“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!!!!!!!