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Chill Out!

March 2004
Chill Out!

Self-expression and individuality seem to be foreign and dangerous concepts to many in the Indian community. Instead of embracing these profound ideas that help differentiate and diversify the community, they view them as superfluous and irrelevant. When the young decide to individualize themselves by the way they wear their clothes or their hair, many Indian parents suddenly raise their eyebrows, make hasty and incorrect assumptions, and start criticizing unfairly.

Sometimes it seems that everyone in the Indian community has an opinion whether it's warranted or not. There seems to be a misguided belief about what it means to be an Indian: what they should do, the manner in which they should conduct themselves, and the activities in which they should participate. By these standards, Indian youngsters should always be polite and soft-spoken, maintain excellent grades, and pursue a high-paying profession. Above all, they should fulfill all their parents' expectations and wishes. It seems that conformity is being forcefully instilled into the vulnerable minds of the Indian youth.

Many of our young people cannot wholeheartedly make their own decisions, even when it involves life altering issues such as careers and marriage. They are not given enough freedom to make their own choices and learn from any mistakes they may make.

Surely, there are many youngsters who are in complete agreement with the way things are and have complete confidence in their parents; but there are many more who yearn to pursue other paths in their lives. They cannot do so because of the suffocating influence and persuasive power that many Indian parents have over their children.

Take the case of marriage. All parents, and not just Indian ones, can be understandably critical of their children, but what separates Indian parents is that many of them feel that only they know who is best for their son or daughter. This lack of confidence in their child's ability to choose a life partner renders their child's individuality and decision-making useless. There are numerous young Indian men and women who desperately try to impress their future families to such an extent that they have to exhibit a fa�ade of embellishments and exaggerations just to gain acceptance from them. God forbid if a woman's future in-laws were to find out that she drinks, even if only occasionally.

Then there are people who cannot bear any shame or threat to their family's integrity. They often break ties with anyone who brings shame or embarrassment to their family. If a son is found to be involved with drugs, for instance, the shocked parents feel ashamed and extremely embarrassed. What troubles parents the most is not the problem at hand or the fact that their child isn't as innocent as they had thought. No. What troubles them most is that now all the other relatives are going find out and look down on them.

Parents often discourage their children from doing certain things because of what an aunt or uncle might say or think about the matter. The daughter who wants to wear a skirt to a family function will not be allowed to do so because of an uncle's insistence on wearing Indian clothes, and the negative criticism he would give to the young woman's family if she disobeyed.

So, as a result, the Indian youth have been manipulated into becoming someone that their family and parents want them to be, and not really who they themselves want to be.

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