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May 7, 2008

The Inheritance of Guilt

The phrase ‘a chip on the shoulder’ often has negative connotations, yet I can honestly say I do have a chip or two (and more) on my slender shoulders. In fact I am convinced they make up majority of my 44 kilos body weight. The largest of them chips being the I-am-a-self-made-woman one. It refuses to let me ask for favours or cash in on ‘contacts’, it goes positively nuts if anyone were to ever claim they “made” me and in more recent context, it is the cause of frequent friction with my father.

I have grown up watching Papa be an “honest” Army officer who returned birthday cakes and tore envelopes if he thought they were anything more than “mere gestures”. He is a man who didn’t inherit anything because my grandpa didn’t leave behind anything; he was disowned by my great-grandpa for working for the British government in pre-independence India and believed in spending what he earned. Papa never bought a thing for himself (not even a pair of socks) since the day he got married, the man who planned his first child (I was there on their first wedding anniversary) because he wanted his first-born to be “settled” before he retired… He started at a salary of Rs 800 and yet on my third birthday, my gift was a doll worth Rs 180, a big chunk from his salary. I named her Tuk-Tuk.

Ma tells me I was smitten the moment I laid eyes on the doll. It was a “baby doll” with blue eyes, blonde hair and a pacifier in her mouth. If you pulled out the pacifier, Tuk-Tuk would bawl and if you put it back, she would sigh and gurgle happily. I first saw that doll in the hands of another girl at the airport – on our way to Silchur (Mizoram), where Papa was posted, my first flight – and being a friendly child, had approached the girl with my arms stretched. The girl had clutched her doll to her bosom and refused, I was apparently mildly surprised, looked at the doll and simply walked back to my parents. My mother tells me that as a child I’ve never been demanding and have never thrown a tantrum asking for anything. My father though had not liked it and come my birthday, I had my very own Tuk-Tuk.

He’s done the same umpteen times since. We had a casio in two days after my then-7-year-old brother wanted to bang some keys on a cousin’s casio and the cousin didn’t share… When we went shopping for Durga pujo and he would catch me looking at an outfit and lying that I didn’t like it because I had seen the price tag… When he drove us all around Sikkim in our battered little Maruti 800 despite a chronic lower back issue and a painful knee just because he wanted us to have “classic” holidays and not suffer bus journeys… Dad has never asked anyone for money, never taken a favour, never “split the bill” as long as he had cash in his pocket. I’ve seen him take on seniors when they were wrong, seen him call a spade a fucking spade and threaten to expose officers and I’ve heard junior officers talking about him as someone “who never takes a bribe”. I have also heard Dad question his own ideals because after 32 years in the Army a vindictive senior finally jacked Dad’s chance at a higher rank.

Subconsciously I had imbibed my father’s ideals as a child. Despite my mother taunting him by calling him “Gandhiji”, I was proud of who he was: A self-made man. I was – or have been – exactly the same in my profession. Walked out of an early job because an editor promised to make me a star as long as I became “his pupil”. Resigned on spot from another because the editor questioned my ethics on false allegations (vindicated since then) and have never been shy of saying exactly what I think as long as I BELIEVE I am right… It was a shock when in the summer of 2006, Dad called me out as he paced on the lawn and said, “You are my daughter, you are like me. But I am telling you now I was wrong. It never helps taking on authority, even when you are right. I am not asking you to lick arse, I am just asking you to keep your opinions to yourself. You don’t have to do wrong, but know that you cannot always stop a wrong. Don’t spoil your career like me.”

I didn’t agree with him then, I don’t agree with him now. And we have been at loggerheads since.

Today, my Dad perhaps regrets teaching me the “wrong” things. I CANNOT take monetary help and feel extremely uncomfortable asking for favours; even from Dad, he hates it, I cannot change it. He feels guilty that he could never earn big bucks and has “not done enough” for us. I earn more than Dad has ever earned in life and feel I have not done enough for them. He wants to buy me things, I cannot let him pay for me any longer (not since 19). He thinks I am too arrogant to take things from him and says, “Don’t forget I am still your father”; I reply with “I can look after myself” and can’t explain enough that I would rather Ma-Pa enjoyed their money now. He is heartbroken because he realizes we would never stay in the house he has built; I don’t have the words to tell him that my horizons lie beyond… He spoke of us selling the house once “he is gone”; I was offended and asked to be disowned, I DON’T want any inheritance. He was offended thinking I thought it wasn’t good enough for me.

I don’t know about middle-class parents elsewhere in the world – or even if that class exists elsewhere – but at least in India it seems your life is over the moment you become parents. Everything revolves around your child. You have to constantly keep giving, save up for their future, forget your own interests and constantly promote theirs, think of school and then college and then his/her marriage, then giving things to the grandchild… WHY? Oprah Winfrey celebrated her 50th birthday in style. My mother spent her 50th worrying and wondering if it was her daughter’s destiny to be alone for life. Another friend’s parents went on a China tour and when I suggested a holiday for my parents, Ma responded with, “No, no, right now we want to save for your brother’s education and we’ve not given you anything for so long…” I feel sick and guilty: Did I take their life away? Now when they perhaps need me around, am I running away?

My brother is getting ready to step out of college and embark on a career and a new life. My mother is alone in our hometown, in the house Dad built for his family. She calls everyday or every other day even if it is to ask, “Are you okay?” We both forget at times, at times we are too busy or too tired or have not paid our phone bills on time. My Dad is in another city, depressed and has had two anxiety attacks in the last two days. And one day into my 29th year, I am sitting poised to take off into that horizon that I know has been calling me since I read my first book. Am I wrong?

PS: A reader pointed out that Shobhaa De mentioned me in her column in The Week. She calls me an “attractive blogger” with an “edgy defiance”. Haha, does it matter? Wonder what Dad has to say… Here’s the link.

PS2: FOR THE RECORD: This blog's name was, is and will always be 'Emancipation of Eve'. Shobhaa misunderstood. What I told her -- and am typing it out now -- is that I changed MY name on this blog, NOT the blog's. My monicker when I started out was CLIT CHATTING and the email on the right hand corner STILL reads "Foxy Tanya". Why 'foxy tanya' and not my real name? Firstly, because with a name like clit-chatting most of the comments I was getting were from cocks talking (literally). I wanted to discuss things, they wanted to have sex chats. That's not my thing y'know. Also, 'Jhoomur' isn't exactly a people-friendly name (there, this is the first time I've written my own name on this blog). While even early on most people who read this blog knew it was me writing it, I wasn't ready yet for random strangers to know my identity. Abusive comments irritated me then; now to a large extent I can handle them. Also, while I was very comfortable writing what I was writing back when I started, people were NOT comfortable saying they read someone called Clit Chatting. So I waited for the right time... As more and more people read this blog and grew comfortable with it, 'Clit Chatting' changed to 'Eve* aka JB'. My friends call me JB even off-cyberspace. The blog name remains Eve Emancipation. As for me having the 'guts' to revert to the original name, JB took on the Clit Chatting avatar to grab those eye balls. Now JB still clit chats, just that she is comfortable being herself. With her own name. Please say hello to JB.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

ooh I had one of those dolls too n they were the cutest..as for guilt..you will be amazed I am constantly struggling between the life that I am leading right now away from my parents with the freedom n the assurance that it is something I have built for myself and the fact that I am leaving behind my parents who have done all they could for me and more and the fact that I am the single most important person in their life...but like they say there are somethings that one never gets the answers to and its best that we leave it that way...whereas we all have a right to question ourselves it is sometimes important to let some things be for we will never be able to justify any stance that we take..if not for me living here I would hate myself for staying back there and being dependent on dad who is 75. So....but what we can do is make those calls and assure them that we do love them -just as much as they love us and we will make sure that we do our best to be happy n lead a good life...its all they worry about and want from us.

Anonymous said...

i just NEEDED to read this post and just at this point of time, it is spooky. and you'd be surprised because the post is so personal...it is definitely ALL about you and i don't mean to butt in...
parents and daughter trying to fly out...yet something makes us pause (if not stop in tracks) and think...
To answer your last question, you don't seem wrong. you seem enviably strong and correct. my parents were still funding my whimsical dreams when i was 25. yes i am embarassed at that but it does strenthen my resolve to make them ever so happy, even more.
life is full of uncomfortable and painful choices, no...At least as far as parent child relation/equation is concerned, you're hardly EVER 100% sure. whether it is loving a person of your choice,making a career you believe, sticking to a particular 'ethic' that has let them down, not learning by what they call their 'mistakes'...
it's painful but i just have this gut feeling for you (and almost...for myself as well)that things will turn around and parents will be fully happy and satisfied and at peace with teh choices eventually. there is NO replacement for genuine and intutive, love, respect, responsibilty as well awareness you have towards your parents and towards yourself, simultaneously. and no amount of strategising and pretence can replace all of that. so i am convinced things will be simpler and happier soon.

'N'

p.s was i incoherent in this comment? i was clear in my mind but something tells me it might be abstract, if so let me know...i shall edit it

:D

and i really liked the shobha de' article. congrats. even if she is not like your favourite author or whatever, there is something really cool about being teased about wanting to be her and 10-11 years featuring in an article by that.

Anonymous said...

i meant ' in an article by her'. I am not even going over other typos etc...this i saw a sec after i hit publish so i came to correct.

'N'

black coffee said...

the article was ummm.. nice! i used to wonder why you had to change the name of ur blog well shoba de cleared it!

anyways, abt this post? u must be really lucky you hav such a nice dad. i usually wonder what my dad wud hav been like had he survived the accident he pssed away in. i will never know!
it was nice reading the post!

maxine said...

hmmm.
Guilt is the final barrier one has to cross while taking decisions in life.And mostly revolves around people we love n care.In todays world most of us have lost even the heart to feel guilty.Dont let the guilt invade.Let it be there.In a strange way this guilt will make us do things we never did to our parents,like saying an i love you,or hugging or kissing.
Guilt will also make us use the right,positive words and even if we want to we will stay away from sending a hurtful word to them and to show out more the sometimes suppressed love.

I'm gonna write to shobhaa de to say your name!!

Eve* aka jb said...

Dear N
I write this blog so that we can all connect, thus there is no "butting in". :) And you were rambling but coherent I would say (kinda tough being both tho!) Choices are not always easy, are they? I KNOW i am not doing anything wrong, i just wish i could convince and more so RELIEVE my parents of their worries... Guess got to give it time.

Black Coffee: Please do read the second post script, should clear that I have NOT changed the name of the blog but infact have "shed" a pseudonym and reverted to my own name, that would be JB. Sorry to hear about your dad... Never had a loss as personal as that and wouldnt even say that I can empathise. I can't. I never met my grandpa tho and hearing stories about him have made me wonder... Thankyou for reading.

Maxine: Agree to NOT saying the rough stuff because of guilt. And bwahaha, you dont have to write to her. LOL. Imagine her getting an angry mail from our straight-talking Maxine, "Hey Shobhaa, write her name." LOL (Kills herself laughing imagining the mail) Hugs...and hang in there, ok?

Maxine said...

Seriously, I dont understand.Shobhaa did not just mention you in her article but the whole article is about you and your blog,and she still refuses to mention your name??Its like two sides of the coin,one with praise,nod and affection the other with nonacceptance and insult.And she has given that coin to us to decide which side to take!Its not an article,but a riddle.A riddle whose answer is Jhoomur Bose.Would have been nice if she had solved it herself right there!

Eve* aka jb said...

Maxine: Chill. Often publications and websites have a non-promotion policy where you are not allowed to promote someone else particularly if they work for another publication. While I might be a "blogger", primarily, I am the features editor for ibnlive.com... :) What I found funny was the exclusion of the word "clit" from her piece. If SUPPOSEDLY, I didnt have the guts to call myself clit-chatting, why wasn't the word written in her column? since "clit" is a legit anatomical body part and not "just" a swear word like "fuck". THAT'S what I found extremely funny.

maxine said...

pout.
ok...apologies if thts the case.

hmm.

pugsieT said...

Considering that im the EXACT same predicament, its almost hilarious. When you see your dad spend his entire life doing the 'right' thing, you end up with the same values that you've already delved into. Its not the easiest thing in the world to not bow down to pressure. Recently i was told "yeh sab kiske liye hai" when i said i wanted to be independant and financially secure on my own merit. Its tough holding on to your faith in yourself when people offer to help. Im 20, i've already started to live a lil piece of my dream. This post just tells me, the road ahead will be equally bumpy if not more. And yeah, the whole 'settling down' bit includes marriage...if nothing else, i'd like to prove that a settled woman is not determined by her marital status...

*seems my destiny is to simply agree with you cuz your writing what ive always thought*

avijit bakshi said...

Eve: Two things: first the gratuitous advice, the same I gave to ari: The way to care for your parents is to be there for them in a crisis, no matter what! Otherwise to keep in regular (preferably daily) touch with them. They need to know you care and are making the effort, not necessarily your physical presence.

Two: Your dad is more right that you can ever know at this point. There are always ways to get things done without stepping on other's toes, even when they are wrong, and you don't have to compromise either, all you have to give up is the feeling that you are the protector of the right, and the beauty is you get more of your the-right-thing stuff done that way.

Eve* aka jb said...

Maxine: haha @ pout. cute.

Pugsie: Hmm, best of luck for the road ahead. I am still learning how to have my dreams and keep my parents happy. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I falter. As for agreeing with me, read what I write, see if it fits your situation, agree where you have to, BUT always take/ make your own call. :)

Avijit: For once i will agree with you...at least on one point! My problem DOES seem to be more with i-am-protecting-right than anything else. Perhaps there is still scope to learn the art of tact... never too late!

the mad momma said...

funny. i learned the same from my dad. i even have his God awful temper. and his strong sense of fairness and justice.

and now after almost 30 yaers of existence he wants to tell me he was wrong. well the thing is that now i want to learn that lesson my own way. i cannot let him mould me one way blindly, and then decide to change that mould all of a sudden because he realises he is wrong.

http://thebratthebeanandbedlam.wordpress.com

V said...

your dad sounds just like mine. my mom still calls him "gandhi"... too bad, i turned out to be the exact opposite of him... i spent all his money and still haven't paid him back... well, my list of sins doesn't end at that alone. lol

Never Mind!! said...

OMG!! Guess what? I got one of those dolls with pacifiers when we were traveling in Silchur. I think I am pretty sure I am not the kind that refuses to share dolls with other kids or atleast thats what I'd like to believe :)

I have the same issue with my dad when it comes to dealing with money. Throughout, dad never told us how much a particular toy or dress cost. He always said it dint matter as long as we liked what we got. Now when I buy something for him, he demands to know how much I paid for it and I know better than to give a straight answer. This often irritates him but then, thats what we learnt growing up.

I think your dad is right in giving you advice out of his experience and you are right too in wanting to make those mistakes and learning it the hard way!

The guilt of taking someone's life (I mean in a figurative way)away, be it parents, spouse or siblings I think is inevitable. But isnt that what parents want? Living their life through their children?

Super nice words about you in Ms.De's article and I think you are worthy of every word. One thing she failed to mention was your accessibility. About how you add unknown readers on Orkut and chat with them often on the Cbox apart form blogging and commenting!

Vibhash Prakash Awasthi said...

thrs been one common thing of all the ppl i know with parents as govt servant...u ask their kids abt thm and they wud say tht they have been brutually honest, no one says yes, my dad/mom take bribe...bt the country is still trapped deep in corruption....or may b i have always met the honest lot.

Shruti said...

yeah.i understand exactly what you are talking abt.i feel guilty when i stop wearing the best clothes my parents bought for me just coz my freinds dont think its 'in'.or when i spend extra money and treat my friends without apparent reason.it is just a way of remembering how much our parents have done for us and the guilt and/or shame just heightens the sense of responsibility dont it?you are a nice person, i sincerely think so.And way to go girl!mentioned by shobhaa de in the week!kicks ass!cheers!

Silvara said...

That's my city!! Sorry I was looking at it and thinking it looked familiar....isn't it bee-yoo-ti-ful??

My parents brought me up on guilt...emotional blackmail was the way to get anything don and even when they didn't say it words, their silence just gnawed at you inside...it was usually for really trivial things too...

~nm said...

Tagged you! Pick it here

Pudi said...

JB! You are a gem.

Eve* aka JB said...

@ Pudi: Thank-you. :)