Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Money, Indian parents and a sense of entitlement

" Na biwi na baccha na baap bada na bhaiyya,
   The whole thing is that ,
   Ke bhaiyya sabse bada rupaiyya"
Translation : 'Nor your wife, kid, father or brother, is as important as money' !!
Wait a minute, this isn't some new age philosophy I'm spitting out, it's a famous bollywood song from the 70's.
It's a satirical song which describes how money is taking precedence over relationships in modern times .

Indians have a very peculiar attitude towards money in general. We belong to a basically poor country, we grow up seeing poverty all around us, naked, hungry kids roaming the streets, poor, homeless people begging, are all a common sight in almost any place . This kind of puts a fear of sorts towards money and wealth in our minds, fear in the sense of wanting to protect what we have . I'm mainly talking of middle class working Indians here, I don't have the perspective of the rich of India, since I'm not one, and don't know anyone who belongs to that category .
This does not mean that other cultures don't want to protect their money, but Indian's take it to a whole another level . Budgeting, saving and all are very important values that are instilled in Indian kids growing up from very early on.
There's a hindi saying that goes ' Chadar dekh ke pair failao' ( stretch your feet only as long as the sheets/covers go) which is meant to imply that one should try to stay within their means . Most indians live by this . This kind of behaviour once learnt, rarely goes away . I see many Indians who live abroad, and they even though are well-off financially, will still be dedicated to save every dime, this is why Indians usually get termed as misers or stingy.
There's another reason why Indians focus on saving so much is culturally they have obligations to fulfill, towards their parents and kids . It's not just limited to raising and kids and providing for their needs, in most middle class households, it means that parents will fully fund their kids' education, no matter how expensive, and their weddings, in addition they may have to look after their aging parents, even if they aren't physically near them (say in another country), they still have to provide money for their needs, and fund illnesses if any.
 Now, why is it that Indian's have a cultural obligation towards providing for their kids and parents ??
Well, the answer lies in the old practice of the Hindu Undivided Family or (HUF) . Traditionally, hindus especially lives in joint families, where brother's and their wives and their kids and their parents all lived together as one unit. if you click on the link , you'll get more information, but in a nutshell, it's a practice, where individual incomes and wealth is pooled together and combined as the families wealth . It then gets distributed down to the next generation, until recently women weren't included in this inheritance, which is what initially gave way to the practice of dowry ( will share my thoughts on dowry in another post ) , in those days dowry was a way to give the girl her share of the property. But now, the courts have included the female child as an equal stake holder in the property, and she gets an equal share to the son/s.
Even  though in modern times, this practice is all but gone, the mentality does still continue, of the wealth being that of the family, and not just the individual, this even though most of the people have self-earned wealth and very little to nothing that's inherited . Indian parents continue to think that everything they have/own/possess, belongs to their children eventually, and the children have a right over it. Parents consider expenses such as education, wedding, even housing for their children as their expenses, their responsibilities.
Grand parents telling their grand kids that everything they have is theirs (i.e the grand kids') isn't an uncommon thing to hear. My own mom , if I get on her about spending too much on me or my daughter, replies, well, who is all this for ??
It's not an uncommon thing for some parents to buy a piece of property or house for their kids, when they get married, infact some parents do so to be modern, or show that they are broad -minded, like showing, that they don't expect their son and his new wife, to move in with them, and are okay with them setting up their own separate household.
As a matter of fact my own in-laws recently purchased another home, a few years back, they said they were doing it as an investment, and were gonna rent it out, but instead my BIL has moved into that house ( my BIL is a whole another topic, so more on that in a different post) , and he isn't paying them any rent, and infact they even pay for the utilities on that house as well...have tried talking to them, but it's in vain...:(  . They throw the same old line in our face, "it's gonna be his eventually, anyway, so what does it matter if he's living in it ?" UGhh....
My mom has 2 close friends, both of whom helped out their kids with their homes, 1st one, bought another flat right in their building, where their only son and his wife could live after marriage, the other gave their son $100,000 or 50 lakh rupees to buy a flat, he took a loan for some amount, and got himself a sweet pad in central Mumbai. I mean I can go on and on about such stories, the point is that it isn't at all uncommon to find cases like these .
I know people who have taken loans for their kids education, the children taking a student loan on their own in unheard of, except of some cases, where the kids go abroad to study, and know they'll be making good money after graduating, enough to pay off the loan soon . 
 There's a an unwanted side-effect of this practice, many a times the kids grow up with a sense of entitlement, thinking it's their parents' duty to provide for them, including funding education, weddings, and homes etc. It's all taken for granted, with no gratitude to the parents for this.
I really never realized that there are countries/cultures in the world where parents didn't/didn't have to pay for everything , until I moved out of India. Now, I do see the drawbacks in the practice as well, whereas earlier I looked at it from an angle that, people choose to have kids, so they should pay for them .
I consciously try to be aware of this as i'm trying to raise my daughter (even though she's way too young right now) . Also, when possible, I try talking to people back home, giving them my perspective on this issue, but most of the times, my views are looked at as too radical, so I back off sometimes. I do however, see some change in the attitudes of my contemporaries, so slowly but surely there is a shift in mindset occurring, whether it will be enough to raise a generation of Indians who don't find anything wrong with running to mom/dad for money issues...only time will tell...


  1. Sometimes, parents use money to control children as well. Kinda like 'I'm paying for your university/flat/living expenses so therefore, you should marry a spouse of my choosing.' Luckily, my parents aren't like that and they have helped me financially with university and living expenses. But my 'shopping' money came from my own earning.
    It's understandable why parents need to pay their kids fees in India though. Part time work for uni students is rare and the pay is miserable. Also many banks wouldn't give the students themselves the loans; whereas, they would give the parents the loans. Property prices are also insanely high--can't imagine a student with an undergrad job ever being able to pay for a property in Mumbai / Delhi without any help from the parents.

  2. You are right that sometimes parents can use money as a way to control their kids as well, but that is mainly with moneyed, wealthy families, they will use it as a negotiating tool, like if you don't do such and such, we won't include you in the will and what not...
    Most families I know have funded their kids' education and living expenses, Indian's find it morally wrong somehow, not to fund their child's education+living expenses+marriage expenses, and rather using that money for any self use, like investment, personal use, etc.

    I don't think it is the sole duty of parents to fund children's education completely, some people use it, to just accumulate useless degrees, while mom/dad pay for everything, I've seen it happen way too many times .
    It's definitely good that middle class indian kids have their parents pitch in, since other avenues to raise money for education are scarce, what's bad though here is that, usually these kids aren't expected to pay back this money to parents, or ever expected to do anything in return to the parents, like do the house chores, or other such things, this kind of using mom/dad as a bank, instills a sense of entitlement in most Indians, and they fail to see their parents as a separate entity to them, that's what I don't like.
    Regarding house prices being crazy, they sure are...especially in Mumbai/delhi....but lemme tell you, we own 2 homes in Mumbai, one we bought way back in 2002, before ever leaving Indian shores, solely on Indian income, without any help from any of our parents, so I know it can be done, with more and more double income couples, it's not that impossible, but most parents never let it come to that, they'll pitch in nevertheless ....:))

    1. So u think u could have got a mba degree without ur parents supporting u? I agree house and marriage are not a necessity but education is. You wont get a part time job even if u wANT TO INdia. so u don't want to help ur daughter get through college even if u can afford it? So if u r so intent on following this. You should payback your college /marriage expenditure back to ur parents..

    2. Someone needs to calm down.

  3. that's really impressive! Though tell me though, would you consider your incomes to be the norm?
    I know what the prices are like in Mumbai, one apartment can cost 15--20 crores easy. There's no way one can pay that off without a very high yearly salary.
    but I know what you mean about entitlement. kids here don't have to do chores because there's someone at home who's paid to do everything.

  4. A and I definitely struggle with different beliefs about what we owe our kids. A wants only as many kids as he can be sure of sending to any school they might want to go to...which is hard for me because I want the option for adopting and taking in "strays" (I stayed with a non-family couple for a few years after my mom died, and they've had an incredibly important role in my life -- they even acted as my parents for our Hindu wedding ceremony, and my dad walked me down the aisle instead). We don't talk much about weddings, but I know he feels an obligation to pass down the options his parents gave us (which I didn't really want, but that's a different issue).

    Our situation is also complicated by coming from quite different SES. I went to college fully on scholarship and financial aid, and spent most of high school worrying about how to get through college. To me, being able to offer the certainty of a local state school, with one year in residence halls (I think it was an important experience for me, so I do want to pass it on) and the rest offered at home or help with an apartment, is what I owe my children -- and more if I'm able, of course. I've never wanted a large family, but I worry when I see how much pressure A puts on himself to be ready to pay full-sticker price Ivy League for each kid if they want it!

    Along the same lines...I'm not sure if it's Indian or a man thing or just him, but he has anxiety about providing for a child born with a disability. No developmental issues run in our families, but he's said before that if have a child with Down's Syndrom, he'd make sure that child was provided for after we died even if it meant never taking another vacation or buying a nice car. (We were already engaged, but he could've gotten me to marry him with that statement and his seriousness as he said it even if we were only on our third date!)

  5. @ Kay, OMG, I'm not some millionaire, wow, I don't own one of those 15-20 crore apartments, I guess you haven't really been to mumbai much, and maybe just to south mumbai...yes in the south mumbai part the so called "town" portion of mumbai, a single apartment can run into multiples of crores. I however, don't own anything there (probably never will).I have 2 homes, both in the western suburbs of mumbai. The 1st one, which we bought back in 2002 (luckily before the big boom, for peanuts) is now worth approx $125,000- $130,000 ~ which is around 70-75 lakhs Rs. approx . The second one a 2 bedroom purchased recently, is around $250,000 or ~ 1.30-1.40 crores. So you see even though the prices are crazyy for the teeny tiny sized mumbai apartments (especially compared to rest of India) it's no where near south mumbai prices. I do have relatives who live in posh places like bandra west ( where all the celebrities live and ) and also some in south mumbai, there apartments might be worth close to what you mention, but mostly those were bought decades ago, and passed on in the family, at current prices only the super rich (read politicians, movie stars, underworld don's ) can afford in such areas ....:))
    Regarding our income being norms - well we are both MBA's , but with the high levels of education becoming a norm especially in urban India, I don't think it's very uncharacteristic, we passed out a decade back, when salaries weren't close to what they are now, and if we could do it then, I know many can do it today too....))
    A starter apartment (usually a 1 bedroom in the suburbs) can range from 45~85 lakhs Rs ( $ 95,000 ~ $ 150,000) depending on the neighbourhood, and if a couple manage their finances prudently, they surely can do it....From what I've seen around me in India, which is what I was trying to say in the post, is that most parents seem more than willing to part with their retirement nestegg, or their life savings just so their kids can buy a house, this is what baffles me, why do parents feel an obligation to provide for grown adult kids, who have an education and a job ???
    To me it feels like per Indian culture, once you give birth to a child, you are responsible for providing for it, till the day you die, and sadly the part that was traditionally working for the parents i.e kids taking care of them in old age seems to not be working out much anymore,so they are getting short changed IMO.

  6. @ Sara, i know exactly what you mean, I struggle with some of those issues myself.
    Like you I too, want to be able to adopt a child someday, I've always wanted to, and my hubby's onboard for that as well, the problem though starts here - that I also wanna have another baby of my own, really really do, maybe in a couple of years, so my dilemma is whether to have another baby, and then adopt making it 3 kids for us, then will we be able to provide for 3 kids ?
    I too like your hubby, wanna be able and prepared to fund our kids' IVY league education (if we were as lucky to have kids who were able to get there ). Inspite of all my understanding of the cultural compulsions, etc I too feel an obligation to provide for my kids, the conditioning is too strong to let go, that's what my parents did for me , and their parents did it for them.
    If such a day comes, that just because I've had too many kids I'm unable to be there for my kids (financially speaking), I would feel terrible, especially if they had to pass up say a good college or something like that.
    Where i differ in thoughts to my parents is that, I will expect my child to pay me back for most if not all of the tuition fees I paid for college, in time ( I mean we could need that money for our old age, right ?). Also, I certainly don't expect to be providing for housing and such for my adult, educated child, no siree bob. They can stay in rented places, all their life, for all I care .
    But yes, the compulsion to be able to fund my children's education, however far they choose to go, is something I feel as well, I guess it's part of preparing them for adulthood, and making them independent , so till they have a job, they aren't completely independent in a way, I guess, I know it may seem stupid logic, but that's just the way I feel.

    Regarding a baby with disabilities, that too is very much a cultural thing, which I've forgotten to mention in my post, but yes, very common for parents to wanna provide for their disabled, child till they child is alive, (i.e even after the parents die) most parents of children with disablities, will live worrying for the day they die, and what'll happen to their child after they are passed.
    I can understand the anxiety in this matter though, since in India there aren't very many places where a disabled person will be looked after well, and certainly there are no government provided places that such people can go, in the western countries there are processes, and systems in place for that part of the population, since that's absent in India, it's natural for parents to worry about their child's wellbeing after they are gone .

    Having said that, saying all that on the 3rd date ??? Amazing...but maybe he felt serious about you right from the get go, and that was sign, you know ...:))

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Sorry, I wasn't clear -- he said that after we were engaged (i.e., I had already fallen for him), but that statement alone would have been enough to win my heart. His commitment issues are a WHOLE other thing, hehe.

    It's interesting because since that conversation, I've gotten in contact with my mom's cousin, who has a sister with Down's and is her primary guardian now that both parents have died (brother used to share responsibilities but had some negative life events of his own). I always assume that a sibling or cousin would take over responsibilities, and with the emphasis on family ties in India, I guess it surprises me that there are questions about who would take over care.

    With education, I definitely think that part of the difference is SES -- the situation I described is significantly more than my parents gave my brother and I, but significantly less than his parents gave him and his sister. Also, he's terrified that his kid would work so hard and get into a school like MIT, then not be able to go because we can't pay for it. I think my approach is based on the belief that the top schools are able to offer a lot of financial aid for families (like Harvard giving full scholarships to anyone with a family income under $150k), and that we would have enough to sign for student loans as needed.

    The adoption question is so hard. On the one hand, A is quite committed to offering any adopted child EXACTLY what we offer any biological child. On the other hand...a loving home and a state school education are a hell of a lot better than bouncing around foster care (or worse). There's also a question of supporting a teenager for a few years before adulthood versus adopting a child from infancy. We talk about it, but I think ultimately we can't decide until we get there.

  9. You know I agree that in most cases siblings or family would be taking over care, I haven't been able to see any such cases in my family, mostly people I know with disabilities, are like neighbors or acquaintances, so don't know their situation in detail .
    If I were to venture a guess, I'd say that even though people may have family stepping in to take over care in such cases, the parents still may worry, mainly about finances, if the treatment of such people is expensive, then the family member/s taking over may/maynot have the resources to carry on the expenses .
    Another thing is that even though family ties are emphasised in India, one can never predict how a specific relationship will turn through the years, and in modern times I see more and more not relying on family, so as to avoid getting disappointed in future, so that could also be a factor...
    I agree about the adoption issue, before I ever had children I was completely certain of adopting, after having a baby of my own, and seeing how expensive kids are, I'm in two minds, my heart still wants to adopt, but my brain tells me practical nonsense like maybe I'll be able to support more kids if sponsor a child or two instead of taking full responsibilty of a child by adopting...I still dunno the right answer, I'm hoping when the right time comes, I'll just know what to do. Adoption is a tough choice, I agree ...*sigh*

  10. This system is supposed to provide security for those who aren't earning/can't earn for themselves, but like any system that depends on the good will of those involved it often ends up in the dependents being exploited, and in controlling the lives of those who can earn for themselves.
    A recent survey showed 100% senior citizens in Delhi felt they have been abused by their daughters in law, and I forget how much but quite a few complained that they were abused by their sons too. Obviously then the system has not been successful, because the said daughters in law are also abused, burnt alive etc generally for money.

    Recently my mom's driver's rushed to his village because a male relative, and sole bread winner died leaving behind a wife and three young daughters (his parents died long ago). Now this widow would be moving to her parents' house in another village because it not be safe for her to live alone in her husband's village and manage their farming etc on her own. I argued about why couldn't her mother/father or some other relative stay with her and help her run the place (she was doing that anyway, when her husband worked away from their village)... but 'that's not how it is done'.
    What I mean is that a system where everybody is encouraged to be self reliant works much better.

  11. Hi IHM,
    Welcome to the blog !
    Thank you for your comments.
    I could not agree more with you about the system being abused, like I mentioned in the earlier response to taswin12, I feel sometimes the parents get short changed, because they worked their whole life to provide for their kids, and when the kids' time comes, they may not return the favor to the parents, leaving them high and dry , also on the flip side, you see in some extreme cases parents going the other end, and torturing the DIL for money expecting her/her family to payback all they spent on raising their son (big whoop!)
    I totally agree that a system where self reliance is taught is the best, but I don;t see that happening in India in the near future atleast, maybe in a generation or 2 it might .
    Thanks again for stopping by, will look forward to your comments..:)

    1. What is exactly the reasoning behind the parents thinking that all the money kids earn belong to the parents and they can deep to kids pockets whenever they want to? Very often they put kids in debts just to get something so they can show off in front of their friends in the community. How empty is that?
      I understand that parents diverse respect from their kids, but the kids grow up get married and first should concentrate on their family and future of their own kids instead of paying the "debt of being born"

  12. Very nice discussion... i am really impressed....i am a doctor(MBBS) in India, preparing for postgraduation. My father (an armyman) wants to buy me a private seat, but I would rather take a "not so flamboyant seat-nonetheless my choice" than to have the burden of 35-40 lacs over my head...obviously, it is very difficult for them to understand the "pride" involved in my decision.
    They say, "if you dont take money from us now, you wont pay for us in the future!!!!!", and they get all over-emotional over this (which seems very unnecessary to me)

    I just wish there was an easier way to explain it to them

  13. Yes, the parents pay for the kids education but after that they want total control... "you will marry who I want you to marry, you will share your future earnings for the rest of your life with me, I can always tell you what to do and you need to listen"...its almost just like they are raising slaves. It is every parents responsibility to provide for their kids what best in live, education is one of the responsibility. They don't do the child any favor paying for the education... I know, I know they always talk about all the sacrifice they had to make to raise kids... guess what if you don't have money, patience or time to have kids don't have them... just don't try to make the kids pay for the rest of their life for something what you as a parents should provide!

  14. i have always heard that guys from MBA earn well as compared to Engineering grads from India.IIMs passouts easily get 16LPA , maybe 1L is what they get in hand.All thanks to their parents money going to B schools .

  15. What i do not realize is in fact how you're no longer really a lot more well-preferred than you might be now. You are so intelligent. You realize therefore significantly on the subject of this topic, made me personally believe it from numerous various angles. Its like men and women aren't involved until
    it is something to do with Girl gaga! Your individual
    stuffs outstanding. At all times handle it up!
    Visit my site ... Hainan Airlines

  16. Hi my loved one! I wish to say that this article is amazing, great written and include
    almost all significant infos. I'd like to see extra posts like this .
    My blog :: Vietnam Airlines

  17. Hey!

    I'm working with an award-winning production company and a top-rated national
    cable network to cast a new docu-series that will explore unique perspectives on

    I came across your blog and it is awesome! If there's any way you can help us
    spread the word, or recommend someone for the program, we'd be very
    appreciative. Perhaps you'll find our search appropriate for a
    post, or worth sharing on Facebook, etc. If you have any questions or concerns,
    I'm always available to speak with you.

    Any parents that are interested in being considered are encouraged to get in
    touch with me as soon as they can.

    If anyone is interested they should contact and
    include their names, phone number and information about their parenting style.
    Don't hesitate to be in touch!

    Chelsea Egozi

  18. Its true that Indian parents only want one thing from their kids and thats money. Indian parents actually raise their children as some kind of property especially girls. They want them to repay all the money that they have spent on their education in the form of great multinational packages. But the problem with this bloody Indian set up is that India has a population of 150 crores. So the MNCs only pick the best, the ones that graduate from IIM,IIT or are CAs. The rest of them land up in average jobs and dont get much respect from the entire society. In case of girls, parents are reluctant to spend money on their higher education, in middle case families especially. They are also not allowed to spend much time in studying and devote a lot of time to learning household chores. Anyways girls are nagged badly when they dont top in the class inspite of devoting so much time to education.

    In case of jobs, the girls are not prefferd in many jobs because they are considered to be dumber than boys. They are only hired in presentaion based jobs where peach cream fair girls are selected. So an average looking girl with average IQ does not have many chances. Also, theres a hidden kind of harrasment which happens with girls. They are supposed to be extraordinary friendly with the boss especially those in the HR profession and chat with him on non-professional matters. I have seen IT companies encouraging sexual harrasment with girls like touching a girls shoulder while talking to her. If the girl complaints about it with the HR, she asks them to tolerate it. So every girl just wants to be in this powerful profession of MBA hr. A brown girl also does not get any res

  19. A brown girl also does not get any respect from her husband even if shes earning money because of her complexion. She can be called african or madrasn and her parents ask her to turn a blind eye to all that. Her husband lacks compassion and love for her because of her complexion and the society just asks her to bear the harrasment.
    Also, Indian girls

  20. cant use public transport for commuting to work because of a lot of eve-teasing. We Indians are complete racists and cant respect the way we look. We have foreigners working as actresses in cinema because we cant accept our looks.

  21. Indian girls especially middle-class learn to accept harrasment from boys from high school itself.

  22. Ok common now..........You provide for School, clothing and education and you get a life long slave and that too with INSURANCE.........who says you need life Insurance....Indian parents have bought their kids for free.

    But many forget that - School. clothing and education are the duty of parents to provide for their kids. They are not doing a FAVOR to the kids. In fact it is they who brought them to the world against their own will else they should have used a fucking condom.

    Kids should have no commitment towards their parents. Yes if they grow old then they can take care of them......but they dont need to be their fucking slaves.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...