Juggling Societal Expectations & Inner Conflicts: The Life of An Indian Adult Today

At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, the hydrochloric acid in my stomach forces me to awaken from my restful stance, characterised by snuggling in my PJs nestled with a  sitcom to comfort the pains of being an unemployed/able adult.

I tip toe to the refrigerator, careful to use my phone’s flash to light my way and time my exit strategically,  god forbid the machine beeps. As I tip toe back, I see a man standing outside his door, other times it’s a woman, asking me what I’m doing up so late, ransacking the food in the fridge. I automatically feel 9 years shed away from the double digit number of my age, as I answer my parents’ questions. The silhouette is just as powerful as their grim stare.

Adult: while I aspire to reach this unscathed, I have no idea what this even means. A web search on my very expensive phone tells me that it’s a person who is fully grown or developed. Pfft. I was that at 16!

Indian adult

Well, then why is it that eating post bedtime, or wanting to sleep in, makes me feel like my actions warrant a scolding. This is called being an Indian Adult. We’re born and brought up surrounded by cooing mothers and temperamental fathers, and a bandwagon of family members in all shapes and sizes, neatly arranged in a hierarchy that is hardly short of oppressive. You fold your hands, bow your head, and sign off to a life long tradition of MCQ’s, the answers to which are always going to be:
a. You’re correct
b. I’m wrong
c. I think I’m right but I’m actually wrong

An undergraduate education from the best college, a post graduation that is just as impressive, and the immediate next step is to either give in to marriage, because procreation, or to give in to getting through each day in anticipation of  a rectangular sheet of paper with an illegible scrawl of money in digits finding its way to you. If you’re, god forbid, in the middle of these two, aspiring for neither then the refrigerator is off limits and you’re an embarrassment to every family member who knows you just finished college.

Indian adult


Cribbing or even silently rueing the normative nature of these practices to your ethnicity becomes less warranted, when we see that the generation above ours did just the same. They too were on Midnight Snack Parole, as long as they abided by what the Family Law and Order stated. It takes a moment to readjust myself to the options that lie before me: If I want to live the way I want to, I have to without my family. As exciting as it sounds, there is another string that tugs sadly on the sleeve of your loosely-woven sweater that your mom knit when you were tiny-er, but fit in just as well. Their scalp is now a house to grey and white, and their gait has become slower. What if I want to live with my parents, and do what I want?  

While I try and search for answers to this existential question, I find myself rummaging through the daily practices that I’ve been conditioned to follow. From sharing details of my daily schedule, to seeking unsolicited approval for the clothes I wear and it soon becomes clear that, well, it’s not going to happen. Doing what I want within the four walls of my room, after the Bai has done the cleaning is the only luxury an Indian Adult can afford. Conversations with parents, or rather, attempts at bifurcating that monologue into a two-way street yielded one answer–one needs to derive legitimacy in the form of direction if you want them to let you do what you want, while living with them. As I fine tune my compass to navigate my life through the mess that is adulthood, I still tip toe around the fringes of many issues, hoping that the machine doesn’t beep.

Indian adult


Images courtesy of Farheen Fatima

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