Ankit Chhabra
Published in

Ankit Chhabra

Reflections #0009

Struggling well

I continue to struggle with my parents. They are kind and compassionate like most Indian parents but they are also very conservative and traditional. Modernity doesn’t make much sense to them. They find their comfort in their faith. They have worked hard all their life, mostly for their children, and now they wish for ‘getting done’ with their responsibilities and feel free. When they don’t see me or my sister following their footsteps, they feel displeasure about the three decades of their life that they dedicated to us. Unmet needs and unstated expectations abound in my home.

The Covid-19 crisis has brought many of our struggles as a family to the surface. My father is finding it hard to stay at home and spend time with all of us. My mother is unable to let go off her daily habits and routines even temporarily. My father is mostly in a state of denial. According to him, his faith will protect him and his family. He is taking only minor precautions and refuses to practice social distancing. My mother is almost panicking. She is happy that her children are at home but gets furious when my father steps out daily. It is very interesting to see that their denial and panics have limits. All precautions must be followed as far as their children are concerned but the maids and staff members must continue to come. They get information daily through news and neighbours but are unable to register the extent of global calamity. Their dominant mental model seems to be that everything is fine, as long as their near and dear ones are fine.

I have also added to this displeasure. I have tried my best to take on the responsibility as a son while pursuing my interests in public service. I fail to be compassionate towards them and sometimes even forget the unconditional gifts of care and generosity they share with me. At times, I am also quite ungrateful and resentful. While we trust and care for each other as a family, there is a lack of basic respect for the individual and his/her choices. I try my best to communicate politely but often lose my temper when I confront their stubborn sides. In those moments, I am unable to empathise that their views have shaped over their lifetime and they have not had education and exposure like mine.

My struggles with my family are not unique. Many intergenerational homes in India go through the same. Home is a space where you can be yourself and are accepted completely for who you are. But the challenge in the Indian context is that sometimes it’s difficult to listen and understand each other. Parents find hard to change and children are unable to empathise. It leads to a persistent divide between them. Intellectually both sides understand this but it’s the dialogue which is missing which can make space for connection and healing.

While these struggles are real, they don’t need to be hard. I can learn to struggle well just by making space of tenderness and affection in the relationships. It’s hard to stay calm on the inside when strong emotions are overflowing. But I believe that is what the practice is all about. Close relationships are quite paradoxical. They provide safety and comfort but also share the burden of insecurities and weaknesses. A single intimate relationship lived fully can provide the whole width and depth of human experience. My failure with my parents is not that we are not able to create a constructive space but that we are not persisting long enough. The pulls and pushes from the outside are too strong and we lack the internal capacity to stay committed through the hard part.

May this 21 period of lockdown and hopefully later teaches all Indian families to hold generative intergenerational dialogues. When we can’t go out and forced to be with each other, may we learn to listen and respect each other. May this time period together deepen our bonds of care and trust. May we strive to cover it with expressions of tenderness and affection. May we all be happy and peaceful together.



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