Tag Archives: Desi Parenting

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. :P

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 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.  

Peace,

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.

CONT…

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.

Desi Parenting: Passing the Buck

3 May

Desi Parenting: Passing the Buck

It was just the last Wednesday, at the YMCA, my swimming class was flooded with Desis. Besides me there were three other desi women with four children on the deck. While we were taking lessons the life guard was busy keeping their children entertained. This made me little uncomfortable I asked the life guard if baby sitting was included in his job profile. I guess one of the mothers over heard, may be I wanted her to hear it and soon a gossip session ensued how I hated children. No I do not hate children I just love my life more. I want the life guard to do the job he is paid for and keep me safe. I totally understand how women’s gendered duties of mothering and care giving prevent them from pursuing interests and skills. May be these mothers are able to attend the lessons only on the condition that they have to take their children along. May be their spouses refuse to share the childcare duties though the ideal situation would be for them to share the parenting responsibilities (I could see women running to answer phone calls their spouses). May be they could not afford a baby sitter. I totally empathizes with what ever their situation. But I refuse to jeopardize my safety and my peace. The good option for these women would be to take turns to baby sit each other’s children while the other person took the lessons. They should work on creating their own support structures rather than take other people for granted or assuming an entitlement to time and resources of others who are not parents by choice.

 In ideal situations both the parents would be sharing the parenting responsibilities so as to leave each parent with some personal time to pursue their own interests (some desi men do share parenting responsibilities). But that rarely happens in the Desi contexts as mothering and care giving are tightly knit in to desi women’s gender role and there is a looming fear that any attempt to alter it may create a cataclysmic kaliyug and endanger the great traditions of our beloved Des and communities. Next morning I read about a desi teens killing and nailing another minor. Was shocked and more disappointed at the response from a reader who wrote:

 “I had a conversation with my sister-in-law as to whether it is a good idea to keep kids at boarding school, considering teachers are better suited and trained to spot concerns and in also addressing such issues. They are also under a watchful eye, which one can not ensure at home. She was completely against it as she felt it would not solve bad behavior, and as a parent you would not be bonding with your child also.”

 I was wondering how easy it is to pass the buck, the parents could create a monster with their parental neglect and then expect the schools to fix all the wrongs. If teachers are trained so are better suited to spot the signs of troubles then what are the parents doing? Did the parents have to apply for any kind of parenting license or certification for owning much prided toys called children? This reminded me of the time I told my FIL that his son was assaulting me. He innocently replied “Oh he learned it from me. In my younger days I was like that, look it me now I am totally a different person. A woman’s love can transform a beast.” I just kept staring at his face thinking, “Wao, you created a monster and now you want me to kiss and turn your frog into a prince? About you becoming a different person, you may have given up assaulting physically but now you are even worse, a passive aggressive manipulator and inveterate codependent.” I guess I realized then it was not my job to cure their monster and turn him into a mutant monster.

 It is very common practice in Des to treat marriage as a cure-all for misbehaving, irresponsible sons, “is ki shaadi kardo apane aap theek ho jayega jab sar pe zimmedari padegi (get him married, he’ll improve once he has to bear the responsibility of a householder).” (I guess for these reasons arranged marriages work because if these men were to find partners on their own they would die single). I don’t think the person improves in any way but his parents get another scapegoat, his wife to blame for she failed to cure him. It is a great formula to fix one problem by creating another problem and that too for another person. It is assumed if a marriage did not bring him to senses then a birth of a child will definitely do it. I do not know if the man in question comes to senses or not but his wife and now mother of his child definitely comes to senses, she is more bound to him for the sake of a child and she cannot leave him easily even if she wanted to. It is in such circumstances an emotionally and physically brutalized desi wife pines all her hopes of emotional fulfillment on her children especially sons and thus creating another generation of dysfunctional adults and passing the buck…

Desi Parenting: Raising Confused Daughters

20 Jan

Desi Parenting: Raising Confused Daughters

        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. We all have read about the preferential treatment given to the sons in the Indian families, special foods, good education and extra liberty with money etc. Most of us have insisted it didn’t happen in my family, our parents were educated and our mothers were first generation working women. If we take a look back on our lives as children we’ll know how truthful we are being.

        The other day I was speaking to Atia and Shanu about our lives and men in our lives- our fathers, brothers and spouses. Two of us are first born and Shanu is second born to first generation educated women and men working outside the homes, who had moved to urban centers for work leaving their extended families behind. We didn’t come with manuals and our parents away from their extended family were exploring new territories of childcare practices. Three of us clearly remember how our parents claimed modernity through us by insisting we were their sons until the real sons came along.

        Our young mothers with two three children under the four years of age struggled to keep us well fed and quite while our fathers sat reading newspaper after work. Our little eyes were watching it all how our fathers’ eyes controlled the things around the home. Their families had more say in our lives and our mothers hardly visited their parents. Our mothers didn’t start working outside homes until their reproductive goals were met. Mean while we became little pseudo helpers of our mothers to help with their child care duties. We baby sat our siblings, walked them to school and even ran errands. We played field sports attended junior regional sports meets, debated in school competitions; got good grades and even joined NCC and then came puberty.

        At puberty things changed for ever our loving fathers became distant and our mothers became so much more controlling. Sit with your legs crossed, don’t talk so loud, don’t walk like a horse, help me in the kitchen, and don’t do this do that became a regular incantation in our lives. We did not feel any discrimination in food, education and medical care the discrimination we felt was so subtle that we could not even put it in words. We had to help with cooking and family laundry where as our brothers did not move a straw. When we questioned, we were told it is not because we were girls but because we were the older ones. We often retorted if we were the older ones then why do our younger brothers have to chaperon us our friends’ place. Why do you make us go to the bazaar to buy vegetables and not our brothers? Our mothers would say the boy is not aware of how to buy good vegetables. Wao! we were not born with that knowledge either, you taught us. Why can’t you teach that to your sons?

        If we gave examples from other families where boys ran errands then our mothers immediately changed their words into “we treat you like boys so that you have the confidence how to deal with the outside world.” In either way we were at loss and were always wrong because we could never win the bottom line our parents had our best interest in their hearts. More than that we resented how our parents claimed modernity and maintained tradition through our female bodies.

        We were encouraged to demand our rights from the outside world be it in schools, work place or public transports that was modernity but we were always discouraged to talk back to relatives and acquaintances because it was a tradition. The dichotomy of modernity and tradition traversed between speaking English, wearing skirts, trousers and riding bikes where as tradition always came and rested on our maintaining peace at home and to listen quietly when elders spoke. Thus for us modernity was something to be done as opposed to being told. Over time three of us claimed modernity the way we understood by marrying for love against the arranged marriages of our siblings; even though we knew in our hearts we could have done better. We thought with this feat under our belt our everyday struggles with the outside world for a place of our own have come to an end. To our surprise our struggles began now, hereon we were to deal with our confused spouses who like us claimed modernity with love marriage and now wanted to maintain their family traditions by taming us; deal with over bearing in-laws who were not only vengeful but were determined to dismantle our marriages and maintain our dignity in these tiring circumstances. Our stories are very common, many educated and employed women everyday google information on how to deal with relationships because no one taught us how to.

        It would have helped if our parents had taught us how to deal with relationships instead of indoctrinating us about tradition and modernity. Some days when Atia had had enough she blames it on her emotionally absent mother for her emotional failures. I have accused my mother’s passivity for my temper tantrums in the past, forgetting that her passivity was her survival technique in midst of her overbearing in-laws. Where as, Shanu charges her mother’s dramas for her lack of problem solving skills. Our parents have done their best given their understanding, resources and circumstances in raising highly educated, employed and confused daughters now it is up to us where we want to take our confused lives. Those gender discriminate nutrition, education and medical attention practices mentioned in the beginning never happened in our home. What happened in our homes has no name.

Desi Parenting: Raising Devoted Sons

12 Nov

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… .

Kafila

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Own your relationships. Don't let them own you.

A Desi Girl's Guide to Relationship Survival

Own your relationships. Don't let them own you.

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Women's Studies Student Association @ University of Windsor, Ontario

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