Sunday Schmooze // How ties that bind can become ties that gag

Sunday Schmooze // How ties that bind can become ties that gag

A few weeks ago, I chanced upon a Twitter thread, stitching together a sociological story on the Indian Male. It began with: “Why do most Indian men still live with their parents?” 

A global debate ensued, some insisting it’s a good thing to do (taking care of family), others saying it’s a cop-out (not being able to shrug off parental control).

A more extended and better-rounded version of it would perhaps be: why do most — or at least some — Indian men live with parents even after they are married? 

I mean, it really cannot be always hunky dory like they project in ‘Raj Shri Productions’ Hum Saath Saath Hain (We Are Together) where men make lots of money, air-brushed women serve food, everyone goes on picnics every other day, and the entire clan lives happily together forever.

This gig is passed off as “culture”.

Alas, it usually doesn’t play out in real life, where conventional flashpoints in the domestic opera are kitchen politics, property grabbing and abuse in all form.

In the “wicked” West, which has traditionally been sneered at by subcontinent dwellers, it is the most “normal” thing for kids to flee the nest when they turn 18, and strike it out on their own. Yes, they “visit” home for Easter and Thanksgiving, but that’s where they draw the line. 

Most parents, while feeling sad at this cutting of the umbilical cord, rejoice at being able to reclaim their own lives. (In the post-recession era of 2008-09, there was suddenly an unusual spurt of adult children moving back with parent/parents, but that was put down to economics.)

When I lived in Dubai, I was used to my friends’ parents visiting them. There was a strange divide. The desi parents would arrive with some sort of proprietary hold whereas the “western” ones would come as tourists. 

So, an Indian or Pakistani friend would say: “I’m taking off early from work because my father/mother expects me to have home-cooked food for dinner, which I will help them prepare”. A British friend would say: “I’m meeting mum/dad at this new bar for a pint.”

In 2005, Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai was a guest on The David Letterman Show where the host tossed her an awkward question: “Do you still stay with your parents and is it normal in India?” 

She responded with: “It’s fine to live with your parents… it’s common in India. We don’t have to take appointments from the parents to meet for dinner.”

I thought that was as flimsily filmi as Hum Saath Saath Hain.

In the city of Kolkata in India, my brother and his family live within striking distance with our dad: it’s because of logistical convenience that they share a neighbourhood — my brother’s workplace is nearby. 

There have been times without number when people have quizzed us — disapprovingly — about this arrangement. Why do they live separately? Why does my ageing father live all alone? Tsk tsk.

But I love how this “distance” helps them overcome dysfunctional dynamics.

Over-familiarity breeds contempt. It really does when it comes to interpersonal relationships within families.

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Disclaimer: All views and opinions expressed in The Brew View – our opinion section – are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TheBrew.ae, the company, or any of its members.

Sushmita Bose

Sushmita Bose

Sushmita Bose is a journalist, editor and columnist based in New Delhi with almost three decades of media experience. She's worked with leading Indian news organisations such as Hindustan Times, where she was the editor of HT on Sunday, Business Standard and Sunday magazine (of the ABP Group). Her last-held position was at Khaleej Times, Dubai, where she was Weekend and Features Editor for more than 10 years. She's also the author of the best-selling Single In The City. You can find her writings on Sunday Schmooze

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