South Asian parents don’t care much for independence.
There’s no need to wipe your glasses and squint, I really did just write that. Allow me to justify my claim with a story.
When I first headed off to university in September of 2007, it was rightfully a big deal in my household. Not only was I the youngest in my family, but I was also the first to move away from home (imagine that!). I remember my parents wanted to make sure in every possible way that I was well-prepared and aware of my responsibilities before I headed off to live on my own.
They were naturally protective, yet encouraging, with much of the advice coming in the form of “eat properly” and “don’t get distracted” (as in “don’t let girls sidetrack you!”), which is standard SAP protocol as far as I’m concerned.
Of course, living alone wasn’t really a difficult transition – I was a teenager and had been longing for the freedom and independence I somehow thought living in a shared dorm room with uncomfortable cots would provide me. However, while the adjustment of changing residences was easy, the interpersonal adjustments that came as a result of the newfound independence were much more difficult to adapt to – and this is where my opening line blends in.
For a lot of South Asian parents, their kids never quite become truly independent unless they marry. This is well and good, but they have to understand that it makes that middle ground of 18-26 (or whenever) quite awkward. Until you have that ring on your finger, you are their child and they will always view you as such, no matter if you’re living at home or 2500 miles away.
Some might argue that all parents are like this, and I would disagree. I mentioned before that I was the youngest in my house (by a considerable gap) and was often treated like the youngest usually does (that is to say, viewed as being less autonomous or responsible than my older siblings for whatever reason).
I figured the moment I moved away there would be a shift in how my family perceived me. What I thought would be a ticket to increasing my “independent” status was thrown out the very moment I triumphantly came home.
Is this a bad thing? In some respects, definitely not; like I said, SAPs are a dedicated bunch. As an 18-year-old looking for more respect and trying to establish a reputation however, this is extremely frustrating.
South Asian parents tend to be a protective bunch by nature; a lot of it comes from our cultural ideals back home. These ideals, such as living with your family until marriage, or refraining from straining the traditional “close-knit-always-together” K3G-type family dynamics, worked wonderfully during my parents’ generation.
But living in a Western society where independence is not only encouraged, but expected in order to excel, I can’t help but feel holding on to these ideals unnecessarily strains parent/child relationships and hinders a teenager’s natural progression towards adulthood.
For instance, I know of two girls who had wanted to enrol in a university that would require them to live on campus. However, despite their selected program’s prominence the girls were discouraged from attending these schools by their parents, and eventually settled for a school closer to home. Why do these types of restrictions still exist internationally, especially in regards to girls?
Upon closer examination, I theorize that parents such as these are only protectively acting in the manner that has been embedded through tradition. In South Asian culture the daughter is considered almost untouchable until marriage—it has been scientifically proven this is the sole reason why there were so many fights between potential lovers and Amrish Puri in Bollywood movies from the 90s.
Betis must be chaste and pure. Sure, they can be educated, but they should live at home until marriage—this is the line of thinking that forms the basis of our traditions, and it’s easy to see why this is a cause for concern overseas. Obviously, not all parents perceive it this extremely, but it still does exist internationally, especially among recently immigrated households.
So to rephrase my statement from earlier and make it less controversial, I will say “SOME SAPs do not care much for independence”, mostly a result of tradition. Do I blame them? Of course not. But I do feel restricting your child’s own search for freedom and independence hurts more than helps the prototypical K3G-like family dynamics that most SAP (if not parents of all cultural backgrounds) strive for.
The opening line was only there to capture your interest until this point—hopefully I have raised some intriguing questions.