Respect Or Simply Obedience — What Do Indian Parents Expect From Their Children?

Most Indian parents confuse respect with blind obedience, and even fear. Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahaani shed light on some of these aspects.

Indian movies and content are at last coming of age. From, it is all about loving your family, we have moved to, it is also about standing up to your family. The Indian family system is notorious for expecting undying loyalty which has been pushed down our throat via our movies for decades. Who can forget Amitabh Bachchan rasping, Keh diya na, bas keh diya! in K3G.

But no more, it seems. In Rocky aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani, Rani yells at her father-in-law-to-be, matching him in tone and words when he disrespects her family. Ranveer Singh rejects his grandmother saying ‘there is no longer love in my heart for you’ when he learns of her scheming ways. In Made in Heaven, Tara tells her mother-in-law, she respects her exactly the same amount as the mother-in-law does. These are regular, good people, the Taras and Ranis and Rockys who are redefining what respect and love from parents should mean.

Indian parents couch the word respect to mean, obey. Dissent is never allowed, but as more and more Gen Z kids reach adulthood, parents are being forced to change the definition and boundaries of respect.

Respect should be a two-way street

I recall an incident my friend told me last year, of her altercation with her father-in-law. Almost like the way Rani retaliates, the friend, stood up to her father-in-law, to the shock of the entire family when he made a disrespectful comment about her family. The friend could have ignored it, as we are often taught to, but she didn’t. She told the older man to take back his comment, which did not go down well with him and the rest of the family. The argument escalated because neither was willing to back down – the friend being right in her steadfastness, after all, the comment was made by the father-in-law with no provocation from her side. At 1 am, she walked out of the house, feeling disrespected, disregarded and emotionally unsafe with no one having her back. Luckily, the story ended well, with the father-in-law realising his folly the next day and apologising.

A parent apologising to their child or a younger person was unheard of, a few years ago. As mental health becomes a growing concern with more awareness being created, toxicity in humans is being recognised. More and more adult offsprings are standing up to parents who are narcissistic, manipulative, unloving, unforgiving, dogmatic, and dictatorial, and in some cases, choosing to cut off ties with them.

Older should not automatically equal “always right”!

As my 23-year-old son told me a couple of years ago, we are all equal – parents and children. There is already an inherent imbalance in the power dynamic between the 2 groups, and if anything, the duty of the parent should be to level the field, not create a further yawning gap so the child feels cowed down, afraid, anxious, and terrified to approach the parent. Obedience is ok when the child is little, and the parent needs to keep the child alive and safe. What good is demanding obedience from an 18 or a 24 or even a 34-year-old except to feel powerful?

A grown adult speaking their mind to their parent, expressing their opinion, refusing to accept disrespect and refusing to obey anyone (except the law) is to be admired. It is an indication of a changing, growing and a progressive society, as opposed to the ideal of a meek SRK blindly following his dictatorial father on screen.

That even Karan Johar is making a movie that shows adult children as thinking beings is a sign of good things to come. Both in society and entertainment.

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About the Author

Poornima Kulathu

I am a banker, author, poet and an intersectional feminist. Speaking up on social issues, mentoring and coaching and cooking up a storm for friends and a certain strapping 21 year old boy are what read more...

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