Indian Parents


Indian parents are notorious for taking more than the advised amount of interest in their children’s life. Most Indian kids complain about the extent of invasion their parents have on their academic and personal lives. Their argument is that if their western counterparts do so well with so much freedom( which I believe is a false premise in itself ), why can’t they?

The reason , I hypothesize,  is the innate difference in the cultures of Indians and the Westerners.

The Western culture places heavy emphasis on individualism, identity , self respect and personal achievement. Achievement is central to their value system , it is in their genes, and hence even under trying circumstances, their passion for achievement can help them eke out a decent life.

Most Indian kids, inherently,  however think the other way round.They look at obtaining a decent and comfortable living as their greatest aims in life and do not care about achievements and personal feats. Thus, although they are able to survive , they stop at that point and without proper intervention, would never try to live the achievement oriented life that is coveted by the whole world.

So, the question arises : which type of life is desirable ? I would definitely prefer the latter. The reason ties back to my reflection in a bid to answer this question : “If India was indeed so prosperous centuries back and so ahead in science and technology, how the hell did we manage to fall behind in the race? ” It occurred to me that , centuries ago, Indian rulers committed the same mistake of being content with what they have. They lived a good life, grew food, ate, slept, mined gold and were content with that. Apart from a few random individual achievements, as a nation, we really did not make any progress. The foreign imperialist rulers were able to satisfy us by providing us with our basic needs for survival and we were satisfied with that. Post independence , some of us did drift to the western school of thought , but deep down inside , most of us still remain the same. As part of a  nation aspiring to be a superpower, I certainly feel that we need to change.

However, such a change would be very difficult to develop on our own. It would be highly wrong on our part to let teenagers figure out their own path – the genes would definitely win. The lack of role models in the society adds to our woes. The achieving Indian kids are the ones whose parents have conditioned them to the Western value system right from childhood. Parental help and conditioning is definitely required if we are to overcome our genetic instincts.

I am certainly not suggesting that parents need to take control and ownership of life forever. I am certainly not suggesting this. But in the larger interest of the nation, it wouldn’t hurt to let go of a bit of that control. Chances are you’ll end up being a high achiever. A somewhat miserable childhood( which if you are not getting beaten/abused is really not that miserable at all)  is a small price to pay for that.

They say, the future of India lies with its youth. I differ. It lies with their parents – for they alone can help them shape the country’s future. Instead of blaming them for your misery , use them to your advantage and give them due credit.

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9 thoughts on “Indian Parents

  1. The flipside is that parents try to live their own dreams through their children. Yes, a li’l bit of control will prevent the kid from going wayward, but then the parent should be pragmatic enough to allow individual freedom in important life decisions like hobbies, career and possibly life partner.

    As u say, “I am certainly not suggesting that parents need to take control and ownership of life forever.” The problems arise when the process of letting go of control is not tuned well. Either the control is not relinquished at all which is disastrous for a grown-up kid, or the kid is not able to suggest the sudden absolute “freedom” he gets as soon as he leaves home.

    I would prefer that from a young age itself, the decisions related to a kid are taken after an active argument-based discussion with the kid himself/herself, so that when the time to take one’s own decision comes, he/she makes a reasonable choice, not a random one.

  2. Ojas Patil says:

    You have put in something I really wanted to blog about, though in a different context. There are a couple of points I would like to add (or disagree with), about definitions or achievements and progress.

    1. You define achievements as only being professional achievements, like entrepreneurship or technical progress. That may not be the case always. For me an achievement may be being a really good father or a really good son or a good citizen. Or for me, an achievement may be being able to minimize my consumption or maybe being able to control my anger. For me an achievement may be spending as much time as I can in social service. These achievements are not really valued in the professional life. However, the Indian ethos being more about long term views of life and afterlife, these indeed are achievements from an Indian perspective. That these are good for the society in the long run is what the Indian system preaches. Indian system’s life is not really defined as just professional life alone.

    2. Then there is the point about societal progress. You say, we were quite well off long back, being known as “Golden Bird” and all. How exactly did this state arise if the Indian system does not value technical achievement? I believe it’s not as though the Indian system abhors good scientists or entrepreneurs. I feel what it does abhor is giving up your complete personal life for the sake of professional life or trying to become a billionaire. What is sought is a good work life balance. Do as much technical progress as you want within 9-6, but then come back home and focus on your personal life too. With such a system, technical progress is slow, agreed, but it comes with personal progress. Since we define a society’s progress in terms of material things like the GDP, such a personal progress is not accounted for. Again, Indian value system’s progress is not really defined in terms of GDP increase alone.

    • ashwinknan says:

      You are right. I do ( and purposefully so) have a very narrow definition of achievement. That is because I believe that with that as a definition alone can we make progress.
      I was discussing this with a friend yesterday: the choice here is whether to live the comfortable decent life for 100 years , with basic needs fulfilled or to live at the pinnacle of glory and luxury for 25 years. It is a tough choice to make and neither of them can be labelled right or wrong. Our Indian ways are probably the best way to live life, which has helped our societies and natives survive so much foreign onslaught, but then we tend to gravitate towards the former choice. Hence although we live what we feel is a comfortable life, we never realize our true potential. More than the work life balance, more than anything else, I believe human life would be purposeful only if it achieves the maximum it possibly can , pushed to its limits. Having a “balanced life”definitely does not fall under the purview of human potential being pushed to its limits.

  3. Jaideep says:

    By the way, even the GDP argument about India is not factually correct. Angus Madison proved that until 18th century (i.e. until colonization by British), India and China were greatest contributors to world GDP.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_regions_by_past_GDP_(PPP)

  4. Jaideep says:

    The implicit argument in Ojas’ reply that Indians did not focus on GDP.

  5. Quora says:

    Do the cultural values (that vary across countries or across communities) have effect on human progress/development? How?…

    It might, and it does. A culture that rewards innovation and encourages competition is more likely to invent things, and make rapid progress. Quoting from an excellent blog post by Ashwin Krishnan [1] > > The Western culture places heavy emphasis on in…

  6. Quora says:

    Do the cultural values (that vary across countries or across communities) have effect on human progress/development? How?…

    Ashwin has an excellent writeup on the reasons https://ashwinknan.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/indian-parents/ and I agree with Ravi Bhoraskar’s conclusion, but I disagree with this: > However, such a change would be very difficult to develop on our own. I…

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