Indians need to stop living with their parents

Published: September 20, 2016
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Cohabiting with parents despite having a job that can pay for your own apartment, is a phenomenon unique to the Indian subcontinent. PHOTO: TELEGRAPH

Ever wondered why small town bumpkins in India are smarter than their big city counterparts? (Oh yes, they are). It’s because unlike the Indian city dwellers that shack up with their parents late into their 20s – some into their 30s and some even after marriage – the small towners come to the cities to strike it out on their own. They live alone, struggle, scour, scrounge and “find” themselves, if you like, in the process.

As a contrast, the over-parented, mollycoddled city youngsters show themselves up as emotional waifs and exhibit symptoms including high-brow prudery, crabby uptightness, and sundry social attitudes unique to big cities.

Cohabiting with parents despite having a job that can pay for your own apartment, is a phenomenon unique to the Indian subcontinent. All over the world, young adults living with their parents are pejoratively called “Big Babies.” In Italy they are called bamboccoioni and Mammone – (mamma’s boys).

To justify this behaviour, you hear a lot of sanctimonious drivel about Indian values and about the special family bond, which the cold-individualistic westerners, can never understand.

The biggest fallacy is the assumption those who continue to live with their parents, love them more. The truth is, it’s a minefield of squabbles out there and the built up rancour in the family is so thick, you can cut it with a knife.

It has nothing to do with love in the first place. Or with our great Indian culture – which is invoked every time in a discussion of this nature. The reasons for shacking up with parents are usually selfish; not being economically independent, high rentals, security and comfort, warm home-cooked meals, not having to deal with a pesky landlord or simply, plain laziness.

What is utterly selfish is the fact that people prefer to live with their parents as long as the latter are comparatively healthy and are able to fulfil their needs – (material, psychological, emotional). But ironically the living-with-parents advocates are the first ones to scoot when the parents grow old and need attention. There are umpteen cases of children abandoning their old, invalid parents. The excuses are familiar; had to focus on my career, my marriage, my children’s education et al.

There is an assumption that parents need no space or privacy. Everyone does. Even Indian parents. And because young adults don’t get out of their homes and grant it to them, parents never know what it means to enjoy that space and the emotionally uncluttered quietude that comes with it.

One can maybe cut the slack for those who are not economically independent – though pray why a middle-class Indian is still dependent in their late 20s or 30s is mindboggling and perhaps a subject of another debate. But what excuse would an educated, fully functional adult, who can afford to rent a place of his own, have to continue to hoard up with his parents, if not because of a mental malaise.

Living with parents has more pernicious un-doings than just the fact that you stop growing. Having been couched up with all those gooey feelings and not having an opportunity to let one’s emotions mature, one is almost beside oneself with them. As a sad consequence one morphs into a clingy, needy creature that goes from being clingy and needy with one’s parents to being clingy and needy with one’s boyfriend/ girlfriend (or husband/ wife).

To be fair, mostly the parents themselves are to be blamed for their adult sons and daughters squatting at home. One cannot countenance the fact that your child is in the same city and not living with you. The very big and the very Indian – what will people say question looms overhead keeping the children within the family fold. And at the same alter of Indian values; appearances must be kept, no matter if behind closed doors the two generations are at each other’s throat.

As if living with one’s parents before one’s marriage wasn’t absurd enough.

What takes the cake is living with them post-marriage. What makes it even more bizarre is having to live with someone else’s parents – an ignominy that marriage thrusts on Indian girls.

To be in a family is great but to be moored in it all the time is lacking the will to explore one’s own impulses. Without any wind in our sails we risks becoming our parent’s clones and instead of making up our own minds about the world, we end up peddling our parent’s ancient attitudes and out-dated beliefs. After all, religious indoctrination and deep orthodoxies, like patriarchy, jingoism, and caste-identities are imbibed not in school canteens but in family living rooms. It’s not a coincidence therefore that many youngsters now claim their only ambition in life is to become like their mummy or daddy.

This imitation of the past by the youth pushes the nation as whole a generation backwards. Back to the parent’s generation, perhaps further back because their parents imitated their own and in this regressive backsliding we are transported back to the middle ages.

This post originally appeared here.

Sanjay Austa

Sanjay Austa

The author is a journalist, photographer and a part time orchardist. He divides his time between New Delhi and Himachal. He tweets @sanjayausta

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