What do Indian parents want?

Answer by Vivek Mohan:

Man, this thread is by far the most lop sided version of reality I have seen. If I were a non-Indian reading this thread, I would visualize Indian parents as heartless taskmasters who are hell bent on crushing their child's dreams. Wouldn't it just be nice if parents just let their kids vegetate in front of their laptops, hang out in bars, pick their fashion designing or literature courses and become poor but satisfied art historians and film critics.

A few thoughts:

  1. We (the 80s and 90s generation) are the 'baby boomer' generation of India and it is important to place our role in historical context. Indian parents want their kids to have a better deal than they did. They want their kids to be able to afford a nice house, a car, live a good life and balance it with a nice family. Barring a privileged few, ~99% of the parents of the current generation couldn't have afforded all of the above in their time. Jobs weren't as easily available or lucrative as they are today. In the first 3 years post-MBA, I earned more than my dad did all his life.
  2. I don't understand why people consider it crazy that their parents would want them to pick a professional course? There simply aren't enough career options out there that guarantee a reasonable earnings flow. Actually barring professions (engineers, doctors, lawyers, accountants), the job market for other roles (economics, arts, sports, history etc) is still nascent in India. If you want to start up your own company, I am sure a college degree is a bare minimum requirement for employees or investors to take you seriously (unless you are an IIT dropout). If you are blaming your parents for your inability to start a company you really have no business starting a business anyway.
  3. While success in tournament style fields like sports, entertainment or start ups (winner takes all) is highly recognized and rewarded, the probability of success is negligible. In all probability, your start-up will fail, you will not play for India and Shah Rukh Khan won't know your name. Unless you are from a privileged background, putting all your chips into the probability of your success in a tournament is a bad idea. It would take a bad or a delusional parent to allow you to put your future livelihood at stake on your teenage whims (unless you are spectacularly talented).
  4. While forced marriages are a curse of our society, it is unfortunate that it is being mixed up with the good old arranged marriage. Today's urban marriage process has evolved into a system of arranged dates, from what was earlier a 'meet once and marry in a month' to a long drawn 6-12 month process wherein the guys and the girls get enough time and also have a clear veto on the process. The system has worked well for all supremely urban/well travelled/modern couples I know and I wouldn't be able to tell them apart from the 'love marriage' couples. And unless you are a rural Indian, arranged marriage is a very good backup option and a responsible parent would encourage you to keep it alive.

Indian dads are among the most committed and exhausted men around, carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. I haven't heard of many dads who have chosen the easy way out by abandoning their kids. Similarly Indian moms will sacrifice their happiness and peace of mind to get their sons/daughters ashore.

Behind every Indian student who burnt the midnight oil are a set of parents who bore through the crazy test prep courses, prepared countless cups of midnight tea and spent hours in queues and temples to help their kids get the best opportunities that they never had. Behind every reluctant bride is a scared to death mother, praying that her daughter has a great life and a financially stretched dad, who will have trouble sleeping for the next 3-4 years.

What do Indian parents want?


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