A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Archive for October 1st, 2012

Bonds or baggage?

Posted by Pepper on October 1, 2012

So it’s been 6 whole months since I moved back to India. I can’t believe how seamlessly I have blended into life at home, with my parents and sister. I thought I’d spend all my time whining for Mint, but I am happy to note, I don’t spend more than a few hours whining for him everyday. Quite an achievement, isn’t it? Also, we get to visit each other quite often, so it hasn’t been too bad. I am living it up in Mumbai – the city of my childhood. Along with the joys of living with my parents, I have the added joy of being surrounded by friends. School friends, building friends, junior colleges friends, degree college friends, other miscellaneous friends, what’s there to not love? But the more I love being here, the more I fear having to leave this city soon. No, not because of the friends. I can acquire new friends elsewhere. But because of my parents. The thought of moving away from them makes me incredibly sad.

And then I sit to ponder, why is it that I find it so hard to live away from my parents? Why is it that my parents find it so hard to be away from us? When I think about it, almost *all* my friends are living away from their parents, in different cities, if not different countries. They aren’t exactly unhappy. They are managing just fine. Why do we feel this overpowering pull towards each other then?

It’s not just me, but my parents too. Each time, they assure me to go ahead and live my life where I want to, they will be fine. But each time, I see how lonely they get when the sister and I are out of the house for a few days. I realise my parents have made a mistake. They have built their entire life around their children, without ever pausing to build a life for their ownselves. So when we aren’t around, they don’t quite know what to do with their lives.

My mom was working in a big airline company. She quit her job when she was expecting me. I am not judging her choice. She said she didn’t want anything more than spending time with her children. My mother isn’t the typical mother who enjoys making pickles and knitting sweaters either. She doesn’t have too many domestic interests. So other than her children, she had nothing else to focus on. Which suited us well, at that time. I have the best memories of running into mama’s arms the moment we got out of our school bus. The sister and I would spend our afternoons with her reading to us, playing word games. And then we would lay sprawled on a rug, doing our homework with periodic supervision. In the evenings, we would either go downstairs to play with the other kids, or we would go to the park with mama. My dad would come home in the evenings, and on special days, we would go to the Worli sea face. Sometimes we went for movies, sometimes we ate out. My parents were busy raising us and giving us a happy childhood. We were a happy family.

Our bonds ran as deep as the oceanic abyss. I realised, I loved spending time with my parents. They were our best friends. My school friends on the other hand, mainly considered their parents only to be disciplinarian figures. Some of them were close to their parents, but they still had boundaries to deal with. They couldn’t have the same kind of open communication with their parents. I felt proud to have the parents I did.

As I grew though, I realised that my parents hardly spent time with each other alone. The sister and I were always around. They hated going out without us. On the rare occasion they did, they would call us every hour to find out how we were doing. They would come back and embrace us hungrily, as though being away from us had been a very painful experience. What about couple time, I would ask them? Why don’t you enjoy yourselves when you are gone? They’d say their kids are their greatest joy, and without us, they feel incomplete.

The sister and I grew up. We started spending extended hours out of the house. My parents would wait for our return. I would be waiting to get back home. The moment we were all home, it was a happy reunion of sorts, though we’d only been away for a few hours. We would spend time catching up with each other, talking about our day, about what was in the news and then proceed to eat a happy meal together. When we were not home, my mom would spend time putting together our favourite meals, mentally yelling at us as she went about cleaning up the messy house and doing other sundry jobs. When the sister and I are not at home, my parents really don’t know what to look forward to. The house is empty. There is no mess to clear. Nobody to demand a meal. They feel the emptiness and long for the mess and the noise.

At the end of the day, I feel sad. I wish my parents had spent more time pursuing their interests, being more social and in general, living life for their own selves too. It’s not just them. When I am away from them, I yearn for them despite having a full day. I do think I have built a life for myself to an extent, and if I still long for them, how much harder must it be for them? Have we done something wrong? I see my other friends living their life without the distance burdening them, and I keep wondering.. Why am I the only one who feels this separation anxiety?

My parents gave us all the security, comfort and companionship we needed while we were growing up. Unfortunately, that also led to us being heavily dependent on them. Mint had a very different upbringing. He hardly converses with his parents. Yes, they talk about what needs to be spoken about, but they never chat with each other aimlessly. While growing up, his parents were just people who nagged him about his habits. Not more than that. Right from childhood, his parents closed mindedness never let them see eye to eye. As a result, they realised discussions were futile. Leading secret lives was easier. So he isn’t even remotely attached to his parents. While that makes me sad, I also realise he is the one able to live a more carefree life. He is happy wherever he is, not yearning for his parents. He lives without baggage whereas I am buckling under its weight.

A lot of my other friends who were not as close to their parents sail in the same boat as Mint. They are at peace living in a different city. The parents have accepted the distance. Of course, the said friends love their parents as much, despite it all, they have learnt to take the distance in their stride. Why am I so weak then? I left USA and came running back to them. Now as I live here happily, I worry about a future in a different city. Is it because I know my parents have nothing else to look forward to? Is it the price we are paying for building bonds that bind us to each other? After all, blind attachment and dependency are known to be bad words.

And then there are some people who are exceptionally close to their parents, despite the parents and children having built independent lives. They put up with the distance. Perhaps with mild heartache at times. But they are happy. Why can’t we be like that? Why can’t our independent lives and our love for each other run parallelly? Why does my need for them intersect with my life at every step? I feel happier and more secure living within those intersections. But can I really afford to do that?

Perhaps my parents have made a mistake by making us the very foundation of their lives. Perhaps we have made a mistake by leaning on those foundations so heavily. But all that is done cannot be reversed. Now I only hope I am not put in a situation in which I am made to test my resistance. And if I am, I hope my parents and I pull along and learn to build a life for ourselves. I hope love triumphs over need.

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