So what do our children owe us?

This is a part of a longer discussion.

IHM: We Indians go out of our way to prevent marriages where a man and a woman have chosen each other… (so called, ‘Love marriages’).

Somebody-I-do-not-agree-with says

‘In India man and woman are considered sub set of family, which is in turn considered a sub set of community. Individuals who want to opt out of being such subset of subset should eschew related benefits too.

Community living is a responsibility; while it provides enormous advantages to its members through strength of relationship, it also requires the members to reciprocate, to foster the customs of the community and to strengthen it.


If these two ‘willing people’ are swayambhus, i.e., people who took birth on their own and grew up by themselves, let them do whatever they want.
But if they have been brought up by a community, they owe something to that community, they owe not to put their selfish interest above reasonable community practices.” (click for an example of one such reasonable community practice)


I have some questions here,

1. Are the members free to opt out if they eschew the related benefits?

2. Do all members benefit or only those who are in positions of power? I fear some family politics and financial status might decide who is in power.

3. Who decides if the practices are reasonable? Those who benefit from the practices, or those who must sacrifice?

I know a lot of Indians believe this. What do you think? What do the children owe to their parents?

118 thoughts on “So what do our children owe us?

  1. Children owe their parents some support when they need.. just be with them! I do not think we as such owe or its a responsibility.. its more of a wish to reciprocate! If you do not wish.. you cant (rather should not) be forced to.

    If you are compassionate and sensible enough to help your loved ones and be there when they need.. does it matter whom you marry or which subset you choose or opt out??


  2. It’s a two-way street IHM. If children have been abused, disinherited, harmed in any way, neglected by their parents, extended family or community, then they owe them nothing. If they still take care of them, good for those children.

    The fact is, this pompous declaration that ‘if you don’t follow our rules, you can leave the community’ is quite laughable. Because the world has opened up and many people have choices of communities and countries now where they will be welcomed and where they will thrive in better freer environments. So it’s these dictatorial rigid punitive communities’ loss, isn’t it?


  3. Listen , one of the pillars of Indian civilization is the strong emphasis on family.
    Not only one’s husband and wife and kids only but also all the extended members of the family.Thats how Indians (rather South Asians) lived for centuries.

    This as u rightly acknowledged has tremendous advantages for its members.
    Foreigners ,who are knowledgeable about India or married to Indians openly HIGHLY APPRECIATE the strong family values of Indians. Many many of them even claim that it is the STRONGEST POSITIVE FACTOR working for Indians. We need to preserve it.

    Yeah i agree boys and girls must be given freedom to choose what they want……but that has to happen within the framework of our family structures.
    As Indians , we need to respect and accept choices made by each and every member of the family…..but we must ensure that familial bonding remains intact.

    3. Who decides if the practices are reasonable? Those who benefit from the practices, or those who must sacrifice??

    Unreasonable practices well be phased out with proper education. and in case of “sacrifice”……all members of a family has to do that to ensure strong bonding and healthy relationships.

    However , a significant section of Indias elites and upper middle classes have begun to despise this great institution of Indian culture-The Family.
    These “wannabe” westerners actually love to imitate the worst of western culture very well…while leaving out the best part!!!!!….as Jesus Christ said :-
    “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” 🙂


    • Indian Pandit,

      1.// “Foreigners ,who are knowledgeable about India or married to Indians openly HIGHLY APPRECIATE the strong family values of Indians.”//

      Which foreigners?
      And more importantly – why is their appreciation so important?
      Have you read Gori Girl’s blog? A foreigner married to an Indian, she can’t fail to see how she gets more importance than her husband in India, because she has white skin.

      2. And then you also say,

      //These “wannabe” westerners actually love to imitate the worst of western culture very well…while leaving out the best part!!!!!//

      IP wanting to marry or love someone, is not a Western concept. Remember Subhadra and Arjuna, Radha Krishna and Prithviraj Sanyukta?

      3. //and in case of “sacrifice”……all members of a family has to do that to ensure strong bonding and healthy relationships.//

      Why are sacrifices necessary for ‘strong bonding and healthy relationships’? Any examples..?

      4. And most importantly who decides which member will make which sacrifices?


      • //Which foreigners?
        And more importantly – why is their appreciation so important?//

        Simple. They have seen and experienced both sides of the story.
        Indian and western.

        What many Indians fail to realize is that….a large emotional vacuum and emotional unfulfillment exists in the lives of many westerners…..

        //Why are sacrifices necessary for ‘strong bonding and healthy relationships’? Any examples..? //

        Sacrifices are infact the most important thing in a relationship.
        Without sacrifices , you can forget about a relationship. All of us make little sacrifices all the time for our family. Sometimes , even big sacrifices are necessary. THIS not wanting to sacrifice anything mentality actually harms us in more ways than we normally imagine……not wanting to sacrifice anything often leads of divorces in the west and resultingly one of the BIGGEST matters of concern in the west are children of broken homes!!!!….and it triggers other major social problems……..

        Me – No examples!!! I am not able to understand.
        Sacrifice for happiness? Whose happiness? The ones who sacrifice their happiness are happy?
        What about children of abusive and unhappy homes in India IP? Don’t they count?
        Doesn’t mutual respect and tolerance make happy relationships?

        //IP wanting to marry or love someone, is not a Western concept. Remember Subhadra and Arjuna, Radha Krishna and Prithviraj Sanyukta?//

        Absolutely not. I agree. Thats why i said:
        “””””Yeah i agree boys and girls must be given freedom to choose what they want BUT that has to happen within the framework of our family structures.
        As Indians , we need to respect and accept choices made by each and every member of the family…..but we must ensure that familial bonding remains intact”””

        Why familial bonding important??…….in the west many older people live ALONE with cats and dogs!!!!!!!……many of them either failed in relationships or never found one. Do u want that sort of thing in India????

        Now by the “wannabe westerner” comment i meant that….many upper middle class Indians and elite Indians have failed to learn the “good things” of the west..but often imitate the unhealthy side of western civilization.

        Infact i can give u LOTS OF EXAMPLES…….but it wont be “on topic”!

        Me – I am curious to know IP, it’s difficult to understand without examples…


        • IP, I had a few doubts.

          ‘/Which foreigners?
          And more importantly – why is their appreciation so important?//

          Simple. They have seen and experienced both sides of the story.
          Indian and western. ‘

          If we cannot understand how ‘hollow’ the westerner’s lives are, surely they might be seeing a rosier than real picture of our lives too? They might not realize that many people are unhappy in India as well?

          And the blanket statement on how old people in the west live with their cats and dogs – do you think that some might actually prefer their independence? I know several older people here, who are extremely active at 75 + of age and live by themselves, have a circle of friends and have family visiting them on weekends – they do not feel deprived at all. They actually prefer their indepedence.

          Even my parents – they are adamant that they will live on their own as far as they can manage. They actually prefer living in a comfortable old age home, where they have their friends and where they can lead their lives independently, as far as possible. And this is when I would like nothing more than having them with me. So they know that I am there for them and that I would run to them , if they need me, they still value their independence.


        • IP, you are assuming that people who choose to live alone are lonely…Most of them are not…Living alone DOES NOT = loneliness…People living in large families can also be lonely…


  4. Oh, I have been struggling with the same question for a long time now!! If you had spoken about ‘mommy guilt’ in one of your posts, here is a new ‘daughter’ guilt for you – and I am its personified version!!

    My parents have brought me and my sister up with lot of love and a reasonable amount of strictness. Now they stay alone in their hometown. And I feel guilty of not being there, knowing very well that my responsibilities lie in all three places (parents, in-laws, my own home). I feel torn between these three directions, though let me make this clear – none of them have ever ‘demanded’ my attention/support. But I know all three of them need it.
    But this all comes from within me. I am not sure if this feeling would have been the same had any one of them tried to force the ‘family’ or ‘community’ or ‘dharma’ concepts on me.

    We, as children do owe it to our parents/in-laws. We have to give them their due share of respect, love and support. But yes, a line has to be drawn. One has to understand the difference between guidance and interference. A mother/father can advise his/her son/daughter on the right partner to be chosen, but can certainly not dictate terms. A parent is after all just another human being. He/she is as prone to making mistakes as we are. I think if they (and us) understand this and handle such situations with a little more sensitivity, many such family clashes can be easily avoided.


  5. Above all else respect, love, humane treatment and a promise to be present at all times as a matter of support!

    Me – And all this is mutual, beginning when the child is born. And still can’t be taken for granted, one wouldn’t want the children to do this out of a sense of duty, Rakesh. They should actually wish to do it.


  6. As children, I think parents expect support and love throughout their life from us. A we grow up, they look up to us to help then understand the fast changing world.

    I feel apart from that parents expect very little from us.

    Me – Parents also expect obedience.
    And sometimes much more…
    They expect daughters to marry the man they choose and to choose a career suitable for the marriage they arrange for her, and often they expect her to stay away from boys so she does not get tempted to make her own choices.
    Boys are expected to earn and bring home a rich, obedient girl to take care of his parents.


  7. That we are there for them when they need us 🙂 We stay far in terms of physical distance, but will definitely make all ends meet to be with them [either set] when the situation demands so!

    Honestly, I wonder if parents really want something @ all? My MIL got operated for cataract recently and they told us the news later bcoz we might get tensed and leave all our work and run back there. They said they wud hv definitely called us if they wanted help! So did my Dad. I mean, it might be a small one but still the term ‘operation’ would definitely make us run bk home. I am so thankful to have such understanding people in my life. So, it come from within for us, as neither of them try to interfere in our lives or force themselves upon us. I hope we cn be the same with our kids too in future 😉

    Me – I feel the same Swaram. And I like the fact that you added “either set” – because without it, it would have made absolutely no sense.


    • “I am so thankful to have such understanding people in my life. So, it come from within for us, as neither of them try to interfere in our lives or force themselves upon us. I hope we cn be the same with our kids too in future.”- that was so very well said, Swaram. This shows what a wonderful upbringing you & Su have had. Kudos to both sets of parents 🙂


    • Last week my dad had triple bypass and I came to know after 3 days when an uncle called to check how my dad was doing.

      My mom did not even inform my brother. She said, “You both could do nothing and you could not come at such a short notice and trust me your mom can handle it.”

      Good and secure parents really don’t ask for any thing. They treat their adult children as adults not infantalize them or try to live their lives.

      Lately I spoke to both my parents separately and apologized for my teen tantrums, they were so forgiving. My mom said, “You were a child and I was the parent. I should have not felt so hurt and forget it I don’t even remember it.” On the other hand my dad said, “Not your fault, you were a teen and that is what teens do, I was the grown up I should have had more patience.” Both my parents agreed “Children owe parents nothing.” How children treat aging parents depends on how they were raised by the same parents.

      When I decided to marry outside caste and religion initially my dad was upset (my mom was supportive all along) but then he just treated me like anyother adult. My ex use to envy it that my parents understood me so well and never made any demands. His mother would just sneeze and the whole family will be running to the doctors. What a petty attention seeking behavior. He would travel 500km thrice a month to see if she was ok. I pitty all those adult children who are emotionally blackmailed by their parents. It is true codependent parents raise codependent kids. What a shame…

      My folks have never interfered with my decision making not even tried to influence it. They have supported me unconditionally through my good and bad choices. Does it put a guilt burden on me. May be sometimes I feel I am not a “good desi” I don’t fit into any desi box. But I know I am a good human and they believe it too.

      You have no idea how liberating it is to know that people you love believe in you and treat you as an independent entity with a mind of your own…

      all my parents need from me is kindness and compassion it already comes with respect and time for them…


      Desi Girl


  8. two back to back posts,’re giving stiff competition to our Nablopomo-ites, are you??? 😆

    Now let me scroll up and read the post. Will be back 🙂

    Me – 😆 😆 😆 😆 😆 😉 😈


    • I agree with what starsinmyeyes said. Its two ways. Children owe their parents love, respect provided the parents have been around to love them and attend to them. I said that in your previous post too. If the parents stop pressurizing them with their rocket-high expectations and start to respect and support their little ones’ decisions then the mutual love & respect will be only natural.

      Me -I agree Deeps 🙂


  9. Everyone of us wd have gone thru this dilemma sometime or the other….waise I agree with Indian Pundit and Puja Thakur[even the italics bit]…both have approached it from different angles & I was nodding away at both their viewpoints.

    Very relevant and thought-provoking IHM…but then we can always depend on u to touch our conscience 🙂

    Me – Nancy I agree with Puja Thakur, but not sure I agree with Indian Pandit 🙂


  10. I believe parents consent is important.. Though the ultimate choice should be of the kids. and well rest of the family.. i dunno i never was close to anyone else.

    But we owe our parents respect and we owe them this: We should convince them that we would be happy with whom ever we have chosen and that we will be around.. no matter what .. for them.

    Me – It’s really nice if parents are supportive, one an talk and convince, but if the objections are due to caste, community or many other prejudices we have… what should the children do?


  11. The benefits you eschew are the ones when you are too young to decide to opt out….

    I don’t think anyone would prevent two souls who were abandoned at the time of birth to marry each other…..

    Free will is a good thing but it comes at a cost of short term memory and lesser conscience.

    Me – I didn’t get the last point Prats…


    • I think we’re discussing eschewing benefits when we decide to marry. That’s old enough to decide for ourselves. In any case, I’d still like to see what exactly these benefits are. A few examples would be really helpful.

      I too would like to understand how free will leads to a loss of short term memory. Is this a new study?


      • Answering the first point the benefits-

        When we are born, we start eschewing benefits of clothing, food, shelter.

        Eschewing benefits when you are grown up is very easy…. Its a very comfortable arrangement we enjoy benefits till we are not able to make our own living.

        Try and ask an orphan rag picker…will he be willing to swap a position with a comfortable childhood where you consider your parents choice when you get married.

        Its like an EMI where you take a loan to enjoy a benefit of education, home, food, shelter, clothing and so much more and then when the time comes to pay those EMI we default (there is no bank in the world that would do it, except parents whose wallets are never empty for our needs)

        Ps. Pls read carefully I have said Free will comes “at cost of ” not “Leads to” read my comment below to understand….


        • Food and clothing provided by parents are rights and not benefits. Parents have a duty to give their children these benefits and they’re not doing the child a favor. They gave birth, and now it’s their responsibility. There’s nothing to be grateful for.

          “Try and ask an orphan rag picker…will he be willing to swap a position with a comfortable childhood where you consider your parents choice when you get married.”

          Could you perhaps explain how this is relevant? Are you saying I should be grateful to my parents for giving me clothes instead of the rag picker? Why should they? The parents duty is towards the child – not some random stranger.

          It’s not like an EMI at all. It’s like taking money which the court has ordered someone to pay you. You don’t owe anything back.

          How is short term memory “the cost” of free will? Does one get amnesia? Once again, my parents have not done anything for me that was not their duty. If they didn’t provide for me, I could take them to court. They had a child. It’s their job to look after it. I don’t owe them anything for that fact alone.


    • Well you are free to do whatever you want to do… Only if you are willing to forget what people have done for you and you can bury your conscience or guilt deep down under.

      isn’t it?


  12. I totally agree with what Deep says, ‘ If the parents stop pressurizing them with their rocket-high expectations and start to respect and support their little ones’ decisions then the mutual love & respect will be only natural.’

    It is when expectations are sky high and children are expected to meet all these expectations that they start to distance themselves.

    As for parents, I think most children will be there for both sets of parents. Unless the child has been ill-treated or badly scarred, very few children would want to cut off all ties and live a separate life. And in a lot of way, leading an inter-dependant life, where both parents and children are on an equal footing, and both help out when required, and step back when involvement could lead to complications, there is no reason why lives can’t go on smoothly? The respect comes when both sides are treated with respect.

    Sadly, our society has a lot of parents still living with the expectations that children find hard to meet. When a lot of such expectations pile up, some children find it 1. difficult to manage, 2. harmful to their own lives, which is when they decide to go their own way.

    As for love marriages – I really do not see, why two grown ups cannot take a decision. I can understand parents explaining difficulties that the couple may not foresee, and counselling them, but at the end of the day, I think as parents, one should respect the fact that once their child is a grown up, they have the ability to make decisions on their own. And the fact that by accepting their decision, the parents are going to be better off – in the long run.
    Expecting children to give up their expectations, while forcing their own expectations on the children, is, I think, rather unfair.

    Me – Brilliant Smitha!! Nothing to add, you put it so clearly!!


  13. A part of the concept of family is to help and support each other…It’s got nothing to do with owing anyone…

    There’s no right or wrong answer to this one because expectations differ…I don’t think it is right for parents to expect their children to take care of them just like it’s not right for adult children to expect their parents to take care of them…

    Me – Sraboney in India, according tot he law – all children, sons and daughters, are required to take care of their parents in their old age.


  14. P.S. In India, many parents unfortunately look at their children not as people but possessions…Many also care more for their status than their children’s happiness…Honour killings is an example of this…

    Me – So true!! Sraboney their children are a status symbol for many. Where they study, how much they earn, who they marry, the amount of dowry exchanged… Indian parents are obsessed with impressing their peer group.


    • I don’t have kids and don’t plan to, but it never ceases to surprise me when I hear that people view their kids as a status symbol. And yet I’ve seen enough to know that it’s true.

      I wonder if anyone actually understands what a huge responsibility having children is. Having children for your own selfish reasons just doesn’t cut it and lays the basis for all the problems IHM discusses on her blogs.

      After all, isn’t the purpose of having children to create and grow life and then let it go? The bonus is that the life you develop is a part of you and so you get to kinda live on after you konk it. At least that’s how I see it from an ariel perspective.

      I’m stunned when people casually have children to satisfy their own social needs. I agree that nothing is selfless and we can’t expect parents to get no pleasure at all from their kids. But at what cost? Ultimately the true test of love is whether you’re willing to sacrifice your children for your own selfish purposes. It’s not nice to catch a butterly and then keep it in a glass case just so you can look at it and feel good. The butterfly has its own destiny and life apart from you.

      The same should go for your kids too…

      Me Wow!!! The butterfly example.. loved it. I agree ofcourse.


  15. I dont think that parents expect anything more than love and moral support, from us. Only when they become physically dependent on others, they’ll want their children to be there for them.

    All the mythological stories depict that the God and the Goddess being born on Earth as human beings in different clans, but still they can fall in love and get married. Lord Muruga married the Valli born in the hunting tribe. Lord Venkateshwara borrowed a huge sum of money from Kubera, so that he can get married to the girl of his dreams. And we, human beings are putting money in that hundi, with which he pays Kubera. There are many more love stories like these. When elders want us to follow Ramayan, to know the righteous way to lead life, why can’t they allow ppl to follow these love stories…after all, these epic stories are created to enhance our lives.

    And the love marriage part – ppl are matured enough to take decisions on their own and the parents should support their decision in making their own life…

    Me – I agree Uma. In fact if they are not matured enough should they even be getting married?


  16. Again, a very thought provoking post. I’ve been thinking about the same thing for the last couple of weeks, following a discussion with a friend who visited me recently. She said ‘kids dont owe parents ANYTHING. Let them FREE’. I agree with that, partly. I believe Kids do not have to pledge their entire life and every decision to the parents. But I also think they have a basic duty to look after the parents in their old age. Or atleast put them in a good Home and visit regularly. Is that too much to ask?


  17. The elderly gentleman who runs this awesome library I frequent of late, tells me that ‘The White Tiger’ (Arvind Adiga’s) was disliked by most of the people who borrowed it.. mostly because they felt strongly against the apparent disrespect and slighting of Indian culture depicted in the book, and also for the selfishness displayed by the protagonist.

    Society facilitates a good framework for the smooth conduct of our lives. It misses the whole point if it has to be used as a manipulative tool.


  18. “Indian parents are obsessed with impressing their peer group.” this is the curse of kids in India.. Their parents are more busy looking at others,their acheivements, etc and compare it with their own kid..The kids are always forced or pressurized to comply to parents expectations.

    Well,if you ask me if parents are wrong?? Kids owe them 60% of all achievements in life as it was the parents who brought them to this world,spent time ,effort and money to bring them up in a decent way..Well,don’t we owe back all what we received? This maybe demanded from parents in many ways..Adjust as much as possible..

    Well,all these are not issues if we were directly born as adults..Now that is not the case,parents are entitled to receive the time,money and effort,at least to that extent they gave it to their kids when these kids were in need,later in life when parents are in need.How easy it is for rich kids to dump old parents in old-age home and call themselves progressive.. Maybe we will understand when we too become old,and understand for ourselves what this progressive-independent innovation of old-age home is really like…**sigh**

    Basically, pressurizing parents are the ones who got a frustrated life..


    • 1. Nimmy as a parent I can tell you I did not bring my children in this world as a favour to them. It was my choice, not theirs – they had no say in being born and raised, fed, taught – I could have taught them anything – even taught them that they owe 80% to me, chances are they would have believed it.

      2. My mother is 68 and lives alone. I would love it if she stays with me. My brother wanted her to come and live with him, in fact after my dad’s death, a lot of people expected her to go live with my brother. But she has a busy social life, interests, routine etc and her own life in her house. No way will she ever stay with anybody.
      She felt pressurized by the society to stay with my brother (not me, who has older children and is more of a friend to her today) – and had to explain to relatives that she has no problems with her son or daughter in law – she actually prefers to live in her own house. She says she would be bored, feel old (;)) , feel dependent and she will miss her home. I know some of her friends who feel the same way.

      This can at times be stressful for the children – like when one hears of crimes against senior citizens – but pressurising them to come and stay with the children is no different from locking up women in their homes to ‘protect’ them.

      I feel given a choice, if they have a life, social circle and interests of their own, parents prefer to live in their own homes.


      • I don’t know why people speak of old age homes as if it is some curse. I am closer to old age than you Nimmy. I would certainly prefer staying on my own. Staying in an old age home is not equivalent to abandoning.
        IHM, I am like your mother.


        • Absolutely, well said, Shail. Old age homes dont mean that children dont love their parents…they are unable to be there, so they are making some alternative arrangement.

          Even me and S are thinking seriously on staying alone in some quiet peaceful resort…where we can still enjoy life. Let God grant me this wish. 🙂

          Me – Uma love the idea!! We also aim for a retired life like that … 🙂


      • 🙂 Okay..

        I don’t understand why don’t owe anything to my parents who gave me quality food ,clothing and education..If not for them,wouldn’t i have become a random kid,then a random girl and finally a random women ,like the one in a slum.. I am now what I am,bcoz of my parents..Well, i could say that it is my own credit that i became a software engg, now a mgmt person bla bla bla,but no,its not so..There were with me whenever i needed them..So i strongly believe that I owe 80% of life before,now and after ,to them…

        @ Bones “Children don’t owe their parents anything; what they give is a bonus”

        :)Actually what kids get is a bonus,for parents are not obliged to provide to them..You can say that it is parent’s duty ,as they brought the child to the world..Yes,it is,but they could have opted otherwise tooright?

        @Shail,by old-age i really meant a stage of illness..Hardly few are lucky enough to be healthy till their last breath..When my parents are ill,they need me ..Who else will look after them? It should not be an issue to me too bcoz when i was small,when i needed them,they looked after me,cleaned my shit and vomit ,spent sleepless nights when i was ill,spent time ,effort and money on me when i feel ill and what when i am grown up,it is my chnace,my time,my obligation to repay,as and how they need it..

        High-end people can say that we will arrange a home-nurse..Not everybody is as fortunate and rich as bloggers who kill time in internet..

        @IHM,hardly a handful of people,especially women around me are fortunate to pents life as your mother does.. Most of them are basically workers who spent whole life working in roads ,fields and kitchens to make a living and they had spent all what they earned on their kids..So when they are old,they are not fit to do any work,hardly do they know any..What do those people do then? Usually,they spent rest of life in home looking after grandkids and retired life..Not all are interested or capable of doing social work..


  19. This one hits home.

    I grew up listening to this exact philosophy (you are part of society, therefore you owe society, therefore you should follow my rules) being spouted by my dad (and mom, but she used different reasoning), and of course I disagreed violently with him. We used to have these hour-long angry arguments that always left a bad taste in my mouth, because I couldn’t begin to believe that the man who had always encouraged me to be independent and think critically was now advocating the *exact opposite* of that.

    Anyway, fast-forward a few years. I either left home or was thrown out (I can’t be sure which) after my parents figured out I had a boyfriend, and I spent about two years not even talking to my parents. Eventually we reconciled… if reconciliation means talking again, but never about what happened, and almost 100% about grandkid-related stuff.

    Basically, I had my community support ripped out from under me, and at first I didn’t mind.

    Then I had a kid. And my mom didn’t do what most Indian moms do – come over to help me out with taking care of the new baby while I rest up. No siree. I was up and about, cooking and cleaning and breastfeeding and changing diapers, less than a week after delivery. My parents-in-law made time to come over to help for three months later on when my kid was a little older, even though their own daughter had also just given birth. But my own mom showed up for 15 days, then left saying I could easily handle everything on my own.

    I couldn’t help but envy my cousins who stayed in bed for a month after delivery, being fed foods traditionally considered good for new moms, their new babies getting oil massages the *right* way from people who know how… having support and help at one of the most stressful times of a young couple’s life.

    And I came away with this thought: having the support of your community is important. I used to think it doesn’t mean much, I used to believe that it would be easy and effortless to go at it alone, but I know now how important family is.

    But not for one single second do I believe that in order to keep our families and keep our community network of support WE should give up on who we are and what we want.

    Why should we have to pay this price for something so reasonable and so necessary as choosing our own spouses? I think this excommunication is cruel and unusual punishment for something that’s not even a crime.

    If “that’s the way things are” is the only argument people can come up with to justify this horrible practice, that’s just another reason why I’m proud not to consider myself part of that dysfunctional culture anymore.

    (Phew, long post. Sorry for taking up more than my fair share of space… but like I said, this really hit home!)


    • “But not for one single second do I believe that in order to keep our families and keep our community network of support WE should give up on who we are and what we want.

      Why should we have to pay this price for something so reasonable and so necessary as choosing our own spouses? I think this excommunication is cruel and unusual punishment for something that’s not even a crime. ”

      Nothing more to add!


      • Thanks for your kind words, Starry. I wonder sometimes, too, but I believe the extent of my parents’ thinking on this subject is that I’m the “bad girl” of the family who hurt them a lot, and has now somewhat returned to the fold because of their magnanimous forgiveness. From their point of view, they’re right of course. They were simply caught unawares by the enormous shift in cultural values between their generation and mine.

        Sometimes I vow to myself never to make the same mistakes with my own kids – because you’re right, nothing is worth losing my son! – but then I have to tell myself my parents probably made the same vows when I was born. Who knows how our culture will change by the time my kids are grown? Who knows which of my personal boundaries my son will cross?

        Parenting is scary shit!


        • True, Nandini…each generation comes up with longer boundaries of what is acceptable to the previous…its up to us to figure it out! Scary, alright! 🙂

          Me – I feel if we are rational and open there will be nothing like generation gap. I am seeing more and more mothers and daughters who shop, watch movies, plan finances and discuss their personal lives with no concept of who belongs to which era.

          I also have friends who had amazing moms – and who can very comfortably let their children be guided by the grandmom’s values because their values are too simple and honest to be time bound. Parents who do not feel they own their children are less likely to face adolescent problems – and they are also less likely to be lonely when with their own family.


  20. Children do not ask to be born. So it is the responsibilty of the parents to decide whether or not they want children and deal with what it calls for in bringing up a child. Children are in no way an investment or a fixed deposit that parents can expect to encash in their old age. The so-called “selflessness” of Indian parents does not exist. More often than not there is expectation behind.

    What I do not mean to say is that children should not look after their parents or care for them. My point is that it should not be seen as a duty or obligation or something to be done out of guilt. The only factor behind it must be love. Children and parents must care for each other and be there in joy and sorrw – out of love and for me that is what makes a family.

    I am engaged to a German man. He has a very big and close knit family. I have been totally accepted into this big household even when I could not speak their language. My would be in-laws also have 2 cats but their would-be DIL i.e. visits them often over the week because they made it her second home. On the other hand my Indian parents are shuddering with the idea of having a wedding in India with the thoughts – “log kya kahenge”.

    I totally disagree with the thought that westerns have no concept of family. I think it differs from individual to individual and families to families. There is no standard anywhere.

    Me – Well said Divya. I so agree! Thanks for this comment.


    • ” I totally disagree with the thought that westerns have no concept of family. I think it differs from individual to individual and families to families. There is no standard anywhere.”



  21. Children don’t have a duty to their parents. The most that can be said is that they have the duty to bring up their kids with the same love and effort that they were brought up.

    The responsibility is propagative and not regressive.

    And what exactly are these “benefits?” Can someone spell them out for me point by point? Can the person who wrote that comment also inform us how exactly one goes about eschewing them?

    But if they have been brought up by a community, they owe something to that community

    Not true. First of all, it’s the parents and not the community who bring up kids. Second, they didn’t ask to be born. Their parents made that choice. It’s their job to bring up the kid – not a favor! Even courts recognize this and penalize the parents if they’re not doing a decent job. So where’s the great selfless sacrifice here?


  22. IHM, this topic is close to my heart so I keep on coming back to comment…

    I believe that if you have raised your child to be compassionate and loving then THAT is payment enough…More than anything, I want my daughter to be a good human being – yes, I hope she does well in her studies and career but being a good human being is more important…


  23. Time was when we would have thought that parental and filial duties were just taken for granted and one did not have to define them. Parents gave their children the best they could afford in terms of food, clothing and education and children took care of them in their old age. There were no contracts, no laws defining the duties. Unfortunately we seem to have reached a level of consumerism where even this relationship has become one which requires a definition.
    Having brought a child into this world, it is the duty of a parent to make sure that the child is taken care of in every way until he/she reaches adulthood. To expect the child to completely mortgage his life to them for this by stipulating what he/she must do with their lives in terms of career choices or Choice of a life partner is not right. At best they can ensure that the child attains a level of maturity in taking these decisions by communicating with the child and imparting the right values to the child throughout childhood and adolescence.

    Once he/ she is an adult they should have the freedom to choose what they want and the parents have no right to impose their preferences on their children.
    If this kind of a healthy relationship can be maintained between the parents and children, I think children may not even consider whether they “owe’ something to their parents but will do it naturally from their heart.

    Me – True Usha…!!! Loved the last lines the most.


  24. I think we owe our parents what they did for us, and more. They cared for us, gave us their values, and let us do what makes us happy, and we should let them do what makes them happy, if that means not interfering in their life. Often in the name of care a lot of grown children/kids keep their parents cooped up in an apartment, taking care of grandkids, and not being able to live where they want.

    I digressed. my point is that both parents and children need to leave the choices upto themselves. Who I marry should be my choice because I am sharing my life with him NOT MY PARENTS.

    The commentator in effect said that if we need the support of the Indian family system we need to marry whoever is ‘selected’ for us, I disagree. Family and independent will can definitely go hand in hand. Why should they be separated?

    Me – This is used like a threat Shilpa. 😐


  25. Also, this idea that there is no family system in the west is ludicrous. They have their own family system which does not involve everyone interfering in everyone else’s life. They meet for all occasions and celebrate together and most give respect to the new members, like DILs, unlike most families in India. I think this old-fashioned Indian family where the women slave and the men rule is phasing out slowly and some people just cannot take it!

    Me – Well said Shilpa, I agree.


  26. Reading shilpadesh comment made me think of my maternal grandmother. She used to have a big house full with 7 children and lovely gardens both at the front and the back of the house. Just imagine an old fashioned family house. Now she is stuck in a 3 bedroom appartment in a huge building in a posh locality where she stays with her only son and his family. The growing children resent the space the grandmother takes up. The DIL resents the loss of her freedom. Her son always reminds her that because of her he could not persue his career(his dreams) in US. There is always talks of money spent on her illness and this is done even in her hearing. Often my mother helps out in taking care because she feels guilty. My last conversation with my mother on this topic was something in these lines.
    She: I have to take care of my mother. My Sister-in-law is not doing a good job in caring for my mother. She (mother) has sacrificed so much for me. Took care of me when I could not walk, move and was totally dependent on her.
    Me: Why this guilt feeling ? Can’t you just say that you want to care for your mother because you WANT to, because it is something you LIKE to do.
    She: You are full with “western ideas”. My mother has sacrificed so much and I can never re-pay the debts.

    My uncle is seen by the society as an ideal son who “sacrificed” so much for his mother.
    My grandmother will not move in with my mother because she has been given away as “daan”.
    The story continues……..


    • That is so sad Divya. I feel that parents, while they are still able and working, should invest for their old age rather than spend all that money on dowries and stuff like that. So that when they grow older they have their own savings to see them through rather than being ill treated by kids. Reminds me of Baghban.


  27. Children owe their parents peace of mind in addition to respect etc.
    Obedience is not something to be expected out of grown up children, but adjusting to the parents and trying to live with them in a manner that doesn’t hurt them is expected.

    Though parents can’t dictate children’s life, they are justified in expecting children to make decision that don’t hurt the parents’ feelings


  28. But reg spouses, there is one thing I should add …. and thats based on a lot of experiences I’ve seen/know.

    when you are young, you tend to think some1 is good for you. But often with the arrival of kids etc, you realise that the traditions etc are very important… and in many cases, the spouse is unable to appreciate it because he comes from a diff religion. And you can put aside the traditions etc and just concentrate on bringing up the kids .. btu later some day, it hits you that if you could have done things according to the tradition, your kids could have been different.

    Me – Deepa the children can be taught the traditions of both the sides. Do you think traditions make children grow up better? What about families where children are not taught anything about traditions? Take a look at this post –

    Invariably your life pattern is followed by your kids too. … When the kids decide to marry some1 of their choice, often it is the parents who have themselves defied their parents who get hit real bad.

    Me – But why are they hit hard? Don’t they want the children to be happy? If they have guided the children well, the children will make sensible choices. And if they support their choices their relationship with their children will become only stronger.


    • There was an episode of Law & Order that I was watching the other day. It was about a Racist – and he made some racial remarks to the cops and one officer took offense but another just said-

      “you know a few years down the line all races will be so mixed up that it will not really matter anymore”. I loved that line.

      I guess that would make the children appreciate different traditions, be more open to other ways even if it is not their way of doing things.

      “Invariably your life pattern is followed by your kids too. … When the kids decide to marry some1 of their choice, often it is the parents who have themselves defied their parents who get hit real bad.”
      Why is it that the decisions that are/were right for us suddenly become wrong for the kids…
      I mean what if the person had loved someone else and married someone else would the person be happy? I dont know… what if the children now emulate that.. would they be happy??
      I guess right or wrong ideally would it not preferable to regret our own decision than regret the fact that we let someone else make a wrong decision.

      Me – I agree N!!


      • Why is it that the decisions that are/were right for us suddenly become wrong for the kids

        Thats exactly what I mean …. A friend of mine is having an inter religious marriage …. it is opposed by his parents who themselves had to fight very hard to marry each other.

        We just see it as happiness etc. But the thing is there are things that matter more than just the happiness. Often in inter caste/religious marriages, if adjustment becomes a n issue, it is really hard esp when there are children.

        I think I’d posted it somewhere .. .there was a family who died in a car crash. The husband and wife belonged to different faiths, and the parents of each performed the last rites according to their religion. They had 1 5 year old kid. The rites for the kid ended in a quarrel, and finally the state had to take the responsibility.

        I know a major majority of people who lead real happy lives with each other, but there are some who’ve had very bitter experiences. It is mainly to prevent such occurrences that so many rules are put forth. The happiness of many is at times insignificant in front of the suffering your loved one goes through.


    • Deepa the children can be taught the traditions of both the sides.
      If this can be practised religiously and fairly, then fine. But in India, you need to fill in a ‘RELIGION’ tab in most forms… what happens then ? We can argue that religion should not be a major issue when it comes to love etc, but at times it does.
      Suppose you have a veg and a non-veg who decide to get married … what happens if the non-veg forces the veg to cook non-veg ? The veg, especially if it is a girl, starts to do so .. only to be disgusted later on. This is based on what I see with one of my friends. { For every incident I state, there are many where the situation would be a happy one in similar circumstances, but it is the unhappiness that should be addressed more than putting the happy situation as an example, right ? }

      Similarly, what if the traditions are contradictory to each other ? Invariably, it is the woman who has to give up. Doesn’t that breed a sense of resentment ?

      Or if a couple who speak 2 different languages is living out of India, and they have a child … chances of the child learning both languages is less (especially if both partners don’t know both the languages) … we can argue saying English is a fine medium of communication, but is English sufficient with family members ? Don’t we lose out on something ?

      Me – Many of these and many other problems can be there in arranged marriages also. Every family is different and some differences are sure to happen Deepa.


      • Precisely IHM. My hubby and I have an arranged marriage. We speak very different dialects of the same language, we were brought up in different countries and cities and family systems, we have completely different eating habits, the differences have been there, but the adjustments from his and my side brought us closer. We clash over the kids, but then talk it out and try to enrich them in our unique ways. But definitely, it should not always be one partner adjusting, that does create resentment.


      • The chances of such adjustment issues based on habits is less in case of arranged marriages, because habits/traditions etc are considered by the parents. There will definitely be irritations and adjustments to be made in arranged marriages as it is marriage of 2 individuals … but there are a lot of things which do not have to be considered.

        This is not to say all love marriages have problems. But, the cases of friction in love marriages are more than those in arranged marriages (at least in the Indian set up) … coz in India, marriage is not just about 2 individuals, it is also about families, beliefs etc…. and it is probably the faith and beliefs and our conditioning which makes us the 3rd happiest country (happiest people) in the world … far far far ahead of countries like US etc ,,,

        Me – Do you really belive that Indians are the 3rd happiest people in the world? With the gender ratio going down, women being killed for dowry, honor killings, and 20% of all suicides are by married women (bride burning not included in this and accidental deaths not included) – and this is without adding domestic violence, cruelty, chinna veedu and mistresses etc.


        • @IHM
          Very good Ques. Here I did not see India any where in the single digits.

          @ Deepa

          JalPark has given you a good food for thought. Here I’ll add fuel to the fire. Read in the comment section

          “…During this period, women have a lot of physiological changes, and the presence of ‘homas’ and certain hymns could set off unpleasant vibrations in her already disturbed state.”

          What applies here is called reverse psychology. The abuser asserts that he/she is abusing the abused for their good. Just like the colonized/oppressor convinced the colonized/oppressed that they cannot survive without the protection afforded by the colonizer/oppressor. Like dalits are told they ought to follow their jati dharma for their own good so as to attain Moksha. Often woman fast to escpae unwanted sex and they tell their husbands it is for their good or else evil will befall him and he’ll get sick.

          So is the case of Homas and viberations not a single scientific study available yet. Shankracharya of Kanchi peetham I guess is still sitting in the jail propegating the great traditions.

          The mesntrual taboos rather isolation of menstruating woman is basically monitoring her sexuality. Most communities find it easier to monitor the sexuality of women rather than snub men who may violet women. If married, isolation essentially lets the family elders know the woman is not yet pregnant thus has not fulfilledher sacred duty of procreation. If unmarried, isolation declares she is ok, no violation yet.

          Biological differences are used to justify inequality. How many men can compete with PT Usha or Karnam Malesawari?? So are all women weak and dependent? Vise versa are all men strong and dependable??

          How many men can compete with Dara Singh or Milkha Singh (sorry I am out of current names)?? Then how come all men beget power over all women?? Just because our system (read patriarchy) allocates them preferential treatment over women. It also allocates preferential treatment and incentives to all those women who follow the male preferential rules. Like all those Mothers-in-law who demand a male child from the DIL and obedience to the so called family traditions recieve higher status than women who fail to abide by rules of patriarchy.

          I’ll stop here.


          Desi Girl


        • Oh yes that explains it so well! My m-i-l used to track her d-i-l’s ‘isolation’ so she would be the first to know and spread any ‘good news’. I hoodwinked her by pretending to stay away from the God’s room, because I wanted to enjoy my good news privately for awhile :))))))))


        • I do believe Indians are happy compared to most other nations.
          There are a lot many people who are unhappy .. agreed, but there are a lot more people in other countries who are dissatisfied with their lives inspite of none of the above issues.

          If you look through the statistics in medical textbooks/ journals, you see that most mentally affecting diseases like depression, suicidal tendencies are far far more in other countries than in India.

          Me – Deepa in India we don’t even notice or acknowledge most of these problems – one is declared ‘mad’ or a child is declared either badly behaved or ‘retarded’. The statistics are only for those cases where a problem has been acknowledged… a vast majority does not even dream of going to a psychiatrist.

          In other countries too, you have mistresses , breakups etc… but there, people have learnt to move on with their lives. That’s the difference… but neverthless, the loneliness and need for acceptance is very much there.
          In the US too, there is racial prejudice, prejudice against Asians, chauvinism, prostitution and so on …. nothing different from India …


    • Saw the link.

      You know, every tradition has a reason behind it. I used to laugh at traditions when I was younger, but having been through a couple of bad experiences made me feel that if I’d stuck to certain things that pass down from generations, I’d have been better off.

      Simple things for e.g. :
      In olden days, when women had their periods, they were isolated from the rest of the family. Today, this is viewed as cruelty to women. But even today, my granny and mom and aunts are fully for the custom as it offers them 5 days of complete rest a month.

      Women are prohibited from entering Sabarimala. This is called a bias and injustice to women. But the reason ? Because the Sabarimala visit involves hard journeys, and a menstruating woman may not be able to withstand it. And if she’s not menstruating, there is a possibility that in the course of the journey , she could (as the climb is pretty long). Now, people argue as to why women can’t enter the temple when menstrauting. They argue as to why that situation is called unclean. Well, it is not that. During this period, women have a lot of physiological changes, and the presence of ‘homas’ and certain hymns could set off unpleasant vibrations in her already disturbed state.

      These facts , for e.g., are very scientific prrofs .. but, of course, these are not properly explained to people. But without knowing these, traditions and rituals are often disregarded, and sometimes even frowned upon… but they have a lot of meaning, maybe even more so in today’s world.


      • I am sure we can take the same line of reasoning to a lot of things which we look down on as being feudal, ancient of plain wrong. Say for instance the case of keeping women secluded. I am sure it came out of the whole idea that once a female attains puberty and engages in sexual intercourse, she can get pregnant- in such a case, while maternity is a fact, paternity only a conjecture(this of course is pre-DNA test days). Hence the whole cultural emphasis on purity and virginity as it applies to women. And hence the entire culture that grew up denying widows even basic rights to proper food or clothing- who would want to look after someone who could potentially bear children unrelated to the family. Possibly the practice of Sati arose from this too.
        So too the joint family idea. in an agriculture-based economy, many hands meant more work, and nuclear families would mean dividing up the lands, and the human resources required to work them. Hence the whole clan system.
        We can surely find other sociological justifications for the caste system and other things as well.

        The question is not if traditions are justified, rather whether or not they are relevant.


        • nopes. It was not only about the pregnancy .. th isolation was also to make sure the women got their share of complete rest during their stressful periods.

          Regarding joint families ….. more people meant more help with kids etc. And more kids were required as the mortality rate was very high.
          It makes sense today too when most women work, and in many cases are not able to devote sufficient time to their families, esp kids. …

          So, with slight modifications, a lot of the traditions followed then are pretty relevant today too …


      • @Deepa, do you also know this isolating of women during menstruation was only from the kitchen, worship areas and such and many women in many households were expected to do all outside WORK?? This is a reality which many women have had to face. Only some women were lucky enough to have rest. And going to Sabarimala is no longer a strenuous journey. 🙂


        • Hmmmmm …

          actually, they were not allowed to do outside work too as it also effects the kitchen/worship … say buying vegetables … ultimately, it goes to food, right ?

          Sabarimala journey is no longer strenuous if it is just about taking a car… but even then, there is a hug e crowd … and a lot of waiting .

          Me – Deepa women are not stopped form working in fields and fetching water from well and rivers.
          And if the idea was to give them rest then why not let them decide, if they wanted rest they could, without being treated like they were dirty. Just think don’t women get rest if they wish to today – without having to announce something so personal to the entire world?


        • No. Women were forbidden to be in contact with just about anything during that period, not just food, worship related stuff etc.

          The whole scenario today is different as there are a lot more conveniences and appliances. And women can afford maids as well these days.

          Agreed it is a personal thing .. but don’t we see how open things were then .,. menstruation was a known part of life .. not something guys had to shy away from (unlike today) … boys grew up appreciating the difficulties women faced.

          Men, by nature dominate …. and in the olden days, women knew how to get their way .. unlike today where most cases go to divorce or are complained against.

          I agree that the in laws and husband can be quite dominating .. have seen it happen with my own friends (and have seen a friend break down under the domination, and one fight and get her way through the domination) … but I do not agree that traditions are baseless.


      • @ deepa..
        As you yourself mention..”In olden days, when women had their periods, they were isolated from the rest of the family. Today, this is viewed as cruelty to women. But even today, my granny and mom and aunts are fully for the custom as it offers them 5 days of complete rest a month. ”

        Very true, what WOULD HAVE ( i assume here) started out as something to help women and ease some pain has grown into a segregating practice.

        I mean if I am in pain cant I just say I am in pain due to my periods and not do any work.. why should i need a tradition that bans me from doing any work.

        If i feel upto it and want to bake, cook etc. should it not be my choice determined by my understanding of my health not someone elses

        I also dont understand the funda of not going to the temple.

        “would Hanuman ji have checked Sita Ji if she was having her periods etc.. before going to rescue her”
        God does not segregate, only human does.


        • In the olden days, people did not speak about their conditions. It was an accepted part of life.

          I believe most of the rules were created to protect women rather than insult them.

          The other reason for the isolation was also the hygiene. These days we have antiseptic soap etc. .. what about those days ? The chances of infection are higher during this time. And the body is more prone to infections as the resistance weakens during this period. Hence too, the isolation.

          Psychologically, there is a lot of stress …. a lot of day to day things cause irritation. Today, it is all explained with ‘pheremones’ …. and you know, the female pheremones have a huge effect on the male pheremones. It has been shown that the animal male kingdom can sense the state of pregnancy in a woman far earlier than the female actually knows it. Similarly, the menstraution phase has an effect on the men in the family.

          These is seen even today. Observing closely, I’ve seen that my close male friends know when I’m going through my period and try to keep away from me during that phase. I never told them the date, but they sense it.


        • “In the olden days, people did not speak about their conditions. It was an accepted part of life. ”

          Well then maybe its time to leave traditions of those old days behind and move forward.


        • I do not think so …. it is like saying in the old days people stuck to dharma .. maybe it is time to stop believing in the notions of dharma etc and move forward.


        • Deepa: “Psychologically, there is a lot of stress …. a lot of day to day things cause irritation…”

          DG: Why is there irritation?? because whole emphasis is to treat a natural cosmic bodily function as a sickness and something to be ashamed off. Often women devote so much energy and time to just conceal the fact that they are menstruating rather some are even ashamed of this bodily function. There comes the irritability from.

          Deepa: “…Similarly, the menstraution phase has an effect on the men in the family. I’ve seen that my close male friends know when I’m going through my period and try to keep away from me during that phase.”

          DG: So what does it do to men?? Do they go crazy or they get sacred to death?? It is simple before a period is due she is PMSing, mood swings and water retention is normal and anyone close can note it. Once the period starts the esterogen kicks in but contraction due to gonadotropins and prostaglandins still keeps her edgy??

          But I still din’t get what does it do to men?? :).

          And what was the logic of menstruating woman sleep on the floor?? Why couldn’t she sleep of the cot and then change the sheet??

          Sleeping on the floor was a way to ensure that her husband doesn’t force sex on her. Scientifically Menstrual blood has no dangerous qualities than normal blood. It only retains disintergrated endometrium in the form of clots. The cervix more dialated than normal days to help with the flow.

          Why are just Hindu traditions always in the center of any discussion about Tradition and values?? What about other communities that do not follow menstrual taboos?? Are they lesser or they don’t count?? More over why all traditions revolve around upper castes. What about all those women who do not have the luxry of 5 day resting because they are poor so have to work in the fields or construction sites and have no one to cook and clean for them because they migrated to an urban slum in the search of greener pastures??

          I’ll appreciate your take on this.


          Desi Girl


        • I cannot comment on other religions coz I do not know much about them. But from my catholic friends, I know they dont got to church during their periods, and they avoid certain foods and have some rites.

          But like I said, I really cant comment coz I dont know. I can comment about Hindu traditions coz I know about traditions from different communities and have experienced some of them myself.

          As you yourself said, during PMS, there are mood swings … and irritation can be due to any reason .. excess office load, a comment by a friend .. just about anything.

          And I said my close guy friends could notice the change .. not ALL guys I am in contact with … and I see that the guys become extra considerate, as well as protective during this phase.

          I feel worse for not being able to rest like my granny did. When I was younger, I felt it was a disgusting practise …. but not any more.
          Same way with pregnant women …. my mom, being a doc, says she regretted not going through the age old customs … my friend stuck to the old customs and she didnt have any prob with her delivery whereas her sis went for the modern practises her doc advocated , and she had a cesarean…. a lot could have depended on individual resistance etc ,,,, but there is a lot about the traditional customs we dont really care to know and appreciate and push aside as ‘female subjugation’


        • @Deepa

          You are confusing customs with traditions. I suggest you rephrase to emphasize the point you are trying to make.

          Not all customs are dysfunctional for all people at all times. Fear factor attached to any custom is to re-enforce the practice. About C sections it is a money making practice in India so you just can’t say it is due to denouncement of old customs.

          Also how do you explain C section for auspicious time of births?? And the traditions/customs 🙂

          So superstition about time of birth is more of a tradition that is abusing science for unscientific reasons. Again there are numerous religions that do not believe in it so the discussion can continue for ever. 🙂

          Some customs and practices were designed with good intentions but they are also used to oppress women and less privileged sections of society by those in power by attaching fear factor to these customs.

          Sikhism does not attach any negative value to menstruation, childbirth or even death. They are just cosmic processes demanding no special treatment or proscriptions. But there will be numerous Sikhs who may be following menstrual taboos for what ever reasons even when they are not endorsed by Sikhism.

          Same is about Catholics, if your friend said so then she is defeating the whole purpose of living in Christ because Protestants do not believe in such taboos but they are praying to the same Jesus and God as Catholics.




        • Reg temples : the effect of the homas and other mantras set off vibrations that could have ill effects on the woman’s health.

          What are mantras after all ? They are a pattern of words and rythm which have various frequencies,and if chanted properly produce differenet vibrations and energy levels.

          Reg: Hanuman ji …. there was never a question of him rescuing her. though He proposed the idea, it was never going to happen. And if you see, Sita kept her distance from him just as she’d from Raavana. But that is besides the point.


        • Deepa, I find it quite strange that the same people who have so much concern for women’s health during her periods, will put her thru’ multiple pregnancies, abortions, abuse, violence and bride-burning to save her honour. No concern about her health there.

          Sorry for sounding caustic, but I don’t buy this. What was relevant in the old days doesn’t hold good now. There are enough medications and treatments for all the period problems women experience and better sanitary protection. It’s completely different.


      • It would be nice if you could back up some of your statements with evidence…Take this one for example:

        “During this period, women have a lot of physiological changes, and the presence of ‘homas’ and certain hymns could set off unpleasant vibrations in her already disturbed state. ”

        I agree that women have physiological changes. but what what are these “vibrations?” What vibrates? And how do we know these vibrations are dangerous? Do we have evidence that these vibrations (if they exist) are dangerous? If so, I will be glad to learn about them. Just show me a scientific link.

        Or this one:

        “Because the Sabarimala visit involves hard journeys, and a menstruating woman may not be able to withstand it. And if she’s not menstruating, there is a possibility that in the course of the journey , she could (as the climb is pretty long)”

        Shouldn’t that decision be left to the woman? After all, the women are adults. And non-adult women have guardians to make these decisions for them.

        By this logic, women should never serve in the armed forces cause who knows when they’ll get their periods!!

        Also, people with respiratory problems like asthama should be banned from the ashram since they will have an even more difficult journey than women.

        We must also prevent anyone over the age of 60 and under the age of 13 from going since it’s difficult. No disabled people must be allowed either.

        So why this extreme concern just for women and their periods? It doesn’t stick together and I’m pretty sure the “it’s not good for the woman” excuse is nonsense.

        If this is really a concern, a sign should be put up for the public to read on the lines of “People are informed that this journey is long and difficult.” That’s about as far as you can go – though in my opinion, people already know that.

        Me – I totally agree Bhagwad.


      • What random beliefs you have, Deepa. I’ve never been slowed down by my period. I hike, rock-climb, run, swim, practise karate, ice-skate, bathe, dance, surf the internet, *whatever*. Most women I know are exactly the same.

        There are of course some women who have very heavy or exhausting periods but they are definitely a minority.

        In any case, it makes no sense to ban ALL women from having any contact with the world while they are menstruating is insane, and banning ALL women from climbing CERTAIN mountains (but not any other mountains) on ALL days just because some women may get tired for just THREE DAYS A MONTH makes even less sense.


  29. Do we have kids because we want to have them or because we want them to take care of us etc etc.. . Yeah expectations do creep in sometimes from both sides but going to the extent of deciding for each other is simply out of the line.. Expecting Children to choose who they want to spend the rest of THEIR life with on Parents terms is way beyond my understanding..
    yeah if the kids have not found the true love and need help from their parents to do it for them, its fine. I had an arranged marriage but that was my choice for an arranged marriage. But even in that case it should not be treated as parents’ OBLIGATION to find a match. The parents have every right to say, figure it out for yourself. I have seen many people comment “Aapko chinta to hoti hogi,.. etc”. My moms friend has two kids and she plainly refused to find a match for them saying – go figure it out for yourself, I dont have the energy to do it. And I like her honesty and respect her a tonne for that.


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  31. IHM,

    I think no one owes anyone anything if the parties are in a relationship. If it is not a relationship- it is a contract and then of course the “owe one another” thing can be worked out.

    People have children to carry their genes. It is programmed into us to propagate and let our genes march on. There goes the “being grateful for being born” portion. Come to think of it, those “not born” cannot be polled for their take on this gratitude.

    What is done for “children” while they are minors is taking care of them and ensuring they grow up to be old enough to further propagate those genes or combinations thereof( pesky biology at work again). That is how we have evolved.
    Relationships come into the picture when both parties, parents and children are adult enough to view each other as adults. In those circumstances, one cannot really weigh whether one owes or not. One does things because one wants to.

    To keep up the bond just because one is related by blood is dishonest.

    To keep up the bond because of duty, or payback is abusing the relationship and to use Indian value or tradition as an excuse to determine who owes whom what, is just cowardice and very nasty form of justification of control by tradition.

    And it is not even “such” Indian a value either. It is a universal human value. Respecting parents, love for children is how human beings have evolved and how every culture grown. Indian families are as dysfunctional and unhappy as any other families with similar circumstances. And how one perceives families is entirely a personal judgment, one as biased as any other. There are plenty of Western women who are totally devastated by their non-acceptance in Indian families, just as lots experience the “family” feeling. Making “I experienced it, so it happens” judgments is intellectually dishonest.

    Me – I agree with everything.
    “Come to think of it, those “not born” cannot be polled for their take on this gratitude.” !! True!


    • LOL at those not born being unable to vote on this!!!

      Agree that the main thing most Indian parents don’t get is that their children are adults after 18, and the relationship must change after that. No, they want to infantilise their ‘kids’ all the way to their 60s, again because of that blood-tie-that-binds. Bah!


  32. Oh, and if one needs to wonder what they owe the other, then probably the relationship needs to be thought out in greater detail, after all it seems to be reduced to a commercial transaction and therefore probably should not be evaluated as such.


  33. I don’t think anyone owes anything to anyone in this world. Not even to their kids or parents. Its just that in a society which is connected and dependant on each other, the consequences of peoples actions would not be restricted to themselves alone! There are positives and negatives to any system – including the nuclear and independent western one.

    Destination Infinity


  34. IHM please delete above comment.
    Me – Done 🙂

    Children are born because parents want them. Parents do their duty by bringing them up. And then children in turn owe the same to their own kids and so on.

    Children are NOT investment to encash interest or crop from the field to nurture and then take benefit from them. I find this concept we Indians have totally repugnant. Isn’t that the basis for dowry too?? “I brought up my son educated him and so now, you pay up!” How much more sordid can it get??

    I certainly believe children don’t owe us anything in return for doing our duty of bringing them up, much less marry the person I choose, wear the dress I prefer, speak the way I want or do things because “what will people say”!! All stuff and nonsense and extremely silly (personal opinion). OMG does my personal happiness depend on something a bunch of outsiders say or in knowing my children are doing what they want?? If people ‘talk’ or ‘think’ they are welcome to. I will always stand by my children. Like we have a saying in Malayalam, “The rice on my stove will get cooked regardless of their babbling.” 🙂

    As for community being important, Isn’t community formed of like-minded people. Aren’t we free to opt out if we differ?? When our minds are not ‘alike’ why should we stick to them?? Who wants to?? Isn’t it better to be out, find people who are like us and mingle with them??
    BTW, personally I would prefer to live independently with cats and dogs on my own. I don’t think that’s a bad idea at all and see it as a puuuurfect old age. My kids can come and visit me when they have time. And if I am generous I will even let them play with the pups and kittens 😉

    Me – Awww Shail… Husband and I plan our retirement around some similar purrrfect goals 🙂 Loved your comment 🙂


    • Thank you on the community formed of like minded people!
      My mother lives in Bhimtal in her house with her dogs. And would rather be there with her things, her house, her friends, her town than any gilded apartment/ house I may have anywhere. In fact she got bored to leaving early the last time she was here with me. And she lives alone. And yes I am concerned about her, but neither she nor I would like to change the way things are because we are quite comfortable in our separate lives. And for the record, We are pretty close, talk on the phone/ chat pretty frequently and discuss things, not just exchange soap opera-like mother-daughter confidences. Personally, I cannot imagine relationships that are co-dependent with either parents or children requiring the other to live according to them.


  35. Sigh! I so wish I had come and commented earlier!! 😦
    What all I wanted to say, has already been said so nicely!
    It would be repeat of the comments!! 😀


  36. I’ll just quote what my parents often tell people when they complain about their non-responsive children:

    The Family is like a river flowing down towards the sea, the parents are up there at the summit, and the children are born on the way … Why ask the river/the little springs and streams to flow upstream when it’s natural course is to flow down/divide and meet the sea. They are not our economic assets, give them love and education and let them be …”

    Me – I couldn’t agree more PnA!!


  37. I have strong, maybe strange feelings about this.

    I don’t think my children owe me anything when they grow-up. After all, they did not ask to be brought into this world. They didn’t have a say in the matter. And since they were OUR choice, it is OUR responsibility to look after them.

    But, whatever they CHOOSE to do for us, I will look upon as a gift and a blessing.


  38. wait… this argument presupposes:
    1. that the spouse the individual chooses for themselves is worse than the spouse that the family will choose. Not true.

    2. That there is something deterimental that will happen to society if people marry for love. I want to know what that something detrimental is. How does society lose if 2 people marry for love?

    3. What is the definition of society? Indians? Human Beings? Haryanvis/Punjabis/Biharis? Your own caste? Your own village? Your own Khap? What, really, is the definition? At what level of society do you identify yourself? Who decides that for the young people? Why should young people be forced to follow this affiliation? Who decides that affiliation to being INdian is worse than affiliation to being human?

    Me – Brilliant questions HDWK!!


  39. Children owe love and respect to their parents…and thet’s all. The course of their life…profession, partner, hobbies, interests, is all their decisions, finally. Because, they’re the ones who’ll live through it.


  40. Read this just today as your blog opened at office. Been a long time huh!
    Getting back to the topic in discussion, the comments you’ve posted boiled my blood.

    For arguments sake lets agree that parents and society/community expects people to behave in a certain manner. Has the said person thought why? Why the community is born? Why we have to live with other people? Are we from society or the society is from us?

    And talking about love marriages, the comment makes me laugh. I mean how dumb/idiotic can one get? What was that all about involving mathematics in the concept of community (sets and subset!!) BTW

    what are the advantages that this community gives? Gossip? Backbiting? Timepass? Holy meetings? What?

    Arguing that way, kids never ask parents to give birth to them do they? And parents can’t throw them in the gutter either, they have to bring them up, when they willingly gave birth to them. And when a child grows into an adult, fully capable of thinking, reasoning and taking care of itself, it goes on its own. It’s his/her life then. It just needs to be fit into the concept of living together with pleasant association with others for their own benefit. The community/society has never given anything to a person as such. I mean how can it? It’s the people who make the community.

    Me – I agree Lively!


  41. IHM……interesting post with interesting comments….All we expected our kids to be is Good Humanbeings…Joe said the rest would follow….and asking/ expecting that was easy since we didnot
    have to preach any of that, but just try to be good examples.

    Deciding on their career and partners is their own decision to make, we can only support them, and hope it is the right decision.They have to finally live it…

    Marrying for love, is the same as getting into a career of your choice……
    You have to love something to give it your best, some times it works sometimes it does not. Exceptions are always there.

    As for expectations in a relationship, is is easier if we have none, because frustrated expectations only cause anger and depression. it betw. parents/children..or any other cannot be nurtured by expectations……Relationships get trapped because of Expectations for sure.

    Me ‘Marrying for love, is the same as getting into a career of your choice……
    You have to love something to give it your best, some times it works sometimes it does not. Exceptions are always there.’ Wow!!! Lovely lines!!!!!!! I agree 🙂


  42. Trouble happens when parents confuse having a child with owning an individual just because he/she is their child.

    Everybody has expectations and parents more so cuz of all the thing they do and put in but the key is to realize which expectations are valid and which are just outcome of this feeling of ownership and ego.

    Me – Well put Reema!


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