatively stranger. Adult children (biological and adopted)  bear the generational dysfunctional parenting because they have grown up with it and do not know how to call it off and they feel they owe it to their parents for changing their dirty diapers. Wish people could keep it simple, “my parents changed my diapers so they are my responsibility, your parents changed your diapers so they are yours to deal with.”

A person cannot be adopted in adulthood (leagally yes but emotionally it is doubtful). Won’t it be more practical to accept one another as fellow adults and behave like one instead of childish passive aggressive mind games if that doesn’t work then violent outburst (throwing things and beating people). Some in-laws begin converting the new DIL into their own kind the minute she steps into their doors and they expect her to follow their dysfunctional instructions like a robot and should only express positive emotions. The statement, “I treat you like my own child/daughter/son” is an eyewash for treating another adult as a child, even if the in-laws are twice the age of a DIL she is still an adult with a mind of her own. Wish people could learn to be adults in relationships.

How to Talk to an Abused Daughter

4 Mar

Beloved IHM does an awesome job of bringing up burning issues in the desi world on her blog and heavy discussion ensues on what ought to be and why things are the way they are. Two of her responses compelled Desi Girl to pen this post.  I wish I could say the right words to the mother – to make her let her daughter come back home and start living again.

The girl lives in another city and the mother didn’t give me her email address, I wanted to send her a link to some sites that might help her at least understand what is happening.

I did tell the mother about cases where if not intentionally the abuser has killed the victim accidentally or caused severe injury. She sounded worried but continued to say the girls doesn’t want to come back. In the beginning she had told me they did not want her to come back – but now she says it’s the girl who wants to make the marriage work.

We all know what is wrong and why it is wrong but we fail when it comes to how to address it. The best service we can do is to be informed about intimate partner abuse; what is IPV, nature of abuse, how abuse begins, what is a cycle of abuse and what an abused can do and how to help an abused.

When an ordinary fight with wife escalates into bloody nose it is no longer a fight but a law and order issue, a public health concern most of all it is a question of human dignity and it is your problem too even if it is not in your home.

Familial and intimate partner abuse is not accidental. Someone purposefully decided to hurt another person who they consider they have a legitimate right over. Abusers do not hurt strangers even when strangers step on their toes but they choose to hurt their partners and children because they know they can get away with it. The faceless strangers called “log” cross all boundaries of decency and hurt your sensibilities in all possible ways through their mean words and actions to ostracize you, still you do back flips to be in their good books. Aren’t you in an abusive relationship with these people? Have you thought how your daughter feels while living with an abuser?

Your initial reaction of distrust and reprimand of her choice to marry for love just closed the doors for her to come back to you. You judged her once, what are the chances you won’t judge her again. The “log” will say something and you’ll get into blaming and accusatory mode. Basically you cannot be trusted. You lost your trustworthiness, the minute you said “I told you so…” Your daughter has a hard time to believe that you will not judge her and even if you did trust her today what are the chances you’ll not throw it on her face in future. Now you want to help her and you do not know how because you closed the first door of communication with your judgment and now you do not know how to reopen it. Just saying, “Come back and everything will be fine, we’ll support you” is not enough, there is a way to open the door and keep it open. This is how it can be done:

Communication Agreement

Every time we open our mouth we sign an unspoken agreement/contract with the person we are interacting with that says “we are in a relationship I’ll not hurt you and you’ll not hurt me,” it is realized only when this contract is broken. When this contract is broken the first thing that goes out is respect for each other. This contract has three constituents:

1. I agree to be non judgmental, you can feel safe to tell me what is in your heart.

2. There will be no repercussions for what you disclose to me.

3. I’ll love you unconditionally.

Agreement To Communicate

Non Judgmental:

Your daughter has broken this contract with herself. She lost respect for herself, is feeling guilty and bad about herself. You broke this contract with her when you judged her and it shut that door of communication on her. How do you feel about it? Do you respect yourself for that? Opening the door begins with reinstating this contract and this time make it spoken instead of unspoken. Create a safe space to communicate and invite her for a conversation and begin with:

“I understand you are going through a very tough time in your marriage. I want you to know I was wrong to judge you when you first reported abuse. I am truly sorry for what I said them. I want to assure you today, what ever you tell me I’ll not judge you. You are being abused it is not your fault. It is a choice your abuser is making. If you made a mistake of picking a wrong guy as a partner I too made a mistake of judging you. Today, we can look beyond our mistakes and explore what we can do together to keep you safe and happy.”

Does anyone know “judgmental” equivalent word in hindi? DG could find none, please help.

No Repercussions:

“First time when you reported abuse I blamed you for your choice that was wrong on my part. I promise you what ever you tell me today and now on will have no repercussions I will not throw it on your face ever. I want you to feel safe and be assured there will be no repercussions about any disclosure you make. I will never blame you for what happened and I will never hold it against you here on.”

(People complain all the time that their teens do not want to talk to them even when they have an open door policy. Who are they kidding, your children are of you so they know you inside out, and they know what you are capable of. They know you’ll blame them and punish them.)

Unconditional Love:

You love her and you are concerned but are you sure your love is unconditional? Are you kidding, you already said, she made her bed… You meant had she had an arranged marriage she could have counted on your support. Unconditional love does not mean ignoring the behavior or not addressing the behavior, it means there will be consequences for your actions but my love for you will still be the same. In this particular case it would come out something like this:

“What ever you decide, to live with the abuser or walk out, I will support you 100%. I will not question your choices. I want you to understand my position as a parent, if you are hurt or are contemplating of hurting yourself; I will do everything in my power to protect you. As a parent I want to see you safe and happy nothing matters to me more.”

This is not unconditional love:

I love you but...

I love you BUT…

Once a “BUT” comes before or after LOVE it is no longer unconditional love.

For parents of teens:

“I see you did X and I want you to know I love you so I want you to be safe. In order to be safe we have to follow the rules. If we break rules then we face consequences. Your choices are no bike keys for next 8 weeks or no allowances for next 8 weeks.” Give them choices of picking up their consequences. Once your children are ready to step out of home without you chaperoning start laying ground rules and consequences for breaking the rules. The consequences have to be reasonable and consistent and equal for all kids irrespective of their gender and grades. “Promise me, you’ll not drive with a drunk driver, if you are in a situation where you do not feel safe, call mom or dad. We’ll be there and we’ll not ask you any questions. Just call us.” Once safely home you guys can decide the course of action and consequences. Remember children too have a social reputation to live up to just like you have one, they feel embarrassed when you throw a tantrum even if they are wrong. Do all the drama at home not in front of their friends. That helps build trust and begets you their respect that you care.

This same script can be used to open doors of communication with anyone just remember the steps, to be non judgmental, no repercussions and unconditional love.

PS: Learned this technique while working on a workshop with Ms Nichols of “The Secret.”

Desi Parents: What Do You Know About Your Single 30 Something?

19 Jul

Desi Parents: What Do You Know About Your Single 30 Something?

The previous post opened a can of worms for Desi Girl. She received few responses on the blog and many private emails. GGTS has been discussing about lives and the issues facing highly educated and significantly employed desi women. The comment by @anjugandhi made DG think about the purpose of the said post.

She writes:

…I do admit that we should be clear and firm in our thoughts as to what we want

but before taking any step a slight consideration for the feelings of parents will go long way in re supporting the hopes and dreams of parents.


I do not know who she is referring to, male children or female children. I am assuming as a parent she had both teem boys and girls in her mind. I wonder would the same standards apply to adult men and women. Do men care for feelings of their parents when they make passes on women, ogle at women or even when they rape them. The guy from the message board in the previous post is he thinking about his parents or just his libido? All those men who frequent the red light areas do they ever think about their parents? Do parents even have any standards and feeling about their sons’ sexuality or it is just on loose. Is it only for women to think about parents, family and culture? Why do they have to shoulder the honor of families and communities? Because they are the mothers. Then what about fathers? One sperm is enough to claim paternity and natural guardianship but not to save the culture by their own sexual conduct. I wanted to do a whole post on loco parentis and in-loco parents but I’ll save it for some other time.

 The following poem (if it is one) is contributed by my dear friend S. S. She reserves the copy right to this piece.  It is dedicated to our friends who face these dilemmas everyday. 

 Desi Parents: What Do You Know About Your Single 30 Something?

Desi parents,

 What do you know about your single 30 something?

Your 30 something daughter

The daughter, you raised

 With dreams of her happily ever after future.

The daughter, you raised

Indoctrinating, strive for happily ever after.

What do you know about your single 30 something?


Desi parents,

 What do you know about your single 30 something?

She believed in your dreams

The dreams of prince charming,

The knight in shinning armor,

The happily ever afters…

 What do you know about your single 30 something?



For Su


She has met her prince charming,

He doesn’t meet your standards

Of caste, religion, region or what not…

You make her choose between you

and her prince charming.

She picks you. 

Your single 30 something is hurt

At least you are happy.


Desi parents,

 What do you know about your single 30 something?

The prince charming you

Bought her

Hasn’t touched her in years

And every one is asking

Why she is averse to motherhood.

Is it her eggs or her womb?

Did you bother to think, it could be him?

What do you know about your single 30 something?


At 39 she is single again,

Learning to live again,

Feel again.

Your eyes probe her

When she comes home late,

Be assured she has not yet

Slept with anyone.

She wants to but she can’t.

She has no skills to approach

Anyone she likes

She is scared and is still hurting.

What do you know about your single 30 something?


For Amu & T


Desi parents,

 What do you know about your single 30 something?

She tossed and turned

Every night on bed in a hope…

While the prince charming

You bought her, snoozed.

 Those tricks,

She picked from the sleazy porno

He showed her

In those early days.

Didn’t work either.

How could it?

He was cheating with his ex girlfriend.

His parents rejected to

Serve her (Amu/T) on the platter.

How dare you ask her?

What did she do to turn him off?

What do you know about your single 30 something?


Desi parents,

What do you know about your single 30 something?

How she went to court by herself.

Ten people work under her.

She pays her bills and taxes.

Why do you have to chaperon?

You know why?

Be assured she won’t

Your guilt has worked overtime.

She knows the Desi culture

Rests on her tired shoulders.

What do you know about your single 30 something?


For Pre


Desi parents,

 What do you know about your single 30 something?

You say I am jealous of my sister,

Her good marriage.

How lame, I want to protect her.

Her good hubby said to me

He understands my pain and

Could help me know what sex is…

Are you ready to digest this?

Can I complain?

You will accuse me because

 I am the 30 something virgin.

What do you know about your single 30 something?


For  SP


Desi parents,

 What do you know about your single 30 something?

The days my child is with him, (shares child custody with ex)

I go on dates.

I meet them in bars.

We sit and chat.

We meet again.

He puts his hand on my knee.

I suck my breath and

Leave, saying I’ll call.

I never do. I want to

But I never do.

I hate it but what do I do?

I have a child and guilt to nurse.

What do you know about your single 30 something?

A Desi Dad: Raised a Fire

20 Jun

My Dad Raised  a Fire

This Father’s Day is very special for me. Many bloggers are writing great things about their dads on this day. I was also planning to write a post about Desi Dads but what happened day before yesterday just changed my life and the context of this post. 

Two days ago I received a call from my uncle; he asked me how my dad was doing after his bypass surgery? He received the news from an aunt who was visiting my parents on that day. I went into initial shock because I spoke to mom a day earlier, she told me dad had been to his native village. He does that once month and she was cheerful as usual. I could not understand how it could happen to a 67 year old who never drank or smoked is active, slender, vegetarian who eats healthy and exercises both his mind and body regularly. How??

This time when I called her and demanded to speak to dad she asked me to cool down. All I could say in my most cold voice when and why. Very calmly she said it was an emergency and I did not want to worry you and your brother because you could do nothing nor can you come home at this time. I wonder what this woman is made of. Sheer Steel. She takes on so much without flinching. But this post is about Fathers… 

Some of you have followed me here and there in the blog world and have seen my daddy critical comments and some of you exchange personal emails with know little more about the man I call dad. Who is this man? He is a good father and a lousy husband, very complex and very simple at the same time. He believes in Ekla Chalo Re… then he is also concerned about those faceless strangers called log.

His young widow mother and a widower uncle raised their four boys together in rural Punjab. Without any sisters or role models of intimate relationships he constructed his own ideas of gender, masculinity and femininity based on cultural stereotypes he observed. He left home at 17, joined forces and finished degree while working. Married a woman younger to him by 11 years, on one summer vacation he followed no cultural ritual or obligation just simple wedding with seven baaratis. A year later he had me, his happiness knew no bounds, first girl in seven generations. Two other women were born in 5th and 4th generation one died as a baby and other was killed during a family feud. Someone in the village ordered mine and his horoscope. The pundit went insane and never came back home. Pundit’s family and villagers say it was my father’s and my strong stars that made him insane.  It is often thrown on my face when I am up in arms against something.

After my birth my young mother went through hard times with her health so he actually raised me, changing my diapers, preparing my feed on that kerosene pressure stove (he did not do that for my brother). When my mother was pregnant with my brother she was on bed rest. He would take me to his work those days there were no childcare alternatives available. He would bring interesting children’s books from library and then read them to me. He started taking me to English movies on Fridays and book exhibitions. If exhibition was in another state he would travel by himself or order books by mail. I still have my first set of Aesop’s Fables he ordered from Europe. With his limited salary he made sure I had Reader’s digest and Indian Express, I had most toys (He commits his tithe to rural schools by donating books to libraries and dictionaries to students). By 7, I was reading Reader’s Digest and newspaper. He would help me prepare the daily news that I read at the school assembly on Wednesdays and debates and speeches for inter school competitions. At 11, I heard him say to his friend “I treat my daughter like a son. She can do anything a boy can do.” I was the son that my fussy brother was not.

Things changed for me at puberty. I guess dad discovered “Oh no, she is a girl, a mere girl.” Our relationship became complicated. Now he wanted me to maintain a distance with him or talk to him through mom. He wanted me to exhibit lady like qualities, be unquestioning, obedient, good at domestic chores and soft spoken etc. I guess that was never going to happen and he had hard time accepting it. He wanted me to wear Salwar kameez to school (thank God not cover my head or wear hijab) even play field hockey in it. But mom would still buy me long skirts or stitch me middies.

My rebellion became a problem for my mother because he would hold her responsible for not being good enough to discipline me. He was trying to beat the “ideal desi woman” into me. Now we joke about that it was good my ears had good elasticity or I would be roaming around with elephant ears. Oh man, I had trouble written all over me, he wringed my ears pretty hard… Those years were total chaos he wanted me to fix the flat tires without anyone’s help but he also wanted me to be lady by seeking permission for every thing and not horse around. I was confused but I guess he was even more confused. He would ground me for every thing under the sun and at the same time gives me freedom to travel places that most women could not imagine. I guess it was my mother in the background turning the tide. She would say “Why can’t you agree to what he says and then silently do what you want to do. Why do you have to have a confrontation?”  I thought it was manipulation but now I understand how for centuries women have used this survival technique and created a space to exhibit agency. 

He would make me do push ups and pull ups and compete with boys who prepared for NDA but did not want me to talk to them. He would help me prepare and compete in debate competitions but did not want me to argue at home about anything he did or said. His best threat was “I’ll pull you from school and send you to the village.” He knew I dreaded it. This man I called Papa, is really a complex man.

With his meager salary he provided me with Brilliant Tutorials and Agarwal Classes but I almost flunked as I was pretty nervous and angry all the time. I was acting up and becoming my father. He was dealing with two strong women who were very different than the “ideal woman” image he had in his mind all these years. Mom owned a business and was making strong business decisions without asking him. At 17, he accused me of something that was totally outrageous based on the information his friend gave him. That broke the back of proverbial camel. I just stopped talking to him. I lived in his house, ate his food and wore the clothes he paid for but did not speak to him for three years. I would read something interesting and bookmark it and keep it on his table. He would do the same and mom would just go on with her work. Those years how much we wanted to speak to each other but our prides came in between.

At 19, just before I was to leave home for master’s program in another city he confronted me, “Aren’t you afraid of me I am your father?” I do not know where I got the courage from in a very calm voice I said “No, My father is up in the heaven he needed me to come to earth so he needed parents and he chose you. I’ll only be afraid of him not another human.” With that something changed within us for ever. We became different people. We were no longer the same father and daughter who locked horns on every thing under the sun. I was ready to leave for hostel he said, “Don’t ever travel in Salwar Kameez, always wear pants.” Each of us lost 8 lbs in a month. He would write me letters and sign your “worldly father.” It is not to say if all our problems went away but we had found some thing that would guide us through our differences. During this time he exposed me to Guru Nanak, Osho, Khalil Gibran, Sheikh Farid and other great sufi saints. I told him about Jagjit Singh. Together we sang Return to me…discussed foreign policy and human predicaments… He lit a fire in me that no water could ever put off even in the darkest times. We have our own private jokes that no one understands so we have to call each other in the middle of the night. 🙂

He says he never discriminated me against my brother. In a way he is right I went to the best Universities and got the best coaching etc. I am more travelled than my brother. Dad expected more from me. But his discrimination was so subtle that I cannot lay a finger on it like “call your brother “ji,” serve him if asks for water or anything etc. That really bugged me then, now no one cares.

My decision to marry outside caste and religion was hard on him. He was worried about my unborn children. My divorce was even harder on him. He did not know how to react. At one point he even said “You made your bed you need to lie on it.” It was my mom who stood by me through all that nonsense. But then I had an accident he came around and supported me through all this.

Last year his brother’s wife insisted that he get me married again. He asked me if I had anyone I wanted to be with or I would like to be married again. I asked him what does he wants the most for me. He said “I want you to be happy.” I said, “Dad you have your answer, I am happy, I don’t need anyone to make me happy.” He has never asked me again or pressured me for that unlike my other girl friends. Last year I told him I have decided not to be a biological parent. He told my brother and his wife to consider their daughter as mine. I guess it is little hard for him to believe a woman could choose not to be a parent.

Few years ago he told me he wants me to travel the world. He asked my brother and his wife not to rush home to see him and mom as they both are healthy. He insisted they should travel the world. He was sorry how he dragged us every summer to village to see his mother when we could have gone places. But he did take us to wonderful places when we were kids, Cherrapunji, Shilong, KalimpongTawang Valley, Sikkim, Nepal, Mount Abu, MysoreSalarjung to name a few. 

We haven’t seen each other in five years. Recently we started talking on the Skype. Until two years ago he would say he wants to come and stay with me but I guess he sensed after my third rehab that it was not happening anytime soon so he has stopped saying that. It breaks my heart but that is my Karma for now. I am checking into a rehab soon again.

Few months ago he called to say “I love you and I am sorry for how I acted during your teen years. I should have had more patience” I asked him not to worry I am fine because he did the best with his given knowledge, resources and circumstance. But I was pretty upset because I wanted to hear that when I was 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18. A (you met him here) told me to be happy because my dad said that many adult children around the world will never hear it from their fathers. Dad never misses an opportunity to say “I love you baby.” The other day we were talking I told him how my memory is returning in bits and pieces. I recall one time as a five year old I was riding in the school bus another kid bothered me, I told him that my dad will beat the crap out of him. He responded back that his dad was stronger than my dad. I refuted my “Dad has a hand this big (making a gesture may be 12”). I guess for a little kid his or her dad is a hero for me I guess at that time dad to me was Hulk. 🙂  

To this dad said:

As a five year old it is, my daddy is the mightiest of all, then as a teenager and in twenties it is my daddy knows nothing and when daddy is gone it is “my daddy was the wisest of all.”

Yes indeed, he is the wisest for me as he raised a fire in me that none can put off.

I love you Papa. You rock. Speedy recovery.

Dear Readers,

 Don’t waste time, pick up that phone and call your mum and dad to let them know how you feel. They are humans they did the best with what knowledge, resources and circumstances they had. Each dad is complex it is easier to remember the good or bad but it is equally important to remember he is a human too with all the flaws as any….

An Ode to Desi Mothering: Desi Daughters on the Shoulders of Giants

8 May

An Ode to Desi Mothering: Desi Daughters on the Shoulders of Giants

Last week I met a just turned 21 pretty, petite, some 90lbs civil engineer in training from Bangladesh. She had been in pardes for four years now. This bubbly character is full of stories and dreams. She wants to be a lawyer some day and work with victims of human trafficking. Usually most desi students come abroad for masters only a handful makes it here after high school. I asked her about her journey at 18 from a land of scarcity to a land of plenty. Here is what she told me:

I come from a middle class single earner family. My mom is a homemaker I have two older siblings and my father passed away last year. Even as six years old I knew I wanted to go abroad. My parents never took me seriously. None is so ambitious in my family. While I was in high school some people from American and Canadian universities came to school and they spoke about admissions abroad and how they were going to setup their office in our town. I felt my dream coming true. I told my parents of my intentions they did not pay much attention. I started preparing for SAT. To appear for SAT parents had to get me a passport. They thought I’ll fail and get over it. I cleared SAT and submitted my scores and application at the newly opened office of the foreign universities I kept waiting for a call. When I did not hear for a month I went to their office to ask. I was told they called and spoke to my mother. I was really disappointed. I confronted my mother, at first she denied and then she said daddy did not want me to go abroad as I was too young. I cried, begged them and even went on a hunger strike. But no one moved daddy’s was the last word, NO. The last date to submit fees was approaching; I was getting desperate as nothing was happening at home. By the end of the week mother came to me and asked how much money I needed I said it is in thousands. She said don’t worry I’ll do something even if daddy doesn’t give it to you. And next day we heard Ma lost two of her gold bangles while she went to the local ghat and rest is a history. Daddy and grandma were mad at her but she did not say a word. I filed the fees and received the I-20s from two schools. Finally Ma fought with daddy and here I am.

Ma’s parting words at the airport were “I entrust you with the honor of our family be wise and do not do anything that will close the door of education and other opportunities for the women of coming generations in our family.”

I looked an eye full at her beaming eyes and her tiny shoulders that were bearing the load for the generations to come. Here she was standing on the shoulders of a giant mother.

On this Mother’s Day I recall how I reached where I am with multiple degrees and a life unthinkable by numerous women around the world. I too stand on the shoulders of a giant mother. I remember at eight how my mother fought with my father to send me to dance classes. Singing and dancing are looked down upon in my feudal family. I don’t think she wanted me to be a performer; she just wanted me to learn dancing. Initially I sucked but she would encourage me and help me practice. I quit after four years due to my stubbornness though I regret it now but I can say I can dance. At 14 my father had this strange idea that I should no longer be wearing skirts but salwar kameez in adherence to our minority community traditions. My mother not only fought with my father but she would buy or even stitch skirts and middies for me. In return she wanted me to do the chores and not talk back and ask too many questions (chore I did do rest I didn’t follow through more than I week I remember). I guess it was her way of resisting the male dominance in the family and giving me what she could never have. My mother has supported me through my higher education (dad always threatened to withdraw me from school if I didn’t stop talking back), inter catse-inter religion marriage (dad was against it, mom wanted me to be happy), divorce (dad was pretty unhappy with it, mom wanted me to be happy and safe) and now a single life full of wanderlust (both of them have made peace with it). Often it makes my father uncomfortable but she is always there like a rock. I write this blog standing on the giant shoulders of my petite mother who fought against all odds to give me a chance. I love you mom.

Amu shared how her mother has supported her through her higher education and divorce. Her father would have preferred her dead than come home divorced. Atiya concedes though her mother was mostly emotionally unavailable but as a first generation working woman she made sure her girls were treated at par with her boys against the wishes of her in-laws. Shanu recalled how her mother though scorned by in-laws for birthing four daughters still managed to fight for their higher education and postponing their marriages until their mid twenties. It is true we weren’t given this life we enjoy today without a dose of conditions of our pay back: maintain the family honor at all costs. We have defied many rules and circumvented many by laws with our marriages and divorces. We survived because we had giants for our mothers and higher education on our side. We owe it to our mothers not just our birth but our lives full of dreams and possibilities. Desi Girl and friends salute Desi mothers for all their strength and compassion to make it possible for our generation of Desi Daughtesr.

PS: Readers may share their stories and salute there mothers on GGTS.

Last word:

Some mothers were too confused by male dictates of honor and shame they could not support their daughters and lost them to this brutal system. Many Nirupamas, unborn baby girls and unnamed female toddlers are lost over centuries to this brutal system but these are just incidents not trends.

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