The other day, Dhanno was watching ‘Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na‘ all over again on TV. Of course, I was watching along.

Though the film seemed to be even blander than it did the last time, “a nothingness“, as Sur says, I didn’t have much of a problem with Aditi or Jai, or their friends, even though they didn’t have anything other than relationships on their mind. Even if they seemed silly, immature and shallow, well, we’ve all been there, done that.

But what had me fuming were the supposedly “coolest parents in the world”, Aditi’s parents – Pamelo and Pamela/ Potato and Pumpkins/ Peachpie and Parrot/ Popcorn and what have you/ whatever, whatever.

Scene 1 in which they appear –  Cool parents dancing at their grown up kids party. Eww!

Scene 2 – Cool parents discussing in garden – Our daughter is 20. She graduated today. Let us talk to Jai and fix up their marriage. Before people talk. High time they settled down. Or we’ll have to deal with the relatives and various proposals. (Unsaid – She wants to be a film maker? Let her get married first. Then, we’ll see).

Scene 3 – Cool parents talking to Jai – So when do you get married? (Unsaid – Oh, you don’t have a job, you’ve only graduated yesterday, but that’s all right). Misunderstanding ensues. Jai and Aditi convince them they are only friends.

Scene 4 – Cool parents – If you are only friends, and are together all the time, how will you find partners? And your partner won’t like your mate. (Unsaid – And you must find your partner, the sooner the better).

Soon enough, Aditi has an arranged meeting with a family friend’s son, and gets engaged on the same day.

Scene 5 in which parents appear – Cool parents play scrabble while their daughter has got engaged to the first man they introduced her to. He is a friend’s son so they haven’t done any background check on him. The only indication that things may not be what they seem is the word father makes on the board ‘Discomfort’.

Scene 6 – Cool parents wary that their reclusive son will embarrass them in front of their prospective son-in-law. Cool parents thrilled that their son seems to like their prospective son-in-law. Cool parents clueless about their son’s thought processes or facial expressions.

Scene 7. Cool parents bid Aditi goodbye at airport.

A day earlier Aditi has come back with a huge bruise on her cheek. We never see or hear of them noticing it, talking to her about it, questioning her about why she has broken off her engagement or confronting their friend or his son about it.

Aditi sitting alone on Band Stand seems to reconfirm the fact that she cannot depend on her parents for emotional support. That she is alone. It is left to Jai to notice her bruise and avenge her.

So these are supposedly educated, super rich parents, who have lived all over the world. What happens to girls in middle class families with not-so-cool parents?

Somehow, brings to mind the crazy mother Kiron Kher plays in ‘Fanaa‘ who packs off her college going blind daughter to a strange city for the first time with the prayer that she finds her Prince Charming there. The daughter willingly obliges, and falls in love with the first man who comes her way. The mother, hearing this news on the phone, and that her daughter is going to get married to someone they have never met is ecstatic.

We grew up with the thought of marriage dinned into our heads. My parents wanted me to ‘see’ a boy at the age of 15, and get engaged. My sister, friends and cousins all had the same pressure, give or take a few years. Some of us rebelled and found our own partners. Some had secret flings before they married partners of their parents’ choice. Some did as they were told. The ‘cool parents’ were those who made no fuss about their children choosing their own partner.

But I can safely say, that in 90 cases out of 100, girls and their parents spent no time or just about 1/10th of time to career options or a need for a career as they did to finding the right partner for their child. And I’ve seen so many brilliant minds underutilized. So many wrong choices made because of the haste. So many lives forced to live out marriage for the sake of marriage.

So has nothing changed in 25 years?

Around us, children as young as 11 and 12 are playing the dating game. I can understand that they are hormonally charged up to do so. I can understand Dhanno and her crushes, and the enormous peer pressure to date. What Teja and I cannot bring our minds around to, is her dating or being sexually active, until an appropriate age, to our minds 18 and after.

But of course, we have a few ‘cool’ parents around us, too. A mother consents to her 12 year old going steady with a boy 5 years her senior, because the girl says, “I cannot live without him.” The boy is in college, in another town. The girl’s studies and sports performances which were brilliant earlier, have suffered.

A few other ‘cool’ parents have promised their girls they can start dating once they finish their Xth Std exams, when they’ll be 15+.

Another ‘cool’ parent met Dhanno for the first time, when she was 13 and asked her to pirouette, and said, “Good, you are sexy.” One could pass it off as a casual remark, if her own daughter was not obsessing about her looks all the time.

Now, while I love watching Dhanno dress up, make up and preen before the mirror, there’s no way I am going to encourage her to think of her looks beyond a point. Not that she needs any encouragement from me, as is evident from when she was 5.

Dhanno, 5, oil pastel drawing by Banno with a few flourishes from Dhanno , 1998

However, I would think it criminal to even suggest that she absolutely needs to find the right partner and marry if she wants to live a fulfilled life.

Teja is clear that even if Dhanno has a few hang-ups about relationships because we are strict, she will grow out of them. But he certainly does not want any boyfriend-shoyfriend business right now. He is willing to be the villain of the story, if need be.

As for me, I feel confused. What about our own wild days as young people? Our rebellions, our fights for our personal freedom? I know that a dear friend, Fi will read this and mail me saying – “Ba, sau choohe khaake billi Hajj ko chali” i.e. the cat goes to Hajj after eating a hundred rats.

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