Parental Guidance (not) Required?

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What’s it like being an amma and appa in a world of mum and dad?

Parenting is difficult. Parenting in Australia by Indian parents is even more difficult. Parenting teenagers in Australia by Indian parents is a disaster in waiting. I am among one of many Indians who migrated Down Under, early this century, with a little kid and went ahead to have my second one here. She is now a teenager, with more than her share of wind beneath her wings, flying to dizzying heights. Australia is a safe and nurturing society and boy, is she testing its limits! Unlike her Indian cousins, whose life is buried somewhere under the—by Australian standards—university level books, she has the luxury of being the ‘kana’ (blind in one eye) among ‘andhas’ (blind in both eyes).
I had no idea of what I had got into and all was under control until she started school and for most of our generation of Indian-born dehati (rustic) parents, the first shock hits hard in early days of primary school. Our little bundles of joy, barely out their nappies, addressing their gurus with their first names! All hell breaks loose and then our ‘still Indian’ internal conscience deplores us—are we transferring unadulterated and adequate doses of ‘Indian values’ to our kids, as handed over to us by our folks. It took me a while and a truckload of embarrassment to my little girl before I stopped Madaming her teacher.
While in India, most people flaunt the English speaking prowess of their kids—“Beta, show them your English”, we, the NRI and OCI lot, are stuck-in-time desis, who want our kids to speak our native language and proudly flaunt it to all and sundry. The slow realisation that things have gotten out of control comes in first few years of primary schooling. Native language is used sparingly in the household and English takes over, like a huge tentacle spreading a virus that one cannot escape. Sudden gushes of ‘Hindi/Tamil/Gujarati only’ rules are met with quiet resistance. In the end, the consolation prize is ‘at least he/she can understand the language’ and he/she knows enough to converse with grandparents’. Another battle lost of Indian parenting in a foreign land.
With time running so fast, I’m asking myself what year it is, before you know, they are in their middle years and already excelling at academics at school, the andha-kana theory and are into some sort of out-of-school sport/dance/drama lessons. At this juncture, there are hushed whispers of school friends making ‘plans’ of meeting out of the school, a movie or shopping. It is fine as long as there are girls/boys only outing, but wait…no? they are my friends, who cares, boys or girls. Fair enough. After a few instances of resisting emotional blackmail, we give in. My only suggestion to all Indian parents of Aussie kids is find ways to endure this, it will go on, with varying degree, actually third degree, for many years to come. The silver lining—everyone survives and so will you.
However my job is not done, after all parenting is a 24×7 engagement, and it is my duty to constantly check on my children, if they are still meeting any “unworthy person” during or after school. And why should I not do that, after all, I have wisdom of age on my side and I have seen it all and done it all. Privacy?? What privacy!! We didn’t have it when we were young and it saved us so from getting into so much trouble. Now, I say with authority that this irritates all species of kids, irrespective of gender or personality. Just a moment, I will go and check my daughter’s Instagram account.
All ok…phew!!
Now where were we? Yes… on a more positive note, most Indian kids are nothing short of academic geniuses in Aussie schools—again, the andha-kana rule—but ask any of us ‘Are we happy?’ and the answer is, of course not. They can do better, only if they would study for 15 hours a day and they are just short by 14 hours, so I can be happy only at the cost of being a bad parent.
Parenting young adults is a constant tussle, it has happened in past and will be there in future. So hang in there, all desi parents to Aussie kids. In the end, we will be proud of our creations. Those are my kids, aren’t they lovely!
Published in The Indian Sun / Indian Magazine in Australia

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