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May I have the permission to …?

September 21, 2013

Long back, the British came to India as traders and they had it pretty good with the then Indian kings. And slowly “we became slaves” or as the British put it, we became a colonial state. Now, in Indian history we harp about how the British were cruel, how they enslaved us and oh-yes the famous General Dyer incident where many were killed. But, to put it objectively, before the American freedom movement started, British were pretty good rulers. They benefited themselves but there are not many incidences where they subjected the colonial state to any physical violence or army suppression. It was after the freedom movement started that they used army to maintain their pride and superiority. But why were we called slaves even before the army suppression? Why did America first feel the need to get them out. When does one call someone their slave? Only when there is physical abuse? No. It is when one’s freedom of making his/her own decision about his/her life is taken away. A slave may be treated with the finest care, but if, when he/she wants to stroll out at their time, permission is required – it is still slavery. If permission is not granted, and if the consequence is that one cannot stroll out at their time, it is slavery. And it is prevalent in India, at every stage even today hiding under the cloak of societal responsibilities and norms. I see a specimen of this slavery everyday and I wonder – How do I explain it correctly so that people actually get past the veil of societal ethos. Because the ingenious part of the whole scheme or system is that the slave feels loved and cherished but in reality he/she is a slave. Even the master doesn’t know that he is treating someone as a slave. Everyone excepts it as societal custom.

And the slave is the girl child in India and the masters, her parents. Shocked ? It is the stark reality. Where my parents have successfully understood my view point,  many have not even thought about it. Now many would wonder how I could call such a special bond, as that of slavery. Well, slavery is a harsh word, due to its notorious historical reference, and hence euphemisms like “right of the parents” “respect to the parents” and so on are generally used as replacement. But there is a wide difference. I was deeply hurt and filled with a sort of frustration at the Indian women, educated ones, for not waking up and realizing that they have been enslaved and are caged and chained and all under the guise of love, respect, right and all the other nice-sounding societal words. There is permission required by the girl child (in many cases it’s gender neutral, but a majority is a girl child) for almost everything. Let me list them down :

1. To go to the prom night.    Disguise code – safety :

Now, when I say disguise code, I do not mean that the parents are not concerned about the safety of the girl child and had the streets been free of all the rapists they would refrain from allowing their daughters to go. My point being that after 18, when I get to have a say in who will rule the country, do I get no say in what is safe for me? I mean if there is a situation that one would have to walk down alone at 2 am in the morning in a short skirt, any sensible 18 years & above girl would turn down the prom. But we do have common sense and a capacity to make decisions. Hence we want to go when there is someone to drop us, and there is a private vehicle. But we cannot make the decision of what is safe for us, because our masters won’t allow it. It may sound harsh in this language but it is the truth. And it doesn’t matter whether we make the right decision or the wrong decision, but if it not ours, we are no good that the African bonded labourer. One makes decisions in life and some are really stupid, some sensible, but if one cannot make one’s life’s decisions, we are not allowed to live life on our terms and that is what slavery is !

2. Career path to choose – Disguise code – we wish the best for your future

Again, the masters are not aware that they are enslaving their child. This one is pretty much gender neutral. In fact, I would say boys are the slaves here in most cases. Parents have certain dreams and expectations about their child’s future and rightly so. And they should do their level best to guide them and advise them. Children should take the advise seriously. But what happens in India is that children are used as means of fulfilling the parent’s dreams, of making more money than the parents, and choosing the field that pays more than the one you really want to go in. Just like an African slave was used as a means to cut sugarcane so that they could be sold off and the master would earn the benefits. Even if you give the slave a bed to sleep, food to eat and throw birthday parties, it does not matter because he cannot choose not to cut the sugarcane. Can you choose not to cut the cane? Not to do an MBA but become a singer? Not to listen to the parent and still go for the prom night? Now I hear many say that since out parents have educated us, paid so much money for our education, livelihood, sacrificed their desires for us, we owe it to them. Now this directly falls under “Return on Investment transaction” Do we really want to reduce the pure parent-child relation to a ROI transaction. What the child will and should give is out of real respect earned and love present and not because of the investment. And he/she will give it after following his/her dream anyway. Parents don’t realize the coercion it places on a child when they force them to take up a particular career path. It is not free will. As Enrique puts it “Papa us to say your are a loser and you never gonna have what it takes, Mama use to say all that music you play ain’t gonna get you no where. But you gotta be yourself.”

3. Night-out with friends – Disguise code: Safety…and of course Sex..!!

This is the epitome of hypocrisy, double standards, senselessness and slavery ever seen. I do not know whether to mock this, make a sarcastic comment or simply be miserable about the state of affairs. But I think mocking would be better than to present it as the depressing truth it is. First the “night” gives the shock !! Imagine the background thriller music playing and the camera slowly closing up on your parent’s face. It is the “night” and “sleep” and at someone else’s place. Shock! Shock! Shock! “Are guys gonna be there?” “Yes mom”And there is a heart attack. Two sexually compatible individuals in one room? The color on the parents face is of a shade so horrible that nothing needs to be said any more. Now first, I think Indian parents have forgotten that human beings do not have a mating season, nor a specific mating time frame in the day. So FYI – it can be done in broad daylight. What is so special about night? When guys are there, there are gonna be sleeping in the other room. And by sleeping I mean “Closing the eyes and getting into a comatose state of mind” and not having sex. 

On a serious note though, I get it. The girl child is going to be at someone else’s place. And it may not be safe. But had the house been that of a family friend? Your parents know each other for quite sometime. Gotcha…!!! “Oh yes beta. And tell Sunil uncle hi and take the laddus no” Why is the reaction so different (Even if Sunil uncle has a son, sexually active of course – duh!) It is not you sleeping somewhere else. It is a matter of either of the 2 issues. One being they really don’t trust you and think you are gonna really spend the night underneath your boyfriend. Second, they do not trust your analysis of safety. Second is the case is most houses. It doesn’t matter if you know your friend (lets say the friend is “an abhorrent-teenage male gender”) since a few years now, you have seen how he cares for people, seen how he has helped you in your difficult times, how he heard your problems when your parents knew nothing about them. It doesn’t matter because until they have analysed the safety, he is, without euphemism, a deemed rapist until stamped otherwise by your parents. Same is the case with the girlfriend’s house. Their house and family members are rapists until stamped otherwise. Your decision, judgement, analysis is a nullity and then we complain that our parliament, corporate world don’t have enough women. We can smile and expect Chanda Kocher’s decision to be valued and put ads about the same, but don’t value our own daughter’s analysis and decision. Parents are valuable and their advise even more so. So if a father advises one not go to some place and gives one his thoughts about the matter, one would be a fool not to give it serious consideration and dwell on it. But if you do not have an option to reject the advise – you are a damn brown slave.


We are so blind that we do not see it. It may still be difficult for some to see it, or if seen, to acknowledge it. This slavery is sometimes extended to the heights of choosing a life partner for the girl child where no choice is given to her. (And here sleeping with a stranger is  not bad.) Though such cases are less in urban areas, but are not non-existent.

So ask yourself are if you a free animal who can make all the decisions in your life – right ones & wrong ones, learn from the wrong ones, take pride in the right ones. Or are you merely slaves, who are cared for, nurtured, fed, invested into for the future returns? Is the love and respect you give your parents adulterated with the inherent malice of slavery or is the love and respect pure and stands even when the fear and chain of slavery is removed.

When you say “I love you” to your parents, is it the followed by the so-called-rightful yet depressing “May I have the permission to…?”

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