Wednesday, February 25, 2009

cats on a hot tin roof

The other day, Dhanno was watching 'Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na' all over again on TV. Of course, I was watching along.

Though the film seemed to be even blander than it did the last time, "a nothingness", as Sur says, I didn't have much of a problem with Aditi or Jai, or their friends, even though they didn't have anything other than relationships on their mind. Even if they seemed silly, immature and shallow, well, we've all been there, done that.

But what had me fuming were the supposedly "coolest parents in the world", Aditi's parents - Pamelo and Pamela/ Potato and Pumpkins/ Peachpie and Parrot/ Popcorn and what have you/ whatever, whatever.

Scene 1 in which they appear -  Cool parents dancing at their grown up kids party. Eww!

Scene 2 - Cool parents discussing in garden - Our daughter is 20. She graduated today. Let us talk to Jai and fix up their marriage. Before people talk. High time they settled down. Or we'll have to deal with the relatives and various proposals. (Unsaid - She wants to be a film maker? Let her get married first. Then, we'll see).

Scene 3 - Cool parents talking to Jai - So when do you get married? (Unsaid - Oh, you don't have a job, you've only graduated yesterday, but that's all right). Misunderstanding ensues. Jai and Aditi convince them they are only friends.

Scene 4 - Cool parents - If you are only friends, and are together all the time, how will you find partners? And your partner won't like your mate. (Unsaid - And you must find your partner, the sooner the better).

Soon enough, Aditi has an arranged meeting with a family friend's son, and gets engaged on the same day.

Scene 5 in which parents appear - Cool parents play scrabble while their daughter has got engaged to the first man they introduced her to. He is a friend's son so they haven't done any background check on him. The only indication that things may not be what they seem is the word father makes on the board 'Discomfort'.

Scene 6 - Cool parents wary that their reclusive son will embarrass them in front of their prospective son-in-law. Cool parents thrilled that their son seems to like their prospective son-in-law. Cool parents clueless about their son's thought processes or facial expressions.

Scene 7. Cool parents bid Aditi goodbye at airport.

A day earlier Aditi has come back with a huge bruise on her cheek. We never see or hear of them noticing it, talking to her about it, questioning her about why she has broken off her engagement or confronting their friend or his son about it.

Aditi sitting alone on Band Stand seems to reconfirm the fact that she cannot depend on her parents for emotional support. That she is alone. It is left to Jai to notice her bruise and avenge her.

So these are supposedly educated, super rich parents, who have lived all over the world. What happens to girls in middle class families with not-so-cool parents?

Somehow, brings to mind the crazy mother Kiron Kher plays in 'Fanaa' who packs off her college going blind daughter to a strange city for the first time with the prayer that she finds her Prince Charming there. The daughter willingly obliges, and falls in love with the first man who comes her way. The mother, hearing this news on the phone, and that her daughter is going to get married to someone they have never met is ecstatic.

We grew up with the thought of marriage dinned into our heads. My parents wanted me to 'see' a boy at the age of 15, and get engaged. My sister, friends and cousins all had the same pressure, give or take a few years. Some of us rebelled and found our own partners. Some had secret flings before they married partners of their parents' choice. Some did as they were told. The 'cool parents' were those who made no fuss about their children choosing their own partner.

But I can safely say, that in 90 cases out of 100, girls and their parents spent no time or just about 1/10th of time to career options or a need for a career as they did to finding the right partner for their child. And I've seen so many brilliant minds underutilized. So many wrong choices made because of the haste. So many lives forced to live out marriage for the sake of marriage.

So has nothing changed in 25 years?

Around us, children as young as 11 and 12 are playing the dating game. I can understand that they are hormonally charged up to do so. I can understand Dhanno and her crushes, and the enormous peer pressure to date. What Teja and I cannot bring our minds around to, is her dating or being sexually active, until an appropriate age, to our minds 18 and after.

But of course, we have a few 'cool' parents around us, too. A mother consents to her 12 year old going steady with a boy 5 years her senior, because the girl says, "I cannot live without him." The boy is in college, in another town. The girl's studies and sports performances which were brilliant earlier, have suffered.

A few other 'cool' parents have promised their girls they can start dating once they finish their Xth Std exams, when they'll be 15+.

Another 'cool' parent met Dhanno for the first time, when she was 13 and asked her to pirouette, and said, "Good, you are sexy." One could pass it off as a casual remark, if her own daughter was not obsessing about her looks all the time.

Now, while I love watching Dhanno dress up, make up and preen before the mirror, there's no way I am going to encourage her to think of her looks beyond a point. Not that she needs any encouragement from me, as is evident from when she was 5.

Dhanno, 5, oil pastel drawing by Banno with a few flourishes from Dhanno , 1998

However, I would think it criminal to even suggest that she absolutely needs to find the right partner and marry if she wants to live a fulfilled life.

Teja is clear that even if Dhanno has a few hang-ups about relationships because we are strict, she will grow out of them. But he certainly does not want any boyfriend-shoyfriend business right now. He is willing to be the villain of the story, if need be.

As for me, I feel confused. What about our own wild days as young people? Our rebellions, our fights for our personal freedom? I know that a dear friend, Fi will read this and mail me saying - "Ba, sau choohe khaake billi Hajj ko chali" i.e. the cat goes to Hajj after eating a hundred rats.


Space Bar said...

I hate that word 'cool'. I'd rather be square and have my son grow up well-adjusted, knowing there's more to living that one kind of relationship. We're parents, for heavens sake; not their buddies. Of course they will rebel, like we did, but that is probably as necessary to their growth as teething toys. Everything has its time.

Space Bar said...

Forgot to say, lovely post!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely lovely post!

You know what, I had never really observed Aditi's parents in the movie closely enough. The movie was so focused on Jai and Aditi's choices that I kinda took their word for the parents' "coolness". I guess, from the point of view of the characters who call them cool, they probably seem that way. But what you say makes a helluva lot of sense.

I used to think my parents were pretty conservative, maybe even to the point of being unreasonable. Now I can understand how they've moved a long way from how they saw their parents. They probably consider themselves the epitome of cool, given where they started. :-)


dipali said...

Great post, Banno, though of course I did thoroughly enjoy the movie for reasons other then the story- like Naseer giving a hilarious performance from his portrait, and Jai and his mother's relationship, and the lovely phrase she used- 'sirfirey hinsak mard'. Jai's mom came across as an authentic character. I also liked Prateek's performance and role.
Movie apart, I guess that Dhanno would have imbibed several values from you, yet needs must make her own mistakes. I guess as long as communication between you remains open, things will never get too bad. Friendship and crushes sound reasonable. No dating as a non-negotiable till she's through with school? Do you think you folks can be sufficiently authoritarian?
She's a lovely girl. All the best to her and her antsy parents!

Anonymous said...

I don't know that I'd ever encourage anyone to listen to what I have to say about marriage! but I do know that I am grateful to have had a mother who said: live your life, do the things you want to do, before you get married---because after you get married you will have to compromise. Don't be in a rush.

Maybe her advice would have differed had she known that I never would get married and present her with grandchildren, but I doubt it somehow. I am happy, and that makes her happy.

Sujatha Bagal said...

Banno, thank you for writing about this. As you know, this parent-child dynamic and what is acceptable/what is not has been on my mind lately. Good to know that other parents are in the same boat!

In my mind, we as parents have a responsibility to ensure that our kids are able to stand on their own two feet long after we are gone. So if that means forbidding all distractions until they are able to obtain a basic degree in something, for example, then so be it. Once they reach a certain level in terms of studies, etc., then they can do as they see fit. The hope is to live up to this plan. But only time will tell. :)

@Space Bar: "We're parents, for heavens sake; not their buddies."

I could not agree more. I've been saying this since the minute my son was born! :)

Anonymous said...

Hear Hear!

So true in all respects. I do see a small, but present subset of parents, mostly middle-class (professional class, one car, *maybe* own own home to whom their daughter's self-sufficiency is as important as her marriage, those that make sure that their daughter is funded adequately for this - a double whammy in terms of monetary outlay, but so much return in terms of peace of mind!

I doubt that Indian parents will ever reach the state of treating marriage as optional - or if they do, that will be a VERY long time coming :-)


Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Such a wonderful post Banno!
It reminds me of how grateful I am for my parents- though from small town India, when I finally decided to marry at 27, they tried to suggest I wait for a few more years :D.
In S. California, I notice that my 18 yr old sister doesnt date, as dont a lot of her friends, which surprises me- I do expect them to go out more. When I was going to school, in so-called "hip" USC< I found that 50% of my class was on celibacy vows (really!)- which makes me wonder if there is a "easternization" going on here.

Anonymous said...

As someone who isn't a parent, and had the good fortune to be blessed with amazing parents who didn't pressurise me to get married - in fact, encouraged me to make my own career - I hardly think I'm qualified to say anything on this topic. But, very well-written post, and thank you for the tip-off on Jaane Tu... I'd been meaning to see the film (yes, I still haven't), but I'm now having second thoughts.

Pitu said...

Wow, I never really thought about the parents. I was too busy noticing the godawful parents of that irritating 'Wot's that' girl. Wot's that? A chaata! :p

I started dating when I was 15 though, my dad was cool with it(after he'd grilled my bf) but my mom was not. He also told me early on to dress well, speak intelligently, get great marks, hone my talents and not be a 'goongi gudiya'. Oh and when my mom was buying me Barbies for my 13th bday, he bought me a gold set- for my wedding. He did so for every subsequent year. The Barbies are in some landfill but I have all the jamewars/brocades and all the jewels he bought me. And he told me I'd be lucky to find a guy who loved me even half as much as my dada loved my dadi :-)

I'd rather have my cool (and strangely traditional in other ways) dad than anyone else :-D

Banno said...

Right you are, Space Bar. If everyone's a friend, then who plays parent?

Thanks, Ramsu. I think perhaps in many ways our parents were 'cooler' just because they were less preoccupied with the right and wrong of parenting.

Dipali, I can hear you chuckling with tons of experience under your belt. :-)

Memsaab, I'm the last person to say anything against marriage. After all, this is my second time around. :-) But definitely, hate the thought of a rush, or marriage for the sake of it.

Sujatha, That's exactly what we think. The truth is that our education and professional system is so geared that we cannot catch up with negligence at a later age.Of course, relationships have their own place in life, but I think it's imperative specially for a girl to be capable of financial and professional independence wherever she may be.

M, The sooner the better. Would make for a healthier society and better marriages.

Shweta, Good parents, I would say. And yes, I spoke to some parents abroad, westerners in fact, and found them as concerned and 'conservative' as us.

Dusted-off, you are lucky. As I'm sure many of us are. My own parents after pressurizing me to see a boy at 15, then left me pretty much to figure out my own path, largely because they didn't know how to handle my rebellion. And they also accepted gracefully, whatever I did choose. But the problem is this all-pervading sense through films and culture of marriage be the end of all.

Banno said...

Pitu, I guess you turned out all right, so even if strangely traditional, as you say, your Dad and Mom passed on the right messages to you.

Anonymous said...

I really liked the post, even though I never experienced the things you mention. But I think I agree with the sentiment that parents should be parents, not buddies. And this does not mean running your child's life, it just means setting up some boundaries.

Most children and teenagers I see today are spoilt and drifting - in no small measure because of parents trying to be 'cool'.

As I said, views of an outsider!


Quirky Indian

Anonymous said...

Nice post. Nice blog.

Hey, I came here from Scott's after your comment about not knowing James Brown. "Impossible!" I thought to myself. But perhaps...

Anyway, a couple links to Youtube are in order:
I feel good

and sex machine.

Banno said...

Quirky Indian, it does seem a generalization to say 'most kids ... ' but yes, it does seem to be true some times. Parents do seem to spoil their children more, and less is demanded from them, whether it be helping with house chores, being polite to elders, going out to 'boring' family functions, all of which though not exciting childhood events, did tend to root us.

'mouse, yes, it's true, so thanks for the links.

Violet said...

Nice post. I had exactly the same feelings when I watched the movie- thinking about the just-out-of college girl's marriage to an unemployed fatherless boy. How are they ever going to make a living?? And the parents sounded so weird in that conversation. I was 23 and already working when my Dad suggested trying for civil services. His exact words were - "abhi shadi jaisi cheezon par dhyaan dene ki koi zaroorat nahi hai". And that when we are a middle-class family from Allahabad. I enjoyed the movie, and have nothing against it except that that it might mislead ppl your daughter's age into thinking that such relationships is all we need to sustain.

SUR NOTES said...

all my pals said i had 'cool' parents. yes, they danced at my parties- what to do!
and they had no problems with anything i did or did not do as long as i was totally honest with them. I really never had any reason to lie...i knew there was nothing i could not tell them.
honestly, i turned out to be the tamest, least rebellious in large gang of friends!
i still claim it was a cheap psychological trick my folks pulled on me- gave me all the freedom in the world, did not set out any role that i had to fit into- so here i am -as straightlaced as possible!

ps lovely post.

Dr. Ally Critter said...

I guess I had a very good time growing up. You need a career was the tune I grew up to. Everything else was secondary. And it worked fine for me.

Banno said...

Violet, Alankrita, exactly. Girls specially need to be given the sense that they have to be independent over and above everything else.

Sur, OK, maybe that parents dancing comment was a bit of sour grapes. Because Dhanno would totally freak out if Teja and I danced at her party. She banishes us into a room, and we are let out only to cook or serve a meal when she has these 'dos'.

Of course, it was a parenting trick, and I'm sure you'll use it with Sanah.

Anonymous said...

See ? This is the reason I stopped watching hindi movies - too much headache and not enough entertainment. :-)

Re the BF and looks issue - I think our kids generation (like ours in some ways) will have to face a different set of challenges when it comes to growing up. Our experiences of growing up are not going to serve as any help to them. That beng said, I think eventually parenting boils down to know thy child, set appropriate limits and love regardless of trespass.

Dear God, I sound like I know what I'm saying. :-D


Banno said...

Priya, Isn't that the trick to parenting? To sound like you know it all, even if ... :-)

Parul said...

Hello there,

I have discovered your blog just today. Came by from Dipali's. I read this post and I am just very glad that I am still at the 'should I let him be in diapers for another month before I start toilet-training' stage of parenting. All this dating stuff etc sounds so....grown-up, surely I will never have to deal with it???

Great blog :)

bawa said...

What this post says I have seen over and over again while being brought up.
The curious thing is, that when I was a teenager, the "cool" thing among friends was to harbour secret ambitions of having a professional career, to earn our own living well.
That so many dropped out of that Willingly the moment a guy was brought into the picture by the family and the how so many also hid the fact that they what they had wanted all along was not mathematics but a nice well-off husband is another story...

Back to now, my daughter despairs that the vast majority of her friend's ambitions is to look good, and have a BF etc etc

When I am in my Indian home-town, I find that there are so many parents that in their attempt to be modern, cool and with IT, have totally stopped parenting and base their rules on what they think is a hip western parent...which is in turn mostly gleaned from tv series, films, and cheap best-sellers.

Banno said...

Parul, thanks for dropping by. Well, enjoy the cute stage while it lasts. More to follow.

Bawa, I spoke to friends who live abroad, Indian and westerners, and they shared the same concerns. Yes, 'with it' parents here do seem to be folowing faux western trends.

The Chasing Iamb said...


you are so insightful about movies it slays me. I loved that movie for its fecklessness but will never think of it the same way again.

The Ba, sau choohe thing I worry about that being me if/when I become a parent. Though if i have a sense of how these things work I will probably have those horrible sorted out children, who will find my unsureness embarrassing.

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