So I managed to get sucked into the spectacle that is Indian Matchmaking. I have many thoughts about the show and its participants, but I just some things to say about Akshay’s situation.
For those that are unfamiliar with the show, Indian Matchmaking shows the process of arranged marriage for individuals in India and the United States. One of these marriage seekers is Akshay, who lives in in India. Or should I say, Akshay’s mom.
Akshay’s mom is extremely controlling and exhibits the behaviors of a typical emotionally-blackmailing parent who will try to make their children– mind you, adult children– feel guilty for not doing exactly what they want their children to do. This case in particular is marriage.
Akshay is 25 and it is obvious that he doesn’t feel comfortable with getting married– at least not yet, and not in the rushed kind of way that his mom is imposing on him. Askshay expresses multiple times that he wants to take time to get to know the person he’s going to spending his life with, and that he isn’t super happy about the idea of being rushed into marrying someone before actually getting to know them.
But being the big momma’s boy that he is (and it’s to a level of cringe– he even at one point says that he looks for his mom in his future wife– ick!)– Akshay seeks to appease his mother by at least being a part of this whole arranged matchmaking thing. And I’m not saying that arranged marriages themselves are bad– as long as the two people getting married are actually comfortable and consenting, and not pressured or forced into the marriage.
Preeti, Akshay’s mother, didn’t like the fact that Akshay was taking it slower than she wanted. She kept crying about how her blood pressure was rising and how she was having health problems because of him. Specifically because of him not saying yes to a girl yet.
Like girl, aunty– hold up– your son is not at fault for increasing your blood pressure. That is your own fault. Maybe instead of acting all entitled to your son’s life and autonomy, you can stop and treat your son with some respect and recognize that he’s an adult individual who has every right to decide who he wants to marry and when he wants to marry. Your feelings of entitlement are your own fault.
Preeti being his parent, being his mother, of course warrants some degree of respect, generally speaking. But expecting your child to sacrifice their autonomy to you, thinking that you are entitled to making decisions for your child’s life– that isn’t fulfillment of respect. That’s an abuse of your child’s emotions, a way to take advantage of them– it’s a means for control.
Unfortunately, this isn’t an uncommon theme throughout desi culture. When grown up desi offspring or desi youth don’t fulfill desires that their parents want them to fulfill, emotional blackmail and gaslighting are two common tactics that parents use to guilt-trip their kids into following what their parents lay out for them. For example, if a kid decides not to follow their parents’ plan for them to be a doctor or an engineer, the parents might say “I’m going to get a heart attack and die because of the stress that you’re causing me. Then you are going to regret it,” or “you are going to regret disrespecting me when I die.” The parents try to make the child feel responsible for their own lack of acceptance and approval– they just get upset that things aren’t going their way, with little to no consideration or acknowledgement of the fact that it’s their child’s life and that their child is the one who is entitled to decide what to do with it.
Another common theme related to this emotional blackmail is desi parents equating disagreement with disrespect. Many desi parents expect that their kids are going to agree with every philosophy and outlook they have, and if their kids don’t agree, then their parents accuse them of not only being “wrong,” but also bringing dishonor and being disrespect toward them and their traditions.
Why is it so offensive in desi culture for offspring to have minds of their own? Why do desi parents feel so insecure when their children don’t agree with them, and why do they view such disagreements as an insult? And where does this feeling of entitlement that they have the right to make major life decisions for their children come from?
Desi parents need to remember that their children are people– they raise them not to keep them as if they are extensions of themselves, not as if they own their children or parts of their life and the right to make decisions for their children. The value of respecting elders is traditional, and I do agree that generally speaking, elders do deserve respect– but respect isn’t what desi parents like Preeti are asking for.
They’re exploiting respect, and using it to manipulate their children so that they can control them well into adulthood. They’re taking advantage of their children’s vulnerability to get them to do what they want.
Another example is when desi parent’s children marry someone that they disapprove on, with the reasons being that their chosen spouse is from a different cultural background. The parents will often use those same emotional blackmail tactics such as telling their children that they’re going to die because of them or even threaten to kill themselves because of their children.
What’s interesting to me is that “respect” is so emphasized for elders, but in that process, little to no respect is given toward those who are younger.
And that’s pretty messed up.
Of course, this doesn’t apply only to desi parents and desi culture. It’s not uncommon for children to be seen, but not heard. And of course, not all desi parents are like this and for every situation. Desi parents are also very loving and very loyal to their children– but this love often comes at a huge price. It’s common enough that it’s a problem. It’s a problem that needs to be addressed and tackled and changed for the better.
And there are even more problems with this show that I’m going to address further, in addition to what I saw in Akshay’s situation. Preeti basically expects the bride to be a housewife-servant to her son, and to her even. But like I said, that’s a story for another post.