The Curious Case of the Parent-Dependent Indian Millennial


The Curious Case of the Parent-Dependent Indian Millennial

Illustration: Sushant Ahire

My son is home for the summer and today he turns 20. When I thought of this adult milestone during his growing-up years, I had visions of him partying the night away and releasing the last of his teenage rebellion and angst, while I begged him to spend time with me. Instead we went to the temple, I made his favourite chole bhature, and then we watched Netflix together.

I thought of asking him when exactly he plans to get a life, but it was his birthday so I didn’t say anything. It struck me then: I seemed to have raised an adult, but a heavily parent-dependent one.

Except for their height and education, nothing has really changed about my now nearly grown-up kids. They still have to be reminded to go bathe, and once inside the bathroom, they have to be reminded to come out. They won’t even come to the table for dinner unless I send them a notarised invitation in triplicate – or turn off the Wi-Fi.  They respond to incentive and behave themselves under threat. They are essentially people with bodies of 20-year-olds and minds of five-year-olds.

I think I might be the one to blame.

It started innocently enough when they were toddlers. I planned their whole day for them including the time they should wake up in the morning and the time they should go to bed. I got to decide whether they would wear their green shirt or their blue one and how much TV they could watch in a day. I set up a nice little routine for them and after a few years, I turned into that dreaded beast: the helicopter parent.

Even when they move away, technology has played its part in keeping those umbilical cords firmly attached. Weekly calls have given way to several dozen messages a day, detailing every aspect of their lives.

It worked really well when they were kids who had to be controlled but the problem is they grew up to depend on that control. They still need to be told when to get up, when to go to sleep, and whether they should wear the green or the blue shirt. They also need to be told that they should become more independent on a regular basis. They politely agree to this before taking a sip of the hot chocolate and onion bhajis that I made for them and go back to binge-watching The Office.

My kids have turned into those dreaded brats: dependent millennials.

Veere Di Wedding was a perfect example for this kind of specimen. The media might scream hoarse that it was a movie about empowerment of women, but all I could see in the movie were grown-up brats with indulgent parents (except Kareena who had an indulgent Uncle) running back home when life got tough. It was really a movie about the Indian millennial with overprotective parents who will do anything to make their kids’ lives perfect.

It’s no different in real life. We’re seeing a generation that is not particularly keen to move out of their parents’ homes because they get all the freedom and the financial support that the previous generation didn’t get from their parents. Even if they do move away from their parents, they are not averse to asking the old folks for tax advice, love advice, or cash to buy a car or go on a holiday. They don’t mind their parents being involved in every aspect of their lives; independence is overrated. The Indian millennial has discovered that a single room shared by three friends might look glamorous on screen but it’s really no match for their parents’ home where the food is free, laundry fresh-smelling, and electricity 24X7.

Even when they move away, technology has played its part in keeping those umbilical cords firmly attached. Weekly calls have given way to several dozen messages a day, detailing every aspect of their lives. I am frequently messaged in the middle of the night by the older one, who studies abroad, asking me where his blue jacket might be. I know it’s in the top drawer because I told him to put it there.

The Indian millennial has come full circle. They like the idea of independence and marrying for love, but they will not elope or go against their parents’ wishes because they want that four-day destination wedding with the cocktails, sangeet, mehendi, and the honeymoon in Bali that only their financially secure, kid-obsessed, helicopter parents can provide. These kids will not sacrifice to prove a point. They want the 10-kilo lehenga and the barely-there cocktail dress. They want the bachelor party and the Satya Narayan Katha. They want the career, the kids, their social life and their me-time which isn’t possible without a solid support system. They are not averse to moving back with their parents to have it all and their helicopter folks are only too happy to indulge them.

Strangely enough, their dependency rarely upsets me. I know their behaviour can be perceived as immature but, deep down, it is what every helicopter parent desires: kids who constantly need them. Forever and ever.

It’s why Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are a wasted concept in India. Who needs a day dedicated to a parent when the kids never let you forget that you are their mommy and daddy? Psychologists might label it an unhealthy symbiotic relationship that feeds on each other’s neediness, but who cares?

It might be unhealthy, but at least this way I might never experience the empty nest syndrome because most probably, my kids will be needing me until they are 50.

While, the idea of spending my sons 30th birthday following the Netflix-and-temple routine, scares the hell out of me, I have no time to dwell on it right now. He’s calling me urgently. I have to go kill a cockroach in his bedroom.