Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Cost of Independence...and its Worth

I am often told, by well meaning friends, that I am a Grown-up now. That somehow, this business of being a Grown-up implies that I can, and should be able to make my own decisions. I am sure, I often say this, well-meaningly, to my friends as well. But of late, and only of late, I've begun to wonder what a sham that really is.

Being a Grown-up, does not mean a thing. Or perhaps, it means too many things, and not one of us can quite put our finger on an exact, enclosed in angular brackets, sort of definition. Which probably is why we walk around, all of us, with these myriad ideas of what our role as a Grown-up in Modern India should really entail. Traditionally, of course, things were probably much simply designed. I say probably, because I have no real experience having lived in these "traditional, more organised times", and as such, I can only venture what I can, at best, call an optimistic guess. Optimistic, for the thought that, if present times are such a mess, the times before and the times to come must offer a clearer perspective, a neater thinking to things. I may be entirely wrong, of course, but I am rather hoping that I am not.

So, my problem with the present state of affairs is this--we are still a culture which places an enormous emphasis on the family unit--and the family unit, where the parent/parent figures make most of our decisions for us. All keeping the child's best interest at heart of course. And I say this, without sarcasm, condescension or judgement. Neither is this my problem, really, it is merely one of the parameters that define my problem. My problem then, is this change that some of us have perhaps willingly, and perhaps unknowingly, entered into. The change, from being our parents' children to independent, but unattached adults. We, who sort of, kind of, "move out" of our homes, either to study or to work, and then a few years, or if we are lucky, months, later, learn that we are now independent. We can now make decisions, where previously, we would have sought permission. We find that we are responsible for finding (and funding) our own food, rent and bills, and by that extension, we can also decide what we wear, where we go, when we go, and who we go with (or without, for the matter). But then, the problem arises, when we realise that no one remembered to send this whole we-the-independent memo to our parents. Who still are under the impression that they make the decisions in their child's lives, just as their parents made theirs. You can clearly imagine the possible conflicts of interests. And when the said conflicts of interests do arise, the best anyone can do, is fumble and feel their way through the dark. Hence the several make-shift arrangements. "I drink, but please don't tell my parents." "I can never wear these shorts at home, but they are okay for here." "My mother still thinks my roommate's a girl." "Don't you dare put the pics of Saturday night on FB, I have family on my list!"

This, this, is the reason why we have been fighting for the same things since the last 50 years--more independence. And it does not help that all of us have friends who have parents who are more progressive than ours, and friends who have parents who are more conservative that ours. So on one hand, I have friends whose parents sit with her and drink, and on the other hand, I have parents who wont even let her pick the clothes to wear. So we are constantly off the mark while judging our own parents' progressiveness (or should I be saying permissiveness, really?). Which is probably why I was shocked when at 18, my parents let me move out of a convent hostel and into an apartment in an area they had not even been to, with 3 girls they had barely met and I knew for less than 6 months myself. And probably why I am shocked now at almost 27, and having survived 'independently' 4 jobs, 2 different cities, 3 different houses and more threatening-to-be-life-changing crisis than I care to even tell them, my folks won't let me take up an apartment on my own. So when my friends tell me I am a grown up, I am not even sure what that even means.

Am I looking for an answer here? I am not sure myself. I am just asking the question, and hoping that would take me somewhere. Answers, are after all, just collateral damage, are they not?


Anu said...

My idea of independent thinking is doing and making decisions which will keep me happy and my mother has never stood in my way. I am very lucky that way. Why I tell my friends not to post pictures of my drunk is out of shame and respect because I know my mom's reasons for telling me not to drink is out of her life lessons. My mom's let me stay with two guys, which just adds to my point. I am not sure how I would have progressed in life if my mom was conservative. Living with boys wouldn't have dented my life in anyway... you know - I still ask my mom what to do because she has given me the freedom to choose - I let her choose for me sometimes. I don't think I have a conclusion for you or whether you need one.

medusa said...

First of all, I AM SO BLOODY GLAD that you're writing again. Or should medusa say, Medusa khush hua.

yeah, you are right, and it gets more complicated when one thinks of one's parents as fairly rational and intelligent human being, and even then pointing out the inherent inconsistency of their actions/ decisions also do not apply to that rationality that had been demonstrated a few minutes ago.

having said that, they do exhibit the tendency to be more malleable with age, and with more pushing.

being unattached makes our situations more unique, because with attachments, it seems, all the parental guidance vanishes.

crumbs said...

A horribly late response this, but a response nevertheless

@ Anu
That's what I am saying, we all have different situations, and I am not sure what is answer to you is answer to me. We both want different things, and our parents want different things for us, and there just isn't a scale where all those wants are comparable. So the best we can do is to make it up as we go along really, and try not to judge another person's situations based on ours.

@ Medusa,

One is mighty glad that Medusa khush hua :D

And yes on the being unattached making us more susceptible to parental guidance, but I'm not convinced with the vanishing of the same with attachments though. I think that is just what our parents promise us, and we, in a desperate attempt, hope. I could give cases in point, but that would be counter productive (and possibly libelous)