Three things inspired me to write about this issue. And those are:
- A family reunion at my father’s ancestral village.
- Watching quite a bit of South Indian films.
- A certain incident that happened today, which involved an alcoholic neighbour and his son.
This topic is a slightly touchy one, especially in the Indian context, where respect to one’s family is deeply embedded in our culture. It is something which hits a bit close to home for me. What I’m talking about are dysfunctional families.
Families are supposed to be the bed of support and encouragement. True. But, dysfunctional families exist in every part of the world, although I’m inclined to think that it is much more so in the Indian scenario.
This vacation for me, was one of learning, in all sense of the word. I had an amazing time in Dubai, visited some heritage spots in Saudi Arabia (That could probably comprise of a separate blog post in itself!) and went on a trip to my father’s ancestral village, for a reunion of sorts. This post has more to do with the last one. To do with family.
So all families have some skeletons hidden in their closets, and so does mine. But, this doesn’t concern that. This has something to do with a much deeper problem. The closer family. Parents and all.
Now, most Indians, if asked about dysfunctional families, will shrug and say that it is all due to globalisation and influence from other countries. They’ll say,”Dysfunctional? No! Not my family!”
This happens all the while, where the serious issues are just swept under the carpet, and pretended to be forgotten.
If you do belong to a typical Indian family, it is most likely that you have come across at least any one of these scenarios:
- Parents who can’t stand each other, and yet will not divorce because of the what-will-people-think syndrome which is very common in India.
- Divorced/separated parents. (This is pretty much a continuation of the first one)
- Abusive parents. This can be physical and/or sexual abuse or it can be emotional abuse. Constant taunting, comparison to others, etc.
- Parents with an addiction. This can be alcohol, cigarette or any other substance.
- Narcissistic/self-obsessed parents who breed neglected children.
- Extremely strict, restrictive or autocratic parents.
Okay. So it is the parents, what have the children to do with it, you may ask.
Let me narrate an incident that happened today.
I live in a pretty affluent neighbourhood in India, where everyone around are people of a well-to-do background and considered decent. Every evening, a group of young boys in their pre-teens, assemble in the garden of the house next to mine, and play badminton. Today, as I was sitting in my balcony and reading, I noticed a middle-aged man was struggling to walk down the road because he was so drunk. The group of boys started teasing one of them by saying that his father was so drunk by 4 pm itself today. The rest of them laughed. From that, I realised that it was not a one day occurrence. When I mentioned it to my mother, she said, “Yes. That man is so irresponsibly alcoholic. He stumbles around drunk nearly everyday. They have asked that family to move out of that house because of him.”
Still say that the parents’ life doesn’t concern the children?
A is a close friend of mine. His mother found out that his father had an affair and after an immeasurable amount of arguments, separated. His father blamed him for splitting their family up, cut him off financially and disowned him. At that time, he was only in his 2nd year of college. After days of crashing out at friends’ places and borrowing a lot of money from people, he has slowly tried to get his life back on track. But, he still remains a cynic and has severe trust and self-confidence issues.
So, the second thing on the list. Films. I’ve been watching quite a lot of South Indian films because I did not have WiFi for the past couple of days that I spent in my father’s ancestral village. The hero/heroine in quite a few films belonged to a dysfunctional family. He/she did not speak with his/her parents or had other issues relating to family.
But, the films, they romanticised the notion. It made it sound like it was something cool. The characters were people who were cool people with a dark past/childhood. It made it sound like it was something mysterious, the deep sadness within them.
Unfortunately, the truth isn’t nearly as romantic. Parents arguing in front of their children have a severely negative impact on them. They have problems in trusting others, and often end up having failed relationships themselves. Also, when the ones that the children ought to trust are the ones who are the villains of the story, they are lonely. They believe that they don’t have anyone in the world. That it is then versus the world. They are often victims of depression, anxiety, alcoholism and often fall prey to suicidal thoughts.
But what made me write this post is the complete lack of support groups in India. Or just support in general. Most people do not even realise that there is something wrong with their family. Or even if they do, they do not know whom to turn to, or how to speak about it to others, for fear of being ridiculed or being an outcast in the society.
This is just to say that there is someone out there who understands, just don’t give up. Be strong.
P.S. I’ve been there and I know how it feels. So, if you do need someone to talk to, do feel free to drop a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.