Today, the university where I teach at had its orientation programme for new undergraduate students. It was held in three batches (because we have a large enrollment and it is not possible to accommodate everyone together). I was conducting the show. During one of the breaks, after one batch of orientations, a parent came to us and started shouting at us about how he’d been waiting at another place. The time and venue were clearly mentioned on the website notice board and this parent accused us for not informing them correctly.
I was trying to be polite and attempted to give him a solution for what could be done now that they’d missed the session allocated to them, but this man refused to calm down. He kept shouting at another colleague of mine saying that he had wasted his precious time away from work because of our fault. The Dean was present during all this, and the gentleman that he is, he also attempted to dissipate the matter, but without success. The Dean asked the parent to stop shouting at the faculty and finally asked him to leave the venue.
The crux of all this is that we as independent free-thinking liberal-minded young (at heart if not in years) academicians get quite annoyed at such protected children and at those parents who refuse to cut the umbilical cord even when their children are old enough to be “independent free-thinking liberal-minded but still young in years” people. Our is a Social Sciences and Humanities university and inculcating good citizenship is part of the education we provide. You cannot be a good citizen if you can’t even think for yourself, that your parents have to accompany you everywhere.
I went to Switzerland during my summer break to visit a friend. My friend and I were discussing how adolescents in Europe/the west have their rebellious punky stages early enough in school or high-school. And they clean up when they enter the university. They make informed adult decisions to study in the university. In India, a college education is simply a follow up of school, a continuation, and 17 -18 year olds are still children in the way they think and behave.
At the time of enrollment, I sat for admission duty, and many parents were writing the application letters for their child, who in the meanwhile dozed off. I can allow undergraduates to be a little spoilt and sheltered, but even postgraduates can’t seem to let go of their parent’s skirts.
Case in point: I went for a job interview sometime ago. It was in Delhi, that is all I can divulge. At the interview, among others who I knew and was friends/colleagues with, there was one candidate, a girl/woman who I didn’t know from before. She brought her mom along for “moral support” (I assume). And, she wanted her mom to accompany her inside the room while she got interviewed. And this girl/woman has recently submitted her PhD thesis. (PhD = over or about the age of 25 at least). She brought her mother along. to a job interview. (!!!)
This is clearly an example or a repercussion of so many things wrong in our society.
I call her girl/woman because I cannot call her either one of the two. Even though she is old enough to be a woman, yet she is still a ‘girl’ (because she isn’t yet married (subtext = still virgin = girl)) and moreover, she might actually take offence at being called a woman for someone so young. There is a high chance that women in India will take offence at being called women if they are still unmarried. That is the kind of immaturity prevalent in our society when it comes to maturing. If a 50 year old man looks for a bride, he is addressed as the “boy”. I know it is mostly a case of “lost in translation” as the equivalent of the word ‘boy’ in Hindi doesn’t have such a heavy connotation of immaturity but of nubility. But still, even when talking in English, the man (as prospective husband) is called ‘boy’, the woman, ‘girl’.
Many Indian mothers will lay out their son’s clothes everyday until the day he is old enough to have another woman – his wife – do so for him.
The parent accompanying the kid to the orientation and the girl/woman to a job interview are examples of how sheltered Indian children are kept. I understand the reasons behind it. Ours is a very dangerous country to live in, especially for females. The girl child is murdered and raped every other day, even older women threatened with a terrible life, eve-teasing outside, domestic abuse inside. So, a parent who has nurtured a child – especially a female one – would hesitate to let go, they would want to protect her, keep her safe, and I get that. The saddest part in all this is that usually this protectiveness continues until the day the daughter is married off to a husband who then takes on the duty of protecting her.
What I find disturbing is that an educated girl still feels unsafe and needs a parent to accompany her, implying that education does nothing to make you independent. The fact that she is still under-confident about herself despite having written and submitted a PhD thesis undermines the gravity of that degree. The fact that parents do not push their children to grow up perpetuates a kind of oedipal co-dependancy.
Shouldn’t education should make people independent and strong-willed?