“Upbringing (noun) : The degree of damage your parents do to you.”
A hoarding on Patrick Melrose proclaims to the world at large from the Bandra bridge. How many of you dare to agree? There are many “adults” around me who cannot lead their own lives, as they are perpetually under the shadow of their parents!!! in some cases, parents are long dead, but the “children” still cannot live independently!!!!! Hence upbringing as damage that parents do…. I endorse this definition wholeheartedly. Both as a son as well as a father!! Let me explain.
My parents were upright, educated, middle-class, who strove to give their 3 daughters and me (the only son) all that my father could afford on his LIC salary. Remember this was before the Fourth Pay Commission, so salaries were enough to get by, but by no means lavish. Moreover my father was the eldest son in a large Konkani Hindu family. This meant he had to first provide for his siblings’ education, sisters’ marriages and some support for his father who was a freedom fighter, journalist. His own nuclear family thus was never the topmost priority. Hey, we never slept hungry or went unclothed, but luxury was merely a concept for all dependants of my father. My mother managed the family budget with many a stretch, but still we regularly had visitors & guests; dinners & lunches. Once a year we had a small holiday. All in all, a typical middle class Konkani household.
All the right values were also imbibed into the children: Respect elders. Do not talk back. Listen to others’ advice. Read good books and literature. Fear God. Follow norms. Smoking & Drinking is bad. Cinema is escapism. Am sure you get the point, as most of you , dear readers, have undergone the same treatment.
What all this meant was that as one grew up: there was just too much that you had to unlearn. eg Why should I wash my feet every evening, pray and then touch the feet of all elders in the house? or Why should I not eat non-veg food that we love on Monday or festival days? Why only one cinema in a month, when they release multiple new ones every Friday? Why follow others’ advice? why can’t I think for myself? and do as I damn please?? And the worst one of course was: why is drinking bad?
I had beer and soon realised after the first distasteful after taste, actually drinking is fun!!! anyway you drink for the after effect and that is uniformly, always good.
Point I started resenting was, it took a lot of unlearning and de-conditioning to convince myself that drinking is not bad. Exorcising all the conditioning done during growing up by my parents was not easy to bypass. I think I could start enjoying my drink and not get into guilt trips, only after I was 20/21 years of age.
And I was truly angered thinking of the time I had lost, the mental agony I suffered, overcoming guilt trips, and convincing myself it was not wrong to do what you enjoy doing. Drinking is just an example, albeit my favorite. The same ratio applied to many other things I was taught: why are elders considered a priori more knowledgeable? Why should we listen to others? Who gave others a right to opine about me and my behaviour? to rule my life? to make decisions for me?
And viola!! the next major insight was: I gave them that right! I believed my parents were always right!! I felt what others say was important. I thought that their views and opinions matter. I was giving them the cudgel to bludgeon me!!!!! So whom can I blame, except myself, for my situation?
The logical next step was to throw over the yoke of “upbringing” and all that I was “taught”. Question everything! Challenge!! Validate through own experience!! (Even if it meant trying out drugs to “see what happens, it can’t be bad if so many others are doing it”. And thereafter concluding I am better off without them!!) Finally coming to the formula that today’s generation comes onto very intuitively: “My life; My rules”.
This Gen Y proclaims it from rooftops, and zealously guards their “Personal Space”. And that is good. They will have less to unlearn than what I had. Their thinking is more iconoclastic, because there are no “holy cows” that they feed. They are more free as they carry little baggage, of their past or of their parents and friends. Theirs is indeed a very federal democracy: you are my bro, till we can get along. If we cannot, you go your way and I go mine. We all know so many couples who have parted, but continue to be friends!!!! No one path is mandated. Every person’s point of view is respected for its’ uniqueness and internal clarity. The lack of any shibboleths to over turn is the new religion. Welcome, genuine freedom.
Please do not get me wrong. My parents were great parents. They genuinely had our good at heart. They always encouraged and supported us. They gave us a core of peace and security at home. We had great childhoods, my siblings and I. Normal material comforts, no struggle for life’s necessities. We could have ice creams when we wanted. We lived in largish houses. And were taken around in my father’s car. So what exactly am I complaining about? It was just the “I know better than you” and “you listen to me now” and “I am telling you this for your own good” attitude of all our elders.
I am using parents as the “punching bag” here but actually I resented every elder (or junior, for that matter) who tried to run my life for me.
So what did I do with this angst? I decided I will be different as a parent, as an “elder”. With my daughter, I have always tried to be her talking partner…not a father. Have tried to help her analyze alternatives, but shied away from recommending any path. Have tried to impress on my nephews/nieces and all the younger folks in my life, that mine is just one opinion, just another point of view. Have tried to give them all the confidence that they can take whatever decision they want in their lives. I am here to help them debate and understand. But the final decision has to be theirs. Finally it is their life….and I do not want to live their life. ( I am fed up to the gills with my own anyways, he he!!!).
Many times this appears like disinterest, like not caring enough. That time I tell them that I am always there to pick up the broken pieces if there is a fall: but they need to run, walk, fall on their own steam. Only by making their own calls will they be in control of their ship. And a choppy sea always makes great sailors!!
That is the true upbringing according to me.
As Sant Dyaneshwar put it: जो जे वांच्छिल तो तें लाहो । प्राणिजात ॥
Not MY will, but THY own will be done: vikas
PS: especially obliged to my fav niece in Mumbai who sourced the Patrick Melrose quote: Upbringing is the damage your parents do to you. Though, I am sure, she believes otherwise: she still listens to me!!!!!!!
24 Replies to “Upbringing: a blasphemous view”
Well written! This is a line of thought that needs to be discussed much more often than it actually is in practice.
The main line I liked with was “I resented every elder (or junior, for that matter) who tried to run my life for me.”.
I think this is the crux of the matter. It is OK to try and pass on your values to the next generation. But the moment you try to enforce it too strictly, you start off on the path of messing the kids up.
E.g. A parent can try to explain the rationale behind why non-veg is not eaten on certain days, and leave it at that. But if you deny the child non-veg on those day(s), then you are enforcing your way of thinking on him/her. The child should have the freedom of choosing whether that is something he wants to do or not.
The same goes for pretty much everything – believing in God (or not), observing rituals, lifestyle, habits, etc. – the list is endless.
Far too many adults alienate themselves from the younger folks (not necessarily only their children) because they come with a holier-than-thou attitude. This is totally off-putting and drives the younger lot away.
Respect for elders is fine as a guiding principle. But there are far too many adults who have not grown up at all and behave in a childish or immature manner. Forcing your children to respect such folks is actually insulting your children’s intelligence. You can be cordial with everyone, but respect has to be earned.
Be a friend to your child. Treat him/her as an equal as much as possible (children below a certain age do depend on you, but respect their different choices even then). And whatever choices they make, support them with open arms as much as possible.
many thanks, bro, for your well worded, well thought out, and detailed comments.
You are preaching to the converted: fully and wholeheartedly endorse all the examples you have given
You know my parents were good souls: but it is this strain who can do max damage and that too like a meethi churi….you do not even realise your mind is being f….ed up and you are being manipulated
I would still give credit to what Sharad and Pramila were….they allowed us to rebel and fight
sometimes of course the angst gets misplaced and goes off on a tangent
Many a times I have wondered why Ashu did what he did in his bank job, or Asa’s behaviour patterns
but who is to judge who or what was responsible and what is right or wrong
Shobha Attu’s children’ academic excellence is unparalleled in our family….what contributed to that….heredity or environment?
Are Padma’s daughters better raised than my daughter?
Possibly we will go to the grave without definitive answers
as I said in reply to Preeti’s comments: how is it that Sharad Pramila’s children turned out so different???
Padma , Usha, Preeti and me got the same ‘growing up tapes’ but still we are like chalk and cheese
( me being the chalk , of course)
so it is upbringing interacting and reacting with the child’s own innate intelligence & personality
all of which gives out very indeterminate results
the plea I was making in the blog is well caught by your sentence: make the children your friends
if that happens there will be much less recriminations and angst
and far more joy in growing up
viva la difference!!!
Parents rock….or they make us rocks
Your blogs are thought provoking. I really enjoy reading them
Kanu bhai thanks. Your appreciation means a lot to me vikas
I agree sir. I realised quite early that the whole game that elders play is to control us. The acrrued benefit in my account was always suspect from their advise. I am not a Y generation person (50 years of age) but always did exactly opposite to what was told by the elders always and everytime. Your article is a validation. Parents can really convert a would be banyan tree to a bonsai unknowingly.
HCP Bonsai to a Banyan is also done by them and the reverse is equally true as you have said. My main plaint is against questioning elders and parents just because of our traditional submissive approach. I am sure when you stood up and challenged, or did exactly the opposite, it must have caused severe dissonance and discomfort for you. That you still stuck to that approach is to your credit. But many succumb to that pressure.
My plea to all parents is also learn from your childhood and be a “better” parent: one who is cool with challenge and gives space for the child’s individuality to blossom.
Life is too short to live someone else’s life….live on your own terms!!!!
Vikas very well said & so true.
Thanks Yasmin You are a major part of our growing up years And have seen the family so closely. So your opinion is imp vikas
Nicely written & wonderfully explained..
Thanks Vinay for your comment. It is always difficult to think objectively about your parents. We are what we are significantly because of them. Makes it easier as well as difficult. Such is life
Good article and quite bold ! Must admit that I had not expected it from you.
I too have consciously tried to not be like my parents with my daughter. But even then am sure she will grow up with some angst 🙂
The fact is that all kids idolize their parents. There is not much we can do about it. We just give it our best and honest shot, things will work out eventually. Just need to make sure not to “follow” any parenting tips or examples blindly. Every child is different and equation between every parent-child is different. It’s important to be an aware parent rather than being a traditional, modern or correct one
Neelu thanks for your comments
they say every gen stands on the shoulders of the earlier gen and so they can see farther. Being intelli kids we were obviously going to “evaluate and critique” our parentage. And def do things differently….AS WE SAW IT…ah!! there in lies the rub…who is to judge whether they were right….or we are? Finally the imponderables in this equation are so many that it makes any evaluation totally clouded by personal prejudices and viewpoints
I was supremely conscious of this when I was writing this piece. Aai Baba for me , Padma, Ushu and Preeti were possibly very different….as we are very diff individuals
I still wanted to write this “bold” piece because I see so many still laboring under the shadows and personalities of the past…they are unable to challenge of come out of this equation….so the piece was more an impassioned plea to all to question our holy cows, shibboleths, and “shraddha sthana”….and what better example to illustrate this than the venerable parents we all hold so close in our hearts
Objectivity might be difficult in this area. But questioning is not. and mine was an attempt to do this.
Glad you liked the blog
PS apropos your “must admit did not expect it from you” I will only say you should get to know me better dear sister. To quote my fav movie JwM ” Tune kuch dekkha hi nahi hai….ye bhi mera ik raang hai”
Keep writing in and sharing your thoughts. They are imp to me
As always Vikas, beautifully written. Your topic is extremely apt and acted as a reminder to be the parent that supports the child and not runs their life for them.
Thanks Ritu… I take inspiration from Kahlil Gibran who said They are not your children, they are children of the Is….Life’s longing for Itself….you are just privileged they have chosen to stay in your abode
By the way also for you a poem that endorses your sentiments
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.
By Philip Larkin
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Lovely poem . Abs after my heart and thoughts. Except the last line. I became richer with Rashmi. And don’t forget Preeti….you were possibly the first child for both Padma and me…..would not exchange that for the world Cheers
Feel I was brought up by a different set of parents…..maybe they were older and wiser by then! I saw them living values, offering counsel and standing by me. Or then maybe it’s just the way we perceive this upbringing.
As for today’s kids they often have it too easy and rarely value what they have got or even work for it!
I for one would prefer to err on the conservative side……for after all what is a building without a solid foundation
Yes a building stands firm only on a solid foundation and our parents…..yours as well as mine…did that for all the children. They were even supportive of so many children not born under the same roof or in the Shirodkar clan…they were archetypal Father and Mother to one and all.
If you got a feeling that I resented my parents or that they interfered in my life….I have created a wrong impression.
My exaggeration and tirade is against parents ( in general) feeling they own the world and child space….and both of us know Aai and Baba never did that. Having said that, I would still say they were directive and felt they knew the truth. My challenge is to that.
I feel today’s parents must be super humble and not think they have the answers. They should love and support…. and create the curiosity in children to find their own answers. And then be ready to support those directions even if they are diametrically opposite to their own thinking.
Of course these are my views and I accept that others’ POV would be different….Let us remember the same Sharad and Pramila made Padma Vikas Usha and Preeti very very differently….Praise the Lord
One more inspiring and positive by you Sir.
Sincere Thank you.
Thanks Nariman bhai for your kind words of encouragement
Very well written and a very difficult subject indeed. I still see parents rule the lives and decisions of my school mates. And wonder how much more would their shadows be a haunting presence. How this becomes, many a times the root cause of inhibitions, that manifest themselves in different forms, may be as basic as dressing or food habits but which nevertheless shapes our lives.
What your article brought to mind was what I keep repeating to myself; a line from Rockstar’s Kun Faya Kun – Kar De Mujhe, Mujhsehi Rihaa.
thanks for your kind words of encouragement
as you know, you are the spark that ignited this outpouring and you must thus share in the “glory of the creation” such as it is
I too am aghast as the strong shadows that many a parent….living or dead…. casts on their children’s life
I have seen many a friend and colleague scarred for life or living in perpetual debt of the past
as an HR person I have always grieved this loss of potential and the possibility they could have had to Be Free
You have ut it beautifully….kar de muzhe mujhsehi riha
Straight from the heart and wonderfully explained. I completely empathise as I have been through a similar grind. However must gI’ve credit to my mother who taught us to question and not follow blindly. If I am open and treat my child as a friend it’s partly due to the values inculcated by my mother. We are there last generation that listened to our parents.
Venky very true we are a rare breed and we are fast diminishing.
Our parents faced much more challenges…financial, infrastructure, societal norms, the works….compared to what parents face today. And despite that they stood resolutely and supported us tremendously. We owe them a debt of gratitude which will never be repaid….koi lauta de re mere beete hue din….
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