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Tenacious, doting parents

punjab Updated: Mar 11, 2013 09:11 IST
Gulneet Chahal

"Freeze!" the doctor thundered to his son, gesturing at me to do something to get the boy's mind off 3D animation and into medical studies after Class 10. I knew I could not talk him out of the fetish of countless high-strung parents who seek to fulfil their dreams through the offspring.

For the nth time that day, I sighed, as I wrapped up my third "life skills" session with a raw but sensitive group of 20-something students. Evaluating their "Wheel of Life" charts, as I checked their responses for the "family" spoke, 10 out of 20 had given themselves eight points on a scale of 10, claiming to have close-knit families that loved them and cared for their needs.

"I love my parents because they love me and provide me with everything," was the general answer. "Why not a 10 then?" I reasoned, trying to dig deeper into their psyche to know why they took away two points from a family that loved and cared. There was silence, as the group delved into "learned fine tuning"; a term for introspection. I observed the heavy breathing and uneasy shift in body language, as one of them blurted out in a choked voice: "My parents mean the world to me b...u….t… I only wish they had listened to my desire get into hotel management three years ago. I would have been more focused on my goal today."

"Not that I dislike the business management course," carried on the chocolate-faced boy, eyes fixed at yonder, "but I really love trying my hands on different recipes. Life is good," he said, "but I have lost the zing I had three years ago." His sobs grew louder and more intense, and now I could see misty eyes and lumps in the throats of an entire group. A typical dominant Indian family wears the garb of being the most doting in the world but underneath are certain beliefs that even today destroy many a youngster's hidden dreams.

"They first tell us to fly and then clip our wings," is how a girl in the group recalled her dominant father's walking all over her desire of being in the army. He was worried she would not find a "decent" match. Many young people are in forced careers and unfit jobs, while with only a little support, they could have bloomed earlier in a different sphere.

We need to question our conscience as parents, when as a nation, we seek to know why we don't have world-class athletes, writers, and artists. I thought parents' influencing the career choice of children was a done thing, from a few decades in the past. I was wrong. In times when specialists advise unlocking youth potential at an early age to foster healthy growth of the human race, it's painful to see parents coming in the way.

Parenting is a skill required universally, for which there are no testing parameters to declare couples "fit" or "unfit": a point that psychologists have failed to highlight and what most would-be parents choose to ignore.