An Open Letter to Indian Parents
Expressing certain things verbally is not an easy task, particularly when it’s the heart talking. No, don’t worry. I’m not writing this letter to pour out the plights that plague my heart. Rather, I’m writing this for the millions of teenagers on the brink of adulthood, and the million other young adults already there. Bear with me, for this may take a while. Be patient, as you were with all my silly questions when I was a little child, for I am going to ask you seven more today. Even if their answers seem obvious, pause and ponder over why they cross my mind so often.
- You’ve always taught me to voice my opinion, and stand up for what I think is right.
Do my opinions amount to nothing if they don’t agree with yours?
You may believe in God or support Modi, but I may not; the same way you may like Zeenat Aman while I, Deepika Padukone. I’m a different person than you, and just as each individual carries their own sets of beliefs and opinions, so do I. You are not wrong, but neither am I. You don’t even have to approve of what I think, as long as you accept it. But if you listen to what I have to say only to refute it, only to tell me not to talk back, how will I ever know how to talk to you?
- I enjoy sharing things with you, and I know you love being let into a part of my life too.
But, is nothing in my life meant to be kept private?
I may be going through a rough patch with my boyfriend/girlfriend, or I may be sad about a documentary I saw on poverty. Sometimes, I just don’t like sharing what’s on my mind with you. Is it too much to ask of you to respect that? I have a whole other life beyond home, and a lot goes on that I don’t find necessary enough to tell you. Every time you try to eavesdrop my phone conversations or read my texts, I feel the need to hide more. Can I not have the privilege of keeping some things to myself?
- You once told me, “You learn from your mistakes.”
Were you referring to my mistakes or yours?
You keep trying to prevent me from making mistakes, considering it your duty to protect me. I know you’re afraid, because of all the mistakes you’ve made in your life. I know you don’t want me to make the same ones in mine. But let me. If I don’t experience the downsides life has in store for me, how will I ever learn to deal with anything by myself?
- What you think about me and my work means a lot to me.
If I don’t be who you wanted me to be, will you still be proud of me?
Most parents don’t realize that almost everyone my age is conscious about their identity and how others perceive them. I too, have insecurities and self-esteem issues. So every time you put another kid above me, or view my efforts with distaste, my injured esteem takes a shot. Forcing me to live the life you wanted will only make me unhappy. Is it so hard to support me for living the life I want to?
- Sometimes, our generation gap impedes me from sharing things with you.
Can my generation not be different from yours without conflict?
The generation gap is inevitable. However, I can’t connect to you even if I wish to, because you choose to not understand my generation. My generation does things differently, and they are perfectly acceptable now. Like being in a casual (or serious) relationship, being gay, having premarital sex, drinking alcohol, or choosing to be a non-vegetarian. Isn’t it better if you are open to this change and let me tell you about it, rather than me lying at home and doing it anyway?
- The person I was at age 16 and the person I am now at 20 are a moon’s length apart.
Am I ever going to be old enough for you?
For me to be embrace my individuality, I need to be able to make my own decisions. When you treat me like a responsible adult, I feel empowered to live up to it. Telling me to behave the way I’m told as long as I live in your house will only curb my independence. Don’t try to make me dependent on you for as long as you can, for the sole sake of feeling like a parent to a child. There is a reason why 18 is the official age at which we’re deemed adults. Why then, do I still lack the maturity to reason for myself?
It can be hard being a parent and figuring out where to draw the line. You’ve done remarkably, and the caterpillar once in the safe arms of your cocoon is now a butterfly ready to spread wings and fly. No words can express my gratitude for that. Although sometimes, beneath the armor of wisdom you bequeathed me with and all the battles you prepared me for, I forget what it’s like to be understood. So here I am writing my final question to you, for the millions of teenagers on the brink of adulthood, and the million other young adults already there. I am ready to fly. Can you make your peace with that?
The voice inside every Indian child