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Indian parents are experts at guilt tripping their kids, especially their daughters, who grow up into girls low on confidence.
“The worst question to ask a woman is not ‘How old are you?’ or ‘How much do you weigh’. It is ‘How do you do it all?'” wrote Sheryl Sandberg in her book, Lean In.
The unfairness underlying this question is especially relevant to today’s Indian society. India has been very late in accepting a woman’s contribution as part of the working-class. And when a woman is successful in her career while at the same time caring for a family, she is looked at with raised eyebrows. People begin to wonder about this superwoman who almost became a ‘bad mother’ by focusing so much on her career, but somehow ended up saving her family miraculously.
A successful man is never asked this question. Is raising a family not a man’s primary duty?
We, Indian women, are taken on guilt trips starting from our childhoods. We are taught to be good girls, learn to be disciplined and asked to not disappoint our parents. Girls as young as 5 are conditioned to help around the house, care for grandparents as they will learn early, the skills which will be required later.
When we start college, we are asked to behave ourselves, asked to not be seen with boys on their motorcycles and ‘embarrass’ our families. Several girls are still not allowed to choose their boyfriends or life partners lest their choices put their families to shame! When several of my friends got married to their long-term boyfriends, their parents openly told their relatives that it was an arranged marriage!
When we get to our 20’s, we are asked to marry at the ‘right’ age, in order to uphold the family’s status in the society. If we have younger sisters, the pressure is higher, as we are made to feel guilty about delaying their weddings too! It is made very clear that another Indian male refusing to marry your ‘aged’ younger sister would be our fault.
We are not only asked to please our parents, but grandparents too. Their age becomes a major factor in our decisions to get married or have kids, lest they die without being a witness to our weddings and to the birth of our children.
At our husbands’ houses, we are even guilted into pleasing our in-laws and husband’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, aunt’s children..the list never ends. We are guilted into doing things for them in the name of ‘making them proud’. We are asked to leave our jobs, put a halt to or cut short our careers and settle for something lesser. We are made to feel guilty about leaving our kids at the day care or hiring a nurse to care for elders.
But times have now changed. For instance, it is no longer necessary to marry our kids in their early 20s, as the life expectancy is not 45 years anymore. We need to let go of the need to be appreciated by other people, neighbors and community members and learn to accept that our daughters have a right to make their own choices.
Is it not selfish on our part to call our children selfish because they want to pursue their dreams?
Is it not insensitive on our part to put their plans on hold so that we get to see their weddings and their children?
Guilt is, after all, fear in disguise. We make them fear, that by doing something against our wishes, they make us unhappy. But why is pleasing us, our daughters’ duty? Are we all not individually responsible for our own happiness? Our society needs to stop using guilt as a tool to have our way and learn to gain our children’s respect through love.
Header image is a still from the movie Secret Superstar
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If her MIL had accepted her with some affection, wouldn't they have built a mutually happier relationship by now?
The incident took place ten years ago.
Smita could visit her mother only in summers when her daughter had school holidays. Her daughter also enjoyed meeting her Nani, and both of them had done their reservations for a week. A month before their visit, her husband told her, “My mom is coming for 4-5 months!”
Smita shuddered. She knew the repercussions. She would have to hear sarcastic comments from her mother-in-law for visiting her mother. She may make these comments directly only a bit, but her servants would be flooded with the words, “How horrible she is! She leaves me and goes!”
Maybe Animal is going to make Ranbir the superstar he yearns to be, but is this the kind of legacy his grandfather and granduncles would wish for?
I have no intention of watching Animal. I have heard it’s acting like a small baby screaming and yelling for attention. However, I read some interesting reviews which gave away the original, brilliant and awe-inspiring plot (was that sarcastic enough?), and I don’t really need to go watch it to have an informed opinion.
A little boy craves for his father’s love but doesn’t get it so uses it as an excuse to kill a whole bunch of people when he grows up. Poor paapa (baby) what else could he do?
I was wondering; if any woman director gets inspired by this movie and replicates this with a female protagonist, what would happen?. Oh wait, that’s the story of so many women in this world. Forget about not giving them love, you have fathers who try to kill their daughters or sell them off or do other equally despicable things.
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