With Family And Society Strangling Our Dreams, Should We Not Fight Back To Reclaim Our Lives?

Posted on January 30, 2014 in Society, Taboos

By Ojaswini Srivastava:

“So kid, what do you want to do? What do you wish to become? What are your long term plans for life?”

Not many parents ask these questions to their kids in our country. We have to become doctors, engineers or at least get an MBA eventually and make our parents proud and happy. Just say you don’t want to do any of it,  you have other dreams and your parents, the “society” and all your relatives will raise eyebrows. “What is wrong with you? What are you talking about? Duniya nahi dekhi hai tumne. Ye sab bacpana hai. Life me kuch aisa karo ki settle ho jao fir jo karna hoga karte rehna”, is what such children get to hear.

Indian youth

I am pursuing English literature, and wish to study mass communication as well as social work. But I am sure my aims will not be fulfilled. Two reasons-

1. Mass communication is not what my parents will allow me to pursue, since then I will not get a “decent job” and sociology too has the same issues.

2. I cannot pursue two master’s degrees. I am a girl. I have to get married at the right age, or the society will start talking about me and my family and their inability to get me married off. Also, I will be tagged as a defective bride. “kuch to gadbad hai isme tabhi toh itni late hogai abhi tak shadi nahi ho rahi hai ladki ki”!

It’s my life, it’s my career, it’s my marriage and it’s my dream. Why cannot it be my choice too? Why cannot I choose according to my happiness and contentment?

I must not be biased in terms of gender. I totally represent not only the fate of Indian girls but also the young Indian boys, I represent all the youth. The problem with our society is we have to do what they want. We have to act in predefined ways, and if we don’t we are social outcasts. If we don’t fit the bill, we are bad children and indecent people. And there are so many other things that we become only if we make our own decisions in terms of careers and marriage.

I don’t say that every child in every family has these problems. But I am sure that these problems are faced by a majority of the Indian youth.

I am studying literature and I am very happy and satisfied. I wish to study social work and media and communication further, I don’t understand why I will not be allowed to  study that. Why won’t it ‘lead me anywhere’? I am sure it will lead me to many things. Firstly, I wish to become worthy of being called a ‘well read woman’, secondly I wish to study all the subjects that interest me, thirdly I wish to become a writer and therefore explore several domains, develop perspectives and meet diverse people, and travel to as many places as possible. All these desires of mine will be fulfilled if I get to study all that I want. So, how will it not lead me anywhere? Because the society will see that I don’t get a corporate job? Okay, but I don’t want such a job. I want to work for the society. I want to write. I want to be socially useful. I want to travel and explore. My list of agendas is absolutely different from what shall be typically expected from me – a girl child in a conservative Indian family — study, get married, become a family oriented woman, reproduce, look after your kids and make a good wife, mother and daughter-in-law. This is all I shall do, and this is how my parents shall be proud of me? But what if I want to do other things and make my parents proud in other ways?

Going beyond my personal examples, I know so many people who are not doing what they want. They are only living the life their their parents wanted for them. No matter if they are not enjoying studying engineering, medicine or HRM, they have to do it. They have to do it to win the tag of “a good child”. My friend who is preparing for C.A. for example is least interested in commerce. He wants to become a model and actor. What is wrong with that? He has done a good number of modeling assignments, he has an amazing sense and knowledge of the fashion industry, but what he is doing is C.A. and not a course in acting or modeling. Why? Because his parents want it.

Another friend of mine is studying medicine. She wants to become a journalist. What is she doing? Why is she doing it? Because her parents want it.

My cousin wants to become an entrepreneur. He has wonderful plans for a business start up, but what is he doing? Studying engineering.

I am sure you too know many people like them. I am sure you yourself could be one of them. I am sure I am a part of this lot too. But sooner or later, we are not going to rebel. We cannot rebel, since we cannot be ‘bad children’. Our parents want the best to happen to us. They are experienced and wise. Also, being parents they naturally have the rights to expect from us. But, why cannot they also understand that after a certain age, after certain experience and exposure, we do grow up, we grow up enough to understand what our inclinations are, what we want to become and what we are best at. It may be unconventional, it may not be a very well paid profession (as in my case) but why cannot we just allow our children to be free, go ahead, take up what they want, determine their own aims and guide them through?

I don’t know how to shape my question and whom to address it to, it is the responsibility not only of the parent but also the child. It is the fault not only of the family but also the society. It is a problem that roots firmly, being nurtured with many factors for over a long time. There is no ultimate solution, but there has to be an ultimate revolution. I am only trying to figure out how shall it being? Where shall it being? And what shall it be? And I request you to allow yourself to raise these questions.