Saturday, October 01, 2011

In the middle of a storm

Most young people these days are on a collision course with their parents, and find it difficult to choose a suitable career and the right partner for marriage

Photo: Clinical psychologist Loney Jacob

By Shevlin Sebastian

Neeta Pillai belongs to an affluent family in Kochi. For her masters in mass communication, she went to the University of California, Los Angeles. In a free and casual environment, Neeta indulged in sex and drugs. “I have to say that I enjoyed myself,” she tells counsellor Shirin Kutty. “In fact, for a while I got addicted.”

When she recently returned home, she was surprised to discover that her friends were into parties and taking hashish with boyfriends. “I don't think they are into sex, although I cannot say for sure,” she says. As her parents begin to look for a marriage alliance, Neeta is skeptical about finding a suitable man. “I am sure he is going to be narrow-minded and conservative,” she says.

The more Shirin meets young people, the more she insists on talking to their parents. “I am always advising the elders on finding the right person for their children,” she says. “When you give so much of freedom and good education to youngsters, parents have to listen to them when it comes to the choice of marriage partner.”

She says that children are keen to tell their parents about whom they like and don't. There should be an open dialogue. It is not that children are correct all the time. A parent can also be right. “But they need to bring their wisdom and listen to their children's views, and develop a mutual understanding,” says Shirin. “Parents should see whether two people are compatible for marriage and not two families.”

Most of the time, parents tend to ignore their children's wishes, put too much pressure, and force the youngsters to get married to the people they have selected. “There is a strong likelihood of the marriage failing,” Shirin says.

Apart from wrong marriage partners, clinical psychologist Loney Jacob says that most youngsters feel they have made an erroneous choice of profession. “They are forced to become engineers or doctors, and are unable to do what they have the passion for,” she says.

The insistence on the part of parents that children should have a good education is understandable, because India is not a rich country and there are not too many opportunities. “Parents tend to be practical,” says Loney. “Unfortunately, because of their inflexible attitude, there are a lot of young adults in their late twenties who are unsuited for their jobs as doctors, and chartered accountants. In fact, they feel like failures. They want to start off in another career, but it may be too late. They are already 26 or 28.”

By this time, parents start putting pressure on them to get married. “I counsel young people to look at the pros and cons,” she says. “I encourage them to introspect and find out what they would like to do.”

Interestingly, despite their anguish, children do not blame their parents at all. “They know that their fathers and mothers want the best for them,” says Loney. “In fact, most are worried because they know that their parents, who have spent lakhs of rupees on their education, will be shocked if they opt for another profession.”

Of course, it is another matter that Indians are passive by nature and unwilling to take risks. “That is why youngsters will undergo five years of torture during their professional courses, lacking the courage to opt out, and try something else,” says Loney.

What is adding to the torment of young people is the conservativeness of Kerala society. “There is no healthy interaction between boys and girls,” she says. “In most colleges, they are not allowed to talk to each other. If they do so, parents and college authorities immediately assume it could lead to sex or elopement or marriage. That is why it is so necessary to have freedom. You have to allow youngsters to understand what relationships are like. You have to allow them to experience life.”

Not surprisingly, most of the students who come to counselling to Loney after Class 12 have a tremendous urge to go outside the state to study. “They want to breathe the air of freedom,” she says. “I would urge parents to look at things from the youngster's perspective, instead of trying to ram down their views all the time.”

(Some names have been changed)

(The New Indian Express, Kerala)