Family

Pitfalls of Desi Parenting: A Male Child’s Letter to his Parents

This is a guest post by SRW. SRW is a Toronto-based writer and software engineer, with an interest in mobile development. This is his first piece about issues within our culture related to parenting.

Let’s raise the perfect child. This child is going to have a stellar career with the correct marketable degrees and the perfect corporate job. Let’s rear this child and make sure that all our parenting decisions are made with this grand vision in mind. Let’s completely ignore what the child desires. Children’s desires are rooted in fantasy. We were blessed with a boy, so it is our mandate to raise the perfect child. What? We cannot pause and reconsider if our actions are in anyway destroying the child’s self esteem. For, we know that when he has the things we want for him, he will have an iron-clad self esteem. Just like all the successful people we have seen in our lives. A pious soul, with riches earned from hard work that he would have learnt to put in following a lifetime of instructions given by us. That is the way you live a good life. No, there is no point in asking what the child likes. Well, what does he know? He needs to learn to obey us. We are older; wiser. We have seen the world. We have seen privilege, and we are doing our best to raise our child with the privilege that we always desired. Hence, we are doing the right thing.

Oh do you mean to say that the child might want different things than what we wanted? That’s preposterous! Everything that our son desires will be made easier if he has wealth. And we will ensure that he will be wealthy. He will have a degree and a job. That is pretty much the recipe for success right? Confidence comes from degrees and qualifications. Saying that confidence comes out of happiness and doing things you are passionate about is just mushy talk. You will be happy with the things we want for you. We would have been happy if we had them, hence so will you! We know, we know! That is how the world works. Trust us son, don’t make close friends. Friends will mislead you. You will learn to be yourself. Your real self is just a boy gone astray. Child, don’t you know, we come from humble beginnings? It is our duty to crawl out of middle class poverty by following the widely accepted path of meritocracy. The journey itself will make you happy. That is what we have told ourselves all our life; all the while happiness has eluded us. We were just never meant to be happy. Our duty is to sacrifice for you. You in turn, will make us happy. You shall live the life we always wanted. Of course, this life we are talking about is just that good! We will then vicariously live through you. We will watch. Because doing anything would mean actually getting out of our comfort zone. It would mean engaging with the world and finding out how the world actually works. So lets just hide under our degrees and pretend that the world is a giant meritocracy machine. The only way to be happy is to study hard and get a good job.

So there you go, you know what our expectations are. We even went ahead and explained to you why we think the way we do. So obviously you are convinced now. This world is a dark place for people who have gone astray. We have seen it first hand. We have lived in an economy with no jobs. We have seen men reduced to nothing because they wasted their youth chasing fleeting joy. Temporary joy brings long term bitterness; because who would not want to have a comfortable life? Those people are bitter now, we know that as fact since we think they ought to be bitter for not having the comforts we enjoy. It is a different story that denying joy everyday and at every moment of your life will make you numb to everything. Numb to happiness and to sadness. But that is okay, numbness is better than actual pain right? So just follow along. We know this is right. We are your parents after all, we want the best for you.

Boy, it is your duty to live up to our expectations. Oh, now you’re getting older. I saw the browser history. You wanted to stay up late at night and use the computer. We were suspicious. Now I have caught you. You were watching porn. Porn is not for kids. What do you mean you were curious. Wait, you like it? You have been led astray. Who was the boy who told you about this stuff? That boy is likely going to fail in life. Do you want to become like him? We have spent so much love and money and everything we can put together from our modest life to raise you to be the perfect child and you want to waste it all. You want to become like that boy? Look child, we are serious. We are going to raise you the way we want and we will take every measure to ensure that you will turn out the way we want. This is our happiness and we deserve it.

Oh you were watching porn again? And now what is this? You have emails from a real life girl? What do you think you are? Who told you that you could have a girlfriend? Are you a movie star? Children don’t get privacy, that is bullshit. Good children are studious and listen to their parents. Don’t you want to be a studious child and make us happy? What have you done in your life to deserve a girlfriend? Boy, you are going out of hand. I am going to show you what your place is. I am going to show you exactly what we are prepared to do to make sure we do our job the way we want it done. We will strip you of any desire to feel like a man. We will make you feel unattractive. You should feel shame for going against our wishes and our desires. We have given you so much love. We give you gifts for doing things the way we want them done. We recognize your academic achievements and that is all the acknowledgement you should ever need. Yet, you have the gall to go behind our backs and do things that we have never talked about. Don’t you know that the things we don’t talk about are automatically taboo? How dare you do this to us?

Don’t bother having any opinions boy, you are a piece of shit child. We don’t listen or respect a person who doesn’t have the decency to be obedient to his parents. You will remain quiet. You will follow our instructions. Don’t bother being happy, because you will learn to be happy about the right things in time. There is light at the end of the tunnel. You are too young and immature to see it. Daddy knows best. And don’t forget that mommy loves in the most innocent and unconditional way and if you act like the despicable being that you are, she won’t any more.

I am the child that was raised this way.

All I want to tell you assholes is: FUCK YOU
BASTARDS
FUCK YOU
I fucking hate your guts.
Fuck you!!!!
Did you ever stop and think? Did you ever care if you were relevant? It is so fucking convenient to just follow social norms. You have never, ever thought for yourselves.

I am older now, and I see you as the people you are. You always, always took the easier path in life. You never stepped up and challenged the crap that your parents put you through. And you just wanted me to turn out like you. A shameful, gutless man with low self esteem. A man whose only badge of honor is his education. You left no room for me to grow in any way, but the way you wanted me to. You stymied and cramped me at every stage of my life when I wanted to grow; when I wanted to explore. Sports is not for you; art is not for you; friends are not for you. You didn’t even let me be angry. You never let me experience any emotion. You always wanted me to be numb to everything just the way you are. Because people who have accepted their fate don’t retaliate. They learn to live with their pain. People who are numb become zombies. Little by little they die inside. But you don’t care. Because you never learnt how to live. You never learnt what joy is.

I am left with a lifetime of shame and fear. But don’t worry you say. You did your job and raised me to be an educated person who gets a good salary for his job. That’s all. It was your responsibility to raise me and to you, you are successful parents.

Fine.

I am going to be over this. I don’t care where I end up. I don’t care what I do. I am tired of these bonds. I am tired of the intuition that you have shaped in me. You have made me a shameful person with low confidence. You have made me a person who cannot express anything. A person who is so numb to feeling. I have internalized all this pain. I don’t even know it is there any more. All I know to do is lie about myself. To make everyone around me feel like everything is okay.

Well, it is not.
Not most of the time at least.

It’s okay. I have found someone who doesn’t treat me like you did. And today, I just want to tell you this. I am over you.
I am over you both.
I just don’t care anymore.

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  • maya

    Wow that rang so many bells! Including dissing friendship, I thought that one was unique to me!
    But it’s true for so many of us Desis. That traditional parenting seems designed to destroy their child’s developing any sense of who they really are – just tragic.
    Congrats for breaking the cycle of suppression and oppression. I was where you are, once and it’s taken decades (yeah I’m pretty old now) to work through all that shit I was put through, and actually become something of a real person. Though it’s still a work in progress…..
    Authenticity isn’t something that’s valued in Asian culture – it’s all about image.
    however fake the flashy image is.
    One thing I’d advise is this: get physical – as much as you can: dance, run, do gymnastics, and also sing, lots of singing.
    If you want to email me, you can…..
    lots of love, and hey, go easy on the old folks……they didn’t deliberately shaft you. they were just weak and stupid and blind xx

  • Fisal

    This piece really hit home with me. I thought I was over all the agony my parents put me through while growing up. I thought I had fought through. But here I am with tears running down my cheek, wondering what it would’ve been like to grow up in a sane environment. Would I still be as cold and numb? Perhaps I’d still be with my girlfriend, with our relationship never having been strangled by my parents. Perhaps I’d not have developed my obsession with money, had I not grown up being told everything I desired was an unnecessary waste of money.
    I wouldn’t want to go back in time and find out, I’m proud of whatever I’ve managed to become, but it was nice to wonder. Thank you for writing this!

    • No matter what kind of programming we picked up from childhood, we are still the master of our own fate and the captain of our soul. We could still choose which way to go and what could still be done with what’s left. Though we could not go back in time and fix everything about our childhood, we could change our attitude towards it and consequently change its effects on us and the people around us for the better. It’s easier said than done, but it’s worth a try.
      http://www.ashegrowsup.wordpress.com

  • Dear Reader

    I hadn’t realized so many things that are mentioned in this article are wrong, but reading your article I realize how royally I got f*cked. I am the guy who started to believe degree is the only value. I left gym, arts, friends. And now all I have is a degree. I am a means without an end. Or an end without any meaning. It sucks! Maybe just the realization of our state is a sign of hope.

  • Leah Yousaf

    This , just this it’s everything that’s been done to me in life and i’ve recently starting to wonder how am i ever to survive such emotional abuse , it’s more like emotional blackmail. When they strip you if everything human and force you to be a zombified version of them a “Mini Me”, been going through a lot with my parents lately as a 22 female raised in a strict islamic family this has given me lots of hope and tears i’m planing on leaving for good and i needed this , i’ll save this to read for years to come when i need it thank you.