Turning the Page

Turning the Page

Dominating parents or a boss who doesn’t care? Deepak Chopra offers solutions to problems that might be staring you in the face. Don’t get stuck in life, move on, he suggests…

Question: The story is identical in nearly every household: A parent, especially the father, feels that he is the most experienced and has the right not only to guide his wife and children in everything, but also to dictate his opinions as law. Every member is expected to follow, and if by chance, the child, when grown up, says, ‘Dad, please let me take my own decisions. Why don’t you live and let me live, too,” the father takes it as the biggest insult and retaliates. Usually the wife or mother has no say in the matter. What would your advice be to all concerned?

Your emotional attachment to this issue comes through when you declare, with obvious bitterness, that “the story is identical in every household.” What you mean is your household, and it would have been helpful to know more details about your situation, such as your age, marital status, and your longtime relationship with your father. Is he a pompous autocrat or a loving man who is very set in his ways?

You certainly point out a general problem in India’s traditional society, where the dominance of men has been absolute. The problem is so endemic that it ranges from dictatorial fathers (who raise their sons to be equally dictatorial) to the public scandal of gang rapes, a crime that has been swept under the carpet for decades. The AIDS crisis is also rooted in the habit of men who travel for work casually using sex workers, another sign of disregard for women.

I’m painting a grim picture — barely touching on a few aspects of the whole — to suggest that there is no easy or quick solution. India as a society must resolve to end the mindless, often cruel domination of women, just as the US decided in the ’60s to overcome the horribly unjust treatment of African-Americans. This isn’t an issue that can be solved, one family at a time. Because your father would feel emasculated — and would be seen as such by his friends — if he loosened his grip over the women in the family.

What you can do personally is to be self-aware and to shape your own life independently. If your father won’t listen to reason, even after a calm, intimate discussion with him, then he has little regard for your feelings or for you as an adult. Realise this, stop fighting him, and move on.

I am an engineering student and have been terribly confused for the past two years. I think I have great potential and yearn to do things differently, but the problem is that no one understands me, including my parents. At times, my parents compare me with others and I think this is an insult. At times, people think I am insane, and everyone mocks me and my beliefs. Is this because I have not yet been successful in life?

In a few years, you will grow into your own person. At that time, you will be in a position to assess where your ambition has led you. For now, it’s unfortunate that you feel dominated by the opinions of others. Your dream of greatness could have a basis in reality (I wish you had specified which field your greatness will occur in. Is it not engineering?) Or it could be that your dreams are an expression of frustration and rebellion.

The pressure you are feeling from others is the pressure to conform, which is powerful in every society but more so in India, where the desire to succeed is almost frantic, and anyone who doesn’t rise as quickly as possible is marked as a failure in others’ eyes. In a decade, we will know if you are a born nonconformist or someone who is going to outgrow adolescent angst. I wish you good luck on your journey and hope that you can ignore all the pressure you feel as best as you can.

People say you should not love your organisation, only your work. But I love both. I have worked really hard but my organisation has never given me a promotion, despite my spending 10 years here. Many of my juniors have been promoted. This causes me great stress. What should I do? 

This dilemma is going to be a hard one for you. You are being taken advantage of, and your love for the company is seen as submission. Your bosses feel that they can walk over you, and so far, they have been successful. Is it sexism? Is it preferential treatment based on personal reasons rather than merit? I’m not there on the scene to examine the situation, although it does seem to speak loud and clear.

You probably aren’t good at standing up for yourself, so advising you to march in to your supervisor’s office and demanding a promotion won’t work. Here are a few possible actions to take:

  • Find the most sympathetic of your bosses, ask for a meeting, and calmly request to know the reasons for not being promoted.
  • Request an independent evaluation of your work performance. Use it as a document to support your request for promotion.
  • Quietly look for another job.

I’m afraid that your willingness to be trampled on suggests that you are timid and deathly afraid to lose your job. See if these actions are possible for you. If not, your only recourse is to make peace with your situation and wait another decade, when you might be so fed up that you will show some fortitude, scary as that may be.