Tag Archives: desi parents

Aging Desi Gods

23 Aug

Aging Desi Gods

08/23/2015

The other day a young mother of two, a five week old and six year old called in. Her problem was as common as any other woman who approaches DG yet was very unique. She confessed ten year and two kids into the marriage it was still shaky and challenging in every way emotionally, mentally, physically and financially yet she wasn’t calling in for herself. It is very common for a survivor looking for help to begin with, “I have a friend who is going through…” as if they are testing waters or are retaining power by externalization of their plight. Through her tears and sobbing she barely managed to say, ” I am too tired.” Yes, that is very natural when you have a five week old. “No, I am emotionally exhausted.” Yes, that is natural too as your hormones are still adjusting. She kept sobbing and DG kept asking her if she was safe and if she had any thoughts of hurting herself or anyone, the usual protocol. She kept insisting her problem was unique by now DG has seen a lot in this field of work nothing surprises her yet this work never ceases to astonish her.

After lots of crying she stuttered, “nothing changed it is still the same. They say people mallow with age but in this culture they just become obdurate. My father is selfish and self centered, he was always verbally abusive, demanding and snooty towards all of us especially my mother. No doubt he was a good provider but an attitude ridden with certain entitlement and anger lingered around him. No matter what is going on with us all attention had to be on him and his basic needs. We kids had to protect her from his tantrums then now with age he is just getting worse.. He has hypertension and other life style related health issues that he is responsible for yet thinks he is entitled to servitude by everyone especially my mother. She isn’t young anymore she too has age related issues and she is slowing down. But this man wants her to run around and attend to his needs. Get me water, where is my XYZ… why is this here, why did you say this or not say that instead; numerous basic things he is capable of doing he still wants her to do and nitpicks on her. If she misses anything he starts berating her and accusing her of neglect because he is retired, not earning anymore,” meri is ghar mein ab kyon chalegi, boodha aadmi bhoj hota hai (my word now has no value, an old person is a burden). Guess the age difference in desi marriages, older man married to a woman few years younger to him was designed to provide personal old age care to the man and his parents.

“Every time I speak to her she just talks about what he did now, how mean he was. I can’t help her other than listen to her venting but I am getting tired of this same story every time. I too need emotional support but I am so scared to ever tell her my marriage isn’t great either, I think she is aware. What do you do? How do you help a person in such a situation? They have been married forty two years it is only getting worse. I feel helpless and angry at the same time. I want to scream, I have left the home it is not my problem anymore. I have my own mess to take care of.”

Anytime there is a mention of domestic violence mind immediately conjures an image of a battered young woman with a kid or two in tow or just by herself. History of domestic violence is as old as patriarchy then how come the image of domestic violence survivor in our collective psyche hasn’t changed much. Haven’t those young battered women ever aged either with age the violence within the homes stopped or we have turned a blind eye to it.

DG has faced similar dilemma. She has yelled at her dad few time to back off and leave her mother alone. Mom is no longer a perky teenager who’ll get you a glass of water as soon as words roll out of your mouth or needs your instructions on how to entertain guests. She had suggested mother not to cook or do laundry for brother and father because what she can do they can do too, it is a learned behavior. To do laundry a person has to put soap in the slot, dirty clothes in the washer and hit the button, what part is rocket in this? Scrubbing collars and cuffs? Write the washing instructions and paste them on the wall. Efficient home making is ingrained in the identity formation of “desi women,” as much as the sense of entitlement is for “desi men;” any failure to serve or being served challenges their “self” concept.

When these women were young, to take a respite from this constant drudgery and nagging they often went to live with their parents (maykaa, peehar, nehar) for few weeks or months; desperation assuaged they returned; the cycle continued but the problem remained. Now that the kids of these post menopausal women have left homes and their parents are either dead or dependent on their sons who have their own families to attend to make these visits to natal homes not very regular and feasible. With age this avenue of respite is lost what else can these abused women do?

The other day a dear friend was sad he had tears in his eyes. He said, a young man took his mother to the USA with him to care for his infant child and left his old father behind because he can’t help around the house. He felt the son was selfish and shouldn’t have separated the aging parents as if all parents always had perfect spousal relationship(bollywood has raked moola on this one so many times). How sensitive? What does he know about that couple’s marriage?

Anytime the term “elder abuse” is uttered image of seniors abused by young people come to mind. We just forget seniors can be abused by aging partners too. Some women have waited all their lives to get out of this misery through their sons. Adult children of abusers do want to help their oppressed parent and the only way they see is to remove the victim from the abuser’s reach because kicking the abuser to the curb is not possible in this culture. Even a drunk, womanizer, indolent and abusive father is deified in this culture.

She recalls a sixty year old woman who could not take constant bullying, nagging and constant put downs she asked her husband to pack his bags and go live at “his home,” this was her home she for paid it with her sweat, blood and tears. He packed the bags and left for the village. Within a week neighbors started asking her when he was coming back. As if neighbors had some business that only he could take care of. She was afraid people will make indecent remarks about her because she wasn’t yet in the grave (she looked good for her age). Her son called from the USA she told him what happened, the son who always supported her turned against her. He was worried, “what will my in-laws say…,” ” my wife will use my parents’ conflict against me.” The poor woman had to let this man back in and now he was even more vicious as he knew there are no consequences for his bad behavior rather it will not just be tolerated but will be rewarded. She laughed about it and said, “pati kitna bhi bura ho ek nazar battu hota hai aurat kisi bhi umr ki ho use gair mardon ki buri nazar se bachaataa hai” (no matter how bad a husband is he is like an evil eye catcher, protects a woman of any age from evil designs of unrelated men).

It is hard for a young woman to seek divorce even if she is being abused it will definitely be a cake walk for a post menopausal woman who never worked outside the home and is now unemployable given the youth worshiping economy we always had. Even if an aging woman musters the courage to utter “D” word, her own kids who commiserate with her turn against her. All of a sudden everything becomes about them. Even the courts don’t take her seriously the court clerk just sits on her application if she went to file one without attorney or a family member.

A very small percentage of aging men are abused by their partners. Just like women these men endured abuse usually verbal and psychological through the length of their marital relationship. In a culture where men grow up with a sense of entitlement (read being God) this seems an anomaly. It is usually their failure to fit into the stereotype of ideal male, dominant provider who is always in control. Men who want to break the generational cycle of power and control in intimate relationships have an intention but lack skill. This will need a whole post and we need more studies to understand this phenomenon.

In the absence of efficient and sustainable support services how do we support aging victims of partner abuse? Few weeks ago DG helped a 69 year old survivor find resources but that is not a possibility in Des.

Can we really support an aging survivor of intimate partner abuse in the absence of detrimental consequences for the abuser and sustainable infrastructure?

 

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?

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.

From the wet market

Mostly vegetarian meals from Asia

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LOKSANGHARSHA

जनसंघर्ष को समर्पित

Talking to the Wall

Posting about this and that :)

Surviving Traumatic Brain Injury

TBI - Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

My life and everything that touches it....

"कुरुक्षेत्र"

मेरे विचारो का

समाजवादी जनपरिषद

वैश्वीकरण विरोध हेतु

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

W.S.S.A @ UWindsor

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

Shafiq Ur Rahman Khan

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

Beyond The Second Sex (स्त्रीविमर्श)

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

नारी , NAARI

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

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

Sparsh

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

Zerqa Abid

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