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“You Do Drugs? Parvarish Mein Kami Hogi”: The Trope Of A ‘Failed Parent’

Your children are not your children 

They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.”

– Khalil Gibran

Aryan Khan, son of Shah Rukh Khan, the Bollywood A-lister of immense repute, has been the subject of continuous media chatter since the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) busted an alleged rave party aboard a cruise ship in Mumbai earlier this month.

Here’s an introspection into the rather topsy turn of events regarding the case.

Aryan Khan suddenly experienced himself rocketed into the circuit of bad publicity due to an alleged misdemeanour. If things could get any worse, his bail was rejected thrice in a row.

Although there is no legal justification for the alleged crime, the media trial and castration that Aryan Khan and his family faced were massive. It reflects a lot on us as a society.

The fact that there are more important issues to discuss, including some which threaten national security. Drug consumption by youngsters at a much broader level and NCB’s inaction in the same, rising episodes of communal violence across the nation and its numerous casualties, the farmers’ protest, etc., have all been brushed aside.

Aryan Khan is facing flak which is magnified beyond the gravity of the alleged crime. The case caused ballyhoo in B-town and has not even left the political arena untouched. Many Bollywood celebrities and political personalities took their support for the “star kid” and the family to social media.

Neither should Aryan Khan face the consequences of being born to a star father, nor should Shah Rukh Khan be under a scanner for his son’s alleged misdemeanour. Photo: Shahrukh Khan’s Instagram account.

The fact that he belongs to a minority community was also raised for the continuous harassment that he faced. But that was not all; Aryan Khan has been subjected to harsh social media mockery.

Leaving all this aside, we need to realise that Aryan Khan is a 23-year-old young adult and has continuously been denied the personal space that a youngster needs in such testing times. We have yet to empathise with viewing him first as a young adult and later as a star kid.

The humane part of the story of seeing him as an independent individual has been overlooked under the clout of a star father. Can we see him as a youth or a human first before seeing him as the son of a superstar? Nobody is talking about his mental state. The sheer realisation that he has been the cause of public condemnation for his actor father may haunt him for an entire lifetime.

And to talk of Shah Rukh Khan, can we not see him as a father first and a star later? How heavy must the fact be on him that his son is undergoing a media trial just because of his star status?

Of Celebrity Parentage And Its Cons

 

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A post shared by Shah Rukh Khan (@iamsrk)

Alas! The consequences of his celebrity parentage, Shah Rukh Khan has been subjected to a rather cruel public denunciation. Verdicts of debaucherous lifestyles marred with money and fame, negligent parenting, lack of accountability as a public figure, etc., have been passed as people munched lunches and dinners staring at the Idiot Box.

We as a society seldom forgive when standards of Indian parenting are neglected. The trope of the “failed parent” was invoked as people looked with tilted eyes at celebrity culture.

Children are both a currency and asset in our land and they are to be “owned” and not “had”. We all come from families where career prospects and achievements of children are announced publicly and failures and trials are frowned upon and brushed under the carpet. Parental pride is directly proportional to the achievements of children.

Following the controversy, Byju’s, the educational tech company, paused its ad promotions with Shah Rukh Khan. Well, why should a “failed parent” endorse a company which aims at producing proficient students and proud parents in the field of education?

In addition to this, an old interview of Khan was dug out and circulated. The actor can be seen saying that he would allow his kids to have all the freedom, from drugs to sex, of course, in a light-hearted tone.

Although this may be just another celebrity scandal with the potential of doing rounds for a couple of weeks, it sure raises many questions on our perceptions of parenting.

Burdens Of Indian Parenting

Going by our cultural standards, we have a strict disregard for individual identity or choice. Anything you indulge in will quickly have your family name, reputation at stake, and more so for celebrity kids.

Can we dare deny that such incidents are a nightmare not just for the celebrities but for all of us? Have we not witnessed our parents undergo such screening in our not so glamorous lives? Do we not dread the thought that our actions may lead to society’s judgement of our parents. Aren’t we all Aryan Khan?

How often have society’s uncles judged our choices and decisions as an extension of “bad parenting” or “too much freedom” or “no control” on our parents’ part? Don’t we all have youngsters in our families feared by their guardians to end up doing things that could eventually hurt their family’s reputation?

Aryan Khan’s Case Calls For Social Introspection

The first prerequisite of this toxicity is how youngsters are seen as parameters of the success of their parents’ upbringing or the lack of it. The culture of infantilisation that we have imposed on our children for generations denies the agency of a young adult as an individual accountable for their actions.

Second, it holds the parents responsible for their child’s actions to tighten the noose of parental control. An 18-year-old is an officially recognised decision-maker capable of choosing a government, life partner, career and whatnot. Why do parents have to come under the scanner every time a youngster goes astray?

Aryan Khan may or may not be guilty of drug abuse; that’s for the agencies to scrutinise. But we can at least treat him as an independent individual. Neither should Aryan Khan face the consequences of being born to a star father, nor should Shah Rukh Khan be under a scanner for his son’s misdemeanour. This can be done without questioning the entire career and accountability of his star father.

Children’s achievements are always subject to comparisons in traditional societies and snap judgments like this extension of meme culture. Image Source: Ghanta Sarcasm via FB

More ironic was the comparison of Aryan Khan against R Madhavan’s son who is a silver medallist at the Asian Swimming Championship. A question that arises on such naive comparisons is whether we as young adults would ever entertain our comparisons with others?

Instances of unreal comparisons between children who have varied abilities is a sad reality of our households. And it is ruinous both for the child’s development and mental health.

We bear the testimony of the hike in cases of student suicides due to parental pressure. A lot of students who died by suicide were once a child who wanted to make their parents proud.

Aryan Khan’s drug case is of overt hype because the accused is related to a big name, but the judgement that the actor has faced is a reality for so many parents.

Towards A Remedy

In her recently launched memoir The Reluctant Mother: A Story No One Wants To Tell, author Zehra Naqvi elucidates how we need to stop looking at our children as mere extensions of ourselves but as individuals who are distinct and independent.

I believe we as a society need to evolve our notion of parenthood and re-visit the value loaded terms that stick together with it. Children can be encouraged to do well in life, but they should in no way be obliged to bring laurels to their families.

Parents may take pride in their children’s achievements and be saddened when they don’t do as good, but there must be a favourable balance between the two situations.

Like Khalil Gibran, in his poem titled On Children, wrote, “They come through you but not from you.” We need to introspect parenting and child-rearing expectations in a similar light.

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