Friday, August 03, 2012

Cycle of Life

For the past few weeks, I have been feeling this need to state a very core belief of mine. I have decided to succumb to that urge.I am not sure if I can state it well. But there is no harm in trying. This is what I want to say.

A person who willfully behaves in way that causes his/her parents, especially the mother, to experience (a) utter shame and embarrassment,  (b) enormous heart burn and emotional suffering upon seeing/hearing about the actions of their offspring to the point where they feel that they have failed as a parent, (c) emotional trauma as a result of verbal abuse (by the son/daughter) (d) poverty, isolation or loneliness as a result of dereliction of duty by children to take care of their parents during their old age (e) poor health or inability to satisfy very basic needs (at an old age or earlier)  as a result of dereliction of duty by their son/daughter (f) tangible or intangible loss of parent-child connection that is not repaired unto death ; Such a person will not prosper well in life and will have the same or worse fate befall them when they reach their old age (I don't mean this as a curse or wishful thinking - i intend it as a statement/conclusion).

Most parents will never wish bad things for their children even if the said parent/children combo fall in above category. Many parents may counter-intuitively offer blessings as a response to the situation. But I feel that even if the parent(s) are forgiving, it  is ultimately immaterial to the fate of the children.

Post Script:

1. Sometimes in this blog, I do willfully state a conclusion of mine without sound argumentation. When I do so - it is because I feel I can intuitively connect whatever little argumentation I have to the conclusion I want to state. Under such circumstances, I do not write the extensive reasoning and make a clear connection between my assumptions, argumentation and conclusion because I do not have the time/patience/skill/methods/environment to do so. And most if not all those  instances where I have done this were in the realm of time-pass things like general conversational logic or entertainment or cricket. 

2. The above is a core-conclusion of mine that I have held for a while but I do not have any argumentation or assumption to back it up. I also do not consider as arising out of my religious affiliations (although one can claim that religion offers similar conclusions and i have seen texts where it does). In my case this purely arises out of what I think is a standard level of intuition any individual is bound to have when they get an opportunity to make 20 years of observation in a rather large extended family and circle of friends. The need to state it now came about because a distant relative of mine died in the last 20 days. I guess when people cannot put down the argumentation in words they tend to term it as 'belief'. 

3. Some may feel this is very obvious. Some may think this is very old school. Regardless, I found this to be true in most if not all instances.

4. There are no exclusions or exceptions that I feel the urge to call out to the above stated conclusion. One cannot quantify  the extent of hurt caused to parents.  Most people assume this pertains to children's marriage decisions, which is true most of the times but not all of the times. Some assume this includes career decisions. Some assume this includes children living in foreign country while parents live in Indian old age homes. While, I feel that no parent will die in shame because their son chose engineering over MBBS - I'll leave the reader to draw whatever conclusions they see fit.

5. There is an obvious element of recursion here which we will reserve for another post another day.

6. I believe the converse to be true, assuming other necessary/sufficient conditions are met.


Anonymous said...

Brilliant stuff!

Chandan said...

completely agree (taking care of parents part). If what goes around comes around is true. That is, we suffer the same consequence, if our parents have a heart burn because of our actions. Will that also imply that they are suffering because there parents had a heart burn because of them. Looking forward to your next post.

Chandan said...

If my argument is true, how to end this vicious cycle. By not having kids ? It all boils down to expectation. I don't know how I would think when I become a father. But I strongly believe not to expect them(our kids) to look after us when we are old. Parenting is about raising a child to be a good human being and not to expect any thing in return. Then the things might fall into place.

Anonymous said...

Most of the Tam Brahmins have left for the US and left their parents in Old Age Homes. I have personally seen so many cases.

Anonymous said...

arent you just stating the theory of karma?

Anonymous said...

I'll take care of my parents and in-laws when they are older, because they spent their entire lives with the expectation that their kids will take care of them; in fact, in India in those days, that was one of the main reasons to have a child - and people who did not have kids were looked upon with pity as it was assumed no one would take care of them in their senior years. I guess our generation is different; we don't want to have kids just to ensure a retirement policy; I will never ever expect my daughter to take care of me when i am older. I will happily be in a retirement home. But that is a generational thing. I am not sure about all the karma talk. Is it fair to bring a child into this terrible world, force them to study a certain way, marry a certain way, have kids at certain ages etc etc etc just so that they will do something for you in return later?

Hawk Eye said...


i find your views asymmetrical. That you consider duty to include parents helping out children when they dont have the mental/physical sufficiency to survive on their own but exclude the reverse.

Anush said...

Nice post and I agree with most of it. Argumentation to back it up: your children grow up seeing how you treat your parents and to them that is 'normal' and that's how they're going to treat you when you get old...children are much better at imitating their parents than doing what they are told to do. Plus your thoughts have a lot of power and if they revolve around insulting and treating your parents poorly, you will inevitably gravitate towards similar situations as you become a prisoner of your thoughts. When you get old, you may either subconsciously respond in the same way your parents did (you as a child imitating your parents) or even if you are very conscious, you'll be constantly trying to prevent yourself from getting into that situation, but that itself may sufficiently ensure that you get into it (the difference between 'not losing' and 'gaining'). This is how the vicious cycle continues.

But you pointed out that most parents never wish bad things for their children. They probably don't - but there is a saying that "the road to hell is paved with good intentions". To give an extreme example, you might have heard of helicopter (overprotective) parents who can't stand the slightest discomfort or suffering their child goes through - while they do it with good intentions, there is no worse way to psychologically ruin their kids, their self esteem and confidence. Plus, with some awareness and realization on the parents' part, it is possible to avoid/minimize the shame, heartburn and diseases you talked about. I am not saying the children are exempt from these duties, but rather the parents do contribute to some of it.

Thought provoking post...

Karikala Cholan said...


Your points

(a) utter shame and embarrassment, (b) enormous heart burn and emotional suffering upon seeing/hearing about the actions of their offspring to the point where they feel that they have failed as a parent,

become complicated when we take a specific case - love marriage.

Take the case of a girl who falls in love, grows because of it, feels this is the man to live with and goes to her parents. If parents cite A) "utter shame and embarrassment" that they need to undergo to accept for this marriage
B) the "enormous heart burn and emotional suffering" they went through "upon seeing/hearing about the" love and subsequent request to get married to the man of her choice "of their offspring" and they feel day-in and day-out "that they have failed as a parent"

-Are these justified on the part of the parents?

This is self-inflicted nonsense on the part of the parents. You do mention "A person who willfully", where willfully is the keyword. A girl never willfully falls in love to cause her parents a) and b), but consider the spin the society and parents themselves make out of it.

If at all, you should write a counter-balancing post on your P.S "I believe the converse to be true, assuming other necessary/sufficient conditions are met." This will bring out the nonsense some parents indulge in - How they sometimes "willfully" spoil their children's life in the name of caste, societal pressure etc.

This post is in black and being the person you are, do bring out something in grey.

Hawk Eye said...

karikala cholan,

ha ha! You are so barking up the wrong tree. i didnt write the post for things like 'love marriage'. but later realized it could be interpreted like that and so mentioned it in post script.

regarding that 'love marriage' topic. i dont have anything against love marriage. And dont consider is as inferior or superior to arranged marriage. in that i dont think people who do arranged marriages are neccesarily most dutiful children neither do i think people who do love marriages are most romantic and understanding. its a mixed world an anyone can be anywhere in the spectrum.

but i dont drink the youth kool aid about parental approval and love marriage. i cant say with any degree of honesty that going against wishes of parents on this is okay. to your question. yes, it is justified on part of the parents. and yes, it is wilflful on part of the girl/boy.

what i wrote about includes these sort of dissapointments as well. bottomline is you have been born with such parents who think it is a enormous dissapointment. that is who you are. so no pointing telling them what they should think is and is not important to their lives. lets just say that we have to agree to disagree on several matters you have mentioned. The self-inflicted nonsense works both ways.

anyway i dont want this to turn into a debate on love marriage, parental approval for this. i am not anti-caste as well. i am just anti-discrimination. i think caste is (okay 'was') a valuable concept. just often misinterpreted by people who try to misuse it.

when i said "I believe the converse to be true" the direction I was going was if a person does not willfully hurt his parents and does the opposite (i.e. take good care of them/respects them) good things will happen to that person.

Ganesh said...

Ahaa ! someone who brought this up finally !! I totally disagree with this theory of 'doing as one would expect it to be done to him/her'. It is a highly misplaced logic utilized by insecure social constructs to ensure security. I can think of enough instances in different situations to bring up arguments for and against the above mentioned thesis, precisely why, it falls short to be a good moral.

I know that u have mentioned that for topics like this, u wouldnt want to breakdown and study the logical inference, but albeit that critical procedure, it becomes merely a whim and an intuition (like u hav put it) - which can work both ways.

Murali said...

Doesn't the fact that the parent suffers from his/her children, prove that the parent deserves this, since according to your conclusion, the parent must have done something similar to their parents? So, the child is actually helping the law of Karma find its course. And in this sense, the child must not be punished for his/her effort to bring a balance to their parent's life.

I know mine was a insensitive take.

Chandan's take is interesting, about 'Expectation'.
Most of middle-income parents of my previous generation have put in all their resources, and even have taken loans, in the expectation that their kids will take care of them in the old age. The kids were aware of this and in agreement have accepted this, and got educated. So, the agreement was mutual, and even though not written down legally is implicit. By not taking care of their parents, they have violated their agreement and must suffer. They may suffer exactly the same consequence as their parents, because they have shown the way to their kids.

Either plan for your retirement selfishly or hope the kids will take care in good faith. Tough choice for an Indian parent.

Anonymous said...

Perfectly aggree with Murali.

The current indian parent is in the worst of times. Older generations had "Live for ur children and you will live for you". In future, it will be "Leave ur children once they become considerably independent(as it is in west today)".

Current generation(esp girls want to live like this, atleast they say so) is like "Live for ur parents as well as your children, until they land in job(even till marriage, but dont expect anything in future!! :(

Tough luck, india-residing youth of today! :(

Anonymous said...

Perfectly aggree with Murali.

The current indian parent is in the worst of times. Older generations had "Live for ur children and they will live for you". In future, it will be "Leave ur children once they become considerably independent(as it is in west today)".

Current generation(esp girls want to live like this, atleast they say so) is like "Live for ur parents as well as your children, until they land in job(even till marriage, but dont expect anything in future!! :(

Tough luck, india-residing youth of today! :(

Hawk Eye said...

chandan, murali and others who are restating the recursion element i mentioned in post script #5. i disagree that fulfilling/delivering karma of parents exempts the child from anything.

stating this reflects a poor understanding of recursion on your part. i dont know how else to explain this as within the constructs of this post - its is very straight forward. if the parent is neglected by their child in their old age, it could mean that the said parent did the same thing when they were a child. etc etc

Anonymous said...

Most people troll other people's blogs. You, Hawkeyesaar, troll your own blog.

Murali said...

On a very broad level, there are 2 schools of thought.

1. Life has a meaning, and everything happens due to an intention (different from cause).

2. Life in itself does not have a meaning. One is free to associate meaning/value to anything one does. And, somethings happen, not necessarily with an intention to happen.

The first ones identify with fate, religion etc. Here, if a earth-quake kills somebody it is the intention of nature (or somebody) to punish the evil.

The second ones identify with freewill etc. Here, if a hurricane kills somebody, it is purely chance. We, in general, may be responsible by causing excessive environmental damage. But, definitely there is no intention of doing it.

I may suffer a bad old-age, even though I took good care of my parents, and vice-versa. My future is a chance, not always due to my past. There may happen many things for which I cannot take the guilt-trip back to my past.

But as a society, there is high chance that we all suffer loneliness in old age, if it is OK to leave ones parents. And, there is high chance that we do not suffer that, if it is not OK to leave ones parents.

I whole-heartedly agree with your intention of taking care of the parents in old age, but not with your reasoning or scare for it.

Idling said...


Your assumption that most parents hold the welfare of their children in high regard & so it should be reciprocated seems a bit too simplistic. There are multiple schools of thought on parenthood in India that run from "I gave birth to you and so you're my property for life" to "I will do anything it takes to give my children a better life."

More often than not, the latter PoV is held by middle-class and a growing number of lower class families who seek some level of social progress. Most of what you'd call Indian values hardly exist outside of this demographic.

E.g., new born children are discarded in dumpsters or sold to beggar gangs just the same as old grandparents were deserted at temples. Children are beaten to death after simple arguments between spouses, and grandparents are killed for insurance money or kept barely alive for their pension. Just grandparents are admonished for being a burden, children are raised being told everyday that they are a burden and the bane of their parents' lives. Some people even don't try as hard as they can to save their children needing expensive medical procedures arguing, "it's only a child, we can have another one!" while some excommunicated children take care of their once awful parents in their old age. So, one size does not fit all.

That said, I think one who doesn't seek to reciprocate any benefit he has received from the largesse of others (including his parents) is not an ethical man and karma will catch up with him.

Aside, there's a PoV that says if you intend to have children, then you've made a choice and should bear the costs of its welfare as mandated by law, but a child being born has made no such choice to be born, and hence is absolved of any mandatory costs. My issue with this logic is that it doesn't take into account the extra effort that many parents put in, which then needs to be rewarded at least in spirit.

Hawk Eye said...


I never proposed that fear of lonliness at old age must cause someone to be afraid and so take care of parents.

fear is actually a very pathetic reason to get into religion of parental care. so we are on the same page there. But dont understand where you got the idea that I was suggesting fear as a motivation.

i have not written any post with an intention of converting someone to my line of thought. This is to express what I think. If it resonates with the reader then fine. if not - fine as well.

i believe in option 1 which is mutually exlusive with your option 2 (which technically is termed 'existentialism').

/* I may suffer a bad old-age, even though I took good care of my parents, and vice-versa */

in addition to post script #6. i can add that i think what happens to you has a very causal relationship with what you did in the past.

Anonymous said...

Take the movie Arangetram. The way the story unfolds will throw a monkey wrench in the whole argument. But then again, Lalitha does lose her mind in the end.

Anonymous said...

I heard the story of a situation in the family where the parents are being abandoned due to health issues by their children, 4 in number, and are fighting among themselves within the earshot of their parents. I know this sounds clich├ęd. What the parents have done is that they sold a house in a posh locality in Bangalore and shared the money with their children 'expecting' them to look after them. Actually the children looked after them willingly, taking all the help from their parents - help in the household work, help with grandchildren etc. - but now since they are not able to "add value" no one wants to look after them. This is similar to the cases you have written isn't it?

The current generation might feel that the parents were foolish to sell their house. Generation gap is touted to be the reason for such differences. But can that be the only argument "for" the children and “against” parents in this case? Humanity, anyone?

I walked out of my house in the morning today disturbed with this situation and convincing myself that "what goes around comes around" and I see your post. I don’t need arguments for or against what you have is purely my instinct which makes me believe that what you have written is true. One of those readers who identified with this post. Thank you for voicing your thoughts!
- RN

Anonymous said...

My parents are probably among the worst category in parents .Abusive liars with no regard for their only child's welfare , demoralizing , jealous ,vindictive .
They need not have even spent money on my education or my marriage but they tried to not get me married because I was working and they wanted my salary !
thanks to my grandparents insistence I got married and became an NRI.
My visit this time was so horrible with them , my desire 2 R2i has gone down the drain .Women need mom more importantly after marriage but mine will always be the monster who thought of me as a rival and a competetion...but for what ?
What do you do with such abusive persons how many times do we orgive them and for what ..when all they have done is give birth to you !