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Friday, August 26, 2011

Superheroes

An elderly gentleman came to seek counsel yesterday about his grown-up son (who had been my pupil once) who is pushing thirty, with a pregnant wife, still sitting at home virtually doing nothing and feeding off his father, having given up four jobs in a row within five years because they were ‘ill-paid, boring and humiliating’. By an odd coincidence, I was reading the cartoon strip titled Luann in my newspaper yesterday, and there I read about an elderly American couple worrying about exactly the same thing: a son who in an earlier age would have been fending for himself for at least a decade already sitting at home, living off his parents still, and playing idiotic video games online where he regularly ‘saves the world’ as some sort of ‘superhero’.

I was musing along with some of my readers in earlier posts on both my blogs about the tendency towards homogenization all over the world, and too many features of this process are alarmingly similar, such as this one. First, parents bring up pampered brats, waiting upon them hand and foot, not teaching them basic responsibilities and manners, indulging their every whim to the limit of (and sometimes beyond) the parents’ ability, telling them that all they need to do is to get ‘good marks’ in school and college and then a ‘bright future’ is waiting for them… and then the same parents discover to their chagrin that either their children have become ‘successful’ in nothing more than the pettiest middle-class sense (doing nondescript jobs for modest salaries just like millions of other nonentities, all dreams of becoming rich and famous quietly buried, slowly burning up with disillusionment and frustration), or worse, they are useless parasites with bloated egos, who won’t go out to work unless they can start off as CEOs or superstars of this or that variety, much preferring to let their parents keep on maintaining them and their families in turn, as long as they can. And many of these parents are actually too scared to take them by the scruff of the neck and throw them out on the streets, either because they ‘love’ their children too much still ('Suppose he commits suicide?'), or they are worried sick about what people might say, or afraid that their children may actually turn upon them …news reports are becoming increasingly common about desperate old parents going to the police and courts to seek ‘protection’ or ‘support’ from their adult offspring. What monsters we have created in vast numbers by trying to be cleverer than our parents were!

I don’t care what my daughter does after she’s 24-25, so long as it’s not something shameful or criminal, but she has known since she was 10 that laziness and greed will never be indulged, and she must be able to stand on her own two feet. If she cares to look after her parents in our old age, that will be a huge bonus, of course. But she must get off our backs at least. And try to do something that is personally satisfying if not also socially useful, whether or not that makes her rich. Having her back at home with us now and then must be an unadulterated pleasure, never an obligation or burden. If things work out that way, I shall consider myself both very successful and very fortunate indeed…

15 comments:

Rajdeep said...

Great timing of this post as something on the same topic appeared in the TOI.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/relationships/man/woman/Indian-teens-are-seriously-spoilt-brats/articleshow/7654710.cms

Something to ponder about.

Shilpi said...

Err....I'm absolutely sure that books have been around and available for a while now: GK books to science books to other sorts. And to imagine, among other things, that a large number of children not chatting up with their parents about 'sex, drugs...and rock-and-roll' has something to do with 'information being easily available' is being somewhat silly and uninformed. This is the place where an actual study would help instead of spinning yarn. And the article is either just hastily written or just sounds plain muddled.
...and what would those experts recommend? That is what I would be interested in knowing...

As for the original essay: been ouch-ing and cringing during the waking hours and wondering whether to lie low or pretend to have been traveling or say '- been under the weather'. That cartoon character reminded me of myself. Never played video games though, but I don't know whether the games I played would be considered to be worthy pursuits. Not to be facetious, but only time will tell, and I'm fast running out of the sand in my hour-glass...

Can't say much about parenting. Barring being a good teacher I personally think being a good parent is the most difficult role to fulfill. Doesn't help much when people become parents by the droves without really knowing why they want to be a parent or how to be one or because of sentimental reasons which fast fade as the baby grows. As for the children, who can't/will not grow up - it sometimes would be better if a good many of them did make a quiet exit if they neither have the nerves and strength to make it on their own nor have the required talent and abilities and gumption to have a personally fulfilling life (however defined). I'm reminded of one college friend who grew up to be a sensible, quite balanced, and even a rather successful person by worldly standards (and who was sensible in college too), and a fair bit of it has to do, I think, in that her parents are sensible, caring, matter-of-fact, and good human beings from what I'd known and seen of them.

A very earnest Amen for your last part.

Tanmoy said...

Dear Suvroda

Sincerely hope that your wish comes true.
I know a Chinese working couple here, who feed of their parents’ money without any inhibitions whatsoever. They live in a huge house (a 4 bedroom house with garden, glass house, outhouse for 2 people), pre-book and buy the latest gadgets even before they are formally launched (they recently got the latest version of blackberry ordered from Canada since it was not available in NZ, Aus or China), change cars quite often, even though they don’t understand English films that much always ensure they are watch the latest releases, want to buy a business etc. Definitely they live beyond their means and it does look odd. In fact, I find it crazy.

Even though it was rude, I could not stop asking how they live like this. They told me, apparently it is common for Chinese parents who have single child to finance everything for their children. Not sure if that is true but perhaps it is. I would not be surprised. It is another issue though when I wonder how could in communist China people save so much to spend on their children to this extent.

I think getting used to any kind support is frightening. Once the support goes, it is very difficult to manage. In India, like you said, it is a common phenomenon for parents to pamper and spoil. Worse is, since our society discourages younger children to work as newspaper vendors, cleaners, shop assistants, painters or even volunteers in aid organisations – children don’t realise the need to work hard till quite a late age.

Sometimes I feel we have too many shackles around us which better be broken.

Regards

Aakash said...

Dear Sir,

That was a very honest post coming from a parent. For readers who are still at school, I hope they will understand the significance of this post. Least to say, I feel I still have a lot to understand and learn.

With regards,

Aakash

sulagna said...

respected sir,
though i am not your student... but still this post of yours, inspired me a lot.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Thank you, Sulagna.

One doesn't have to be a current- or ex-student of mine to comment here. But I should have liked to know what exactly in this post inspired you...

sayantika said...

Dear Sir,
Though I don't know much about parenting, this post reminded me of the times when my mother used to pay me for doing simple household chores and I used to store the coins in my piggybank.I used that money for buying silly cricket cards or to get the liquid for blowing soap bubbles sold in the melas. It was a small lesson, yet it had driven home the point of earning my own money.
Although I didn't follow this principle during my plus twos (when those numerous tuition sessions took away most of the time) and college years, I took care to spend only for stuff that I needed. And now, that I am going to leave my job soon and go back home to prepare for the civil services exam, I am planning to take up some bigger chores.

Thanks and with regards,
Sayantika.

P.S. Sorry for commenting late, Sir. At office, they have blocked us from reading blogs, though they are allowing us to chat and do Facebook!

sulagna said...

Till now i had never listened to my parents sincerely..i always thought that they need not care for me.. and i always thought that what they said to me were just called boasting...i never took them seriously...but sir, this post of yours about parenting made me think for a while...yah my parents really do think about me and care for me and that is why they tell me so many things...and that is why this post has inspired me to become a good daughter..and i am sure to try my best.

Shilpi said...

I'm a little unhappy about my earnest Amen bit. It's somewhat incomplete in many ways. I would add some more liners, but for now - when I read that last bit, the thought that first crossed my mind, and very fast, with my eyebrows lost in my hairline was a quiet, '....you really don't mince matters any, do you...' Not that that is surprising but still.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

What I wanted to say here was that I find it amazing that so many parents these days are proud about the fact that their grown up children are good for nothing, or worse. Md. Azharuddin's pampered brat dies while speeding on a motorbike, and he gets 'condolences' from all kinds of people, including the PM, whereas in a sane land and age he should have been sent to jail for being the worst possible parent! Not a thought to spare for all those innocent drivers/pedestrians this brat might have killed or maimed if he had lived longer. Likewise, so many parents are content, if not proud, that children in their mid-20s, taking the high life for granted, don't earn a paisa or contribute anything to the home finances even if they do.

Arijit said...

Sir,
I am going to be a graduate within the month of June 2012.I want higher studies but my parents want me to do a job. I know that both are equally important in life,what should I do? I cant do both things simultaneously,please help. My parents are of the kind that you have described.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Dear Arijit,
Since you posted your query as a comment, I too am replying here.

I am not too sure what you mean by saying your parents are the sort whom I have described. Anyway, as for your question, it is always wise to acquire a postgraduate degree before you take up a job, if you can afford the money and the time. Of course people can study for a p.g. degree later on, after working for a few years or even while working, but that is always much tougher. And without a p.g. degree, you are at much greater risk of getting stuck in the lower rungs of the job ladder, whether you work for a government firm or in the private sector. So, unless your parents have a very clear and pressing reason for urging you to go for a job straightaway, explain to them why it won't be a very good idea in the long run. Apart from anything else, there are far too many graduate engineers around these days, as I am sure you and they know. Even IIT toppers tend to go for MBA degrees. You can understand why...

sayantika said...

Dear Sir,

I came across this humorous column by Manas Chakravarty that speaks volumes about how today's parents think that their children are so smart and tender that teachers shouldn't be negative to them in any way. I am not sure whether it is appropriate to post it here, but it isn't entirely irrelevant, especially with what you said in your comment about parents being proud of good for nothing children.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/News-Feed/columnsothers/On-a-clean-slate/Article1-762635.aspx

Thanks and with regards,
Sayantika

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Delightful, Sayantika, thanks (and of course also frightful, because it comes so close to the ground reality we are having to handle these days. I am partially protected by the well-known fact that I have a rather fierce temper if and when aroused by stupid parents, and I can afford to tell many of them to get lost if they don't like what I do, God be thanked)! I liked the article so much that I am going to take a printout, and read them out to all my pupils...
Sir

Rashmi Datta said...

Dear Sir,

A strikingly similar experience has left me wondering in the same vein. A very close relative in his early-thirties, who is a software engineer, married and having a two year old daughter has been pestering his parents and in-laws for money for a long while now. He and his wife, both callous spendthrifts, always complain of financial difficulties and demand help. Recently, they have begun demanding tens of lakhs of rupees to help them ‘settle’ in life. This man loudly declares to his wife that only a lazy dud saves money for the future and he, not being one, would spend all that he has and live ‘like a king’. His wife listens to him with admiration and awe. The parents are worried, exasperated and frightened for their future.


This incident brought me to this blogpost. Now, I understand two things even better-

1. The importance of conscious, real parenting. Every single thing you have written about yourself as a father remains as a lesson to the present and future parents.

2. How dangerous an idiot can be when he is simultaneously lazy and greedy!

The present Indian parents (especially the urban middle class) by and large deny their roles in bringing up their children into sensible and responsible adults. They have an extremely naïve and narrow approach towards parenting. The only end of parenting is to ensure that their children become regular 8 to 5 jobholders who would eventually get married and have children.

‘Fair complexion’ and ‘smartness’ as a baby, ‘good marks’ in school and a ‘respectable job’ later is all that they ask for. When this is ensured, they turn a blind eye to every vice in their children, fulfill all their silly whims and turn them into pampered, spoilt brats.

When the parents realize that the above ‘virtues’ are absent, they either show an outright indifference towards the child or opt for cruel, imbalanced criticism and harsh punishments. These children have a huge probability of becoming dull, obstinate and violent people with very little or no self worth.

Both the kinds make life hell not only for themselves but everyone connected with them.


Although I know that ultimately it is the individual himself who makes his destiny better or worse, I have always wondered how many parents actually make an honest effort in trying to instill the virtues essential to make one a good human being: like honesty, empathy, kindness, courage etc.? I have known so few people who consider self-introspection and practicing before preaching a must in parenting.

The worst nightmare is the present generation which has become parents. The man I have talked about in the beginning of the comment actually teaches his two year old daughter to throw things at people (she has since injured her grandparents twice) and discourages her to share her toys.
Talk about maniacs turning into fathers!


As for the last part of your post, I pray, hope and am subconsciously sure that you will indeed be successful and fortunate in the way you wish to be. For, I have not known anyone else who has worked so earnestly in this direction and from what I see, your efforts have already borne very sweet fruits.

Thank you for this post, Sir.

Warm regards

Rashmi Datta