Why is it blasphemous for a child to question an adult’s decision?

Published: January 25, 2016
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What’s more flustering though, is the fact that when I question their reason for disagreeing with me, the debate suddenly takes a detour from my career options to how I am suddenly being ‘disrespectful’. PHOTO: REUTERS

The worst nightmare for a Pakistani parent is when their child shows an affinity towards anything related to art, music or the performing arts. Unfortunately, our parents are programmed to believe that to have a successful career, it is important to choose a field of study that leads to a positively stable career. Keeping that in mind, you can just imagine what my parents’ reaction was when I told them I was interested in pursuing a career in film-making.

Now my parents are not the conventional Pakistani cookie-cutter parents. Both of them are educated and have very independent lines of thought. Their reaction to my enthusiastic proclamation was less than dismal.

 “Kya?”, accompanied by bulging eyes.

“Yeh Kya fazool cheez hai?”

(What is this nonsense?)

“Iska to kuch scope hee nahi.”

(There is no scope for this (field))

“Future ka khayal hai apne? Lagta he sari zindagi mohtaaji mein hee guzaarni he tum ne.”

(Do you even care about your future? It seems like you want to spend the rest of your life being dependent on other people)

Nikaalo yeh fazool cheezein dimagh se aur engineering ya business waghera ka kuch socho, barey aye director bann’ne.

(Get these useless ideas out of your mind and start thinking about pursuing a career in engineering or business, etc. Says he wants to be a director – pfft!)

Despite they’re liberal outlook on life, for them, medicine, engineering and business are the subjects and fields to get into for a bright future in Pakistan. Apparently these are the only fields that can determine intellect – anything related to the arts obviously shows a lack thereof. So if your desire is to become a musician, an actor, a painter, a film-maker or even a dancer, you can forget about it.

Isn’t that funny though?

Pakistan is a nation proved its mettle in the world of arts when it gave birth to the likes of Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Zia Moheyuddin and the Oscar winning Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy among many many many others. But if parents continue to nip these artistic dreams in the bud, we may not see another generation of creative greats – and what an unfortunate generation that would be. What’s more is that these dreams are trampled upon because success is only defined as ‘a stable job and monthly income’ but this rarely allows you to live a fulfilling life or experience growth– one based on self-satisfaction or self-actualisation. Abraham Maslow did put it right on top of his hierarchy of needs for a reason right?

Then we have the brave individuals who make it clear that they want to deviate from the norm and do something they are passionate about. Regrettably, I was having a conversation with someone and I expressed my desire to become a direction.

Somehow Pakistani parents have ruled out the prospect of making a career (or a living) out of something you are passionate about. To them, the idea of self-actualisation is just a chapter in our school books, but an alien concept in reality.

When I was faced by this conundrum, swaying between the fear of rejection from my family, and society at large, and doing something I believed in, I decided take the leap and opt for the latter. It was then that I somehow managed to draw up enough courage to tell my parents that,

Yeh meri zindagi hai.”

(This is my life.)

Now started the second hailstorm.

“Baron ke samne bolne ki tameez nahi?”

(Don’t you know how to talk to your elders?)

“Hamein kya? Hum to tumaharey apne bhaley ke liye keh rahe hein, hum kon se dushman hein tumhare!)

(What difference does it make to us? We’re only saying this for your own good – we’re not your enemies)

It’s a given that every parent cares about their child enough to sometimes impose a decision on him/her for their own good. For example, when I was a kid, I was not allowed to have candy after I brushed my teeth for the night. But today, when my parents have worked so hard to give me an upbringing of their liking, why won’t they trust my judgement call? I believed them all my life and trusted their decisions, why today, when I am talking to them about the biggest decision of my life do they not trust me?

What’s more flustering though, is the fact that when I question their reason for disagreeing with me, the debate suddenly takes a detour from my career options to how I am suddenly being ‘disrespectful’.

The notion of questioning is often misinterpreted as disrespectful behaviour. Instead of being applauded for being independent thinking individuals whose deductive reasoning is functioning as God intended, they are shamed and labelled as deviants.

Isn’t this unfair on the children though? Not only are we being asked to throw away our dreams and future plans, but we are also being deprived of the right to question why we should do that.

In the bigger scope of things, we are not allowed to question our teachers – who may or may not be 100% sure of what they are saying. I remember being reprimanded in school for having corrected my English teacher’s grammar in our class test. We are not allowed to questions our maulvis – even when we know that extremism is a dark cloud looming over our heads? We aren’t allowed to question our parents when they pick someone for us to marry – even though we know that the marriage is doomed from the very first day? Why has questioning our elders so blasphemous?

Would it not be better for parents to allow their children to have healthy debates with them? Do children not deserve logical, concrete answers to their questions? In my opinion, it is very important for parents to revisit their idea of disagreement with children, it is not disrespectful; it is just their children demonstrating the confidence of free thinking.

Fortunately, I was allowed to express my disagreement. And after a great, healthy debate with my parents, I managed to convince them of why my life will not be doomed if I choose a career in film-making. I consider myself extremely lucky to have parents who will disagree with my choice, but provide me with a platform on which I am to present solid reasoning for the decisions I make in life. Not only have they helped mature my relationship with my parents, it has boosted my own sense of deduction. To test my passion, my parents said that the only way they would allow me to pursue a degree in film-making was if I acquired admission at the most prestigious art school in the country – National College of Arts (NCA), Lahore.

To cut a long story short, I defeated the odds and secured admission at NCA. But I would also like to admit that despite facing the odds, I am still shaking with the fear of the unknown. Will it be easy becoming a director in a society of bankers, chartered accountants, doctors, and engineers? I can only hope it is. The only solace I have is my determination and the fact that I know I have my parents by my side.

Abdul Wali

Abdul Wali

The writer is a film and TV student of NCA. He's a travel photographer and freelancer who lives off coffee and music. Follow him on instagram at abdulwalibaloch (instagram.com/abdulwalibaloch/)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Parvez

    I think the term blasphemous has been used out of context……..this is a dilemma that many youth face when having to choose a career path. Possibly you used the ‘ b’ word as an attention grabber.Recommend

  • Imran Ahmed

    Good luck Abdul Wali!

    The same attitude against questioning “elders” that you write of is encountered in a society where any kind of challenge to conventional wisdom is strongly resisted. “Indeed, the vilest of living animals, in God’s sight, are the deaf, the dumb and those that do not use their ‘aql’ ” 8-22.Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    Pardon them for they are from a generation where thinking itself was banned in Pakistan!Recommend

  • Abdul Basit

    I agree 100% with you man…. The dilemma leads to many failures. Typical example of this behavior is countless failed marriages. I am not talking about marriages that ended in divorce, its the one typical commonly observed “compromised” couples.Recommend