I bring in two smouldering cups of Indian tea I had just freshly made, fully infused with a tad too much cardamom, and I give one to my grandmother. She asks me to sit down beside her and as I do, she grabs hold of my right hand and says these few words that continue to make me giggle, even whilst writing this article!
“Ravi, do you have a boyfriend?”
I did not know whether to laugh or to be serious, and without spitting my tea in the most flamboyant display, I say “no” which is then followed by my grandmother explaining the needs of finding a boy at university to potentially marry in the future.
I’m nearly 20 – marriage is the farthest thing from my mind at this stage of life! My head is full of coursework deadlines and Shakespeare quotes, not the checklist of what I want in my future husband! I was shocked at my grandmother asking me this quite frankly embarrassing question, however what is most shocking is how she is accepting of her granddaughter to have a boyfriend within our Punjabi society. I remember the days where bringing friends of the opposite sex home was frowned upon. Have the older generations’ views changed within these few short decades? If so, how? And why?
If we divulge into the experiences my aunts had whilst growing up in the 80s and 90s, there is a stark difference! My aunts were only allowed to talk to girls their age when they were with their parents, they had a curfew before midnight and absolutely no boyfriends. When attending university, my grandparents had no intention of advising them to find a boy – study was the only thing on their minds. Marriage came later and even then it was through ‘introductions’ that were most common between families (introductions: where two families arrange their son or daughter to meet with the hope of a proposal between them). Once their children were married, that’s it! Done and dusted, they can now sit back, relax and watch some god-awful Asian TV dramas. But then the grandchildren come…
It was now time for my parents to bring me up, in a much more westernised-Punjabi society: my primary school was engrossed with multiculturalism; I am allowed to have friends that are boys; I can stay out late (but not too late); and most importantly, I have the freedom to have a boyfriend if I so choose, but only if I know I want a future with him.
Where has this increase in freedom for us young Punjabis come from? Are our parents cooler? We know that’s not true, my Dad still does the ‘Embarrassing Dad Dance’ at parties! The truth is that a lot of our parents are becoming our friends and not just an elder who dictates our lives with rules. Parents want to protect you, love you, but also lead you on the right path in life. And above all they want you to be happy. After talking to my family, they all expressed their concerns of hearing horror-stories of other children running away from their families because they were constantly dictated upon. Now our parents want to listen and learn like us; give the appropriate amount of freedom where we are liberated to do what we want, within reason, and learn from our mistakes.
However, you may be reading this article thinking ‘Hey! I’m not allowed to date!” Well the unfortunate truth is that our families are not all as accepting as each other. Speaking to a number of my friends their views were indistinguishable; their common views were that their parents want them to focus on study and finding a good career prior to finding a partner. Having a stable career is what many of us want and would achieve in an ideal world, however who is to say that the right boy or girl will not come along whilst you’re studying? Another reason may be ‘reputation’, a concept I had touched upon in a previous article (Girls V Boys). Parents do not want their children to create a bad reputation for themselves and the family, a concept completely out-dated and futile in this day and age. They feel that if their son or daughter is dating, other actions in their relationships may follow or rumours would start and spread within the community. Trust is needed between a parent and a child and it is a shame that not all parents are as trusting towards their children, and vice versa.
My father’s and aunt’s younger years were poles-apart compared to mine and something all of our parents have in common is the need to give us an upbringing much happier than theirs. And our grandparents just have to go with the flow! Most of our grandparents are accepting of the ‘new world’ where technology is named after fruit, Bhangra can be danced by girls (yes!) and we can find our own partners. My grandmother is more of a friend to me than a bibi loving her chaa and ‘Veera’ drama; she wants me to lead a happy life, and isn’t that how we all want to live our lives… happy?