Recently news broke out of a daughter finding her mother in her own filth, locked in a studio apartment , famished and disoriented. What led to this? The poor elderly woman lived with her married son and when the son had to take off for a vacation, he supplied his mother with daily essentials (which didn’t look cooked by the way), and took off with his wife. There is a disturbing video of this incident that is currently viral in Pakistani and Indian households.
Serendipitously, the woman’s daughter decided to visit her. Rest is of course recorded material by some kind gentleman who uses technology to document the deplorable state that humans are in these days. The daughter found her mother, disheveled and dehydrated, sitting on the floor with ingredients that she likely had intended to cook with, scattered around her. The woman not only looked confused, she looked almost close to death. The daughter lost all control of her emotional restrain and howled with pain. Some nice neighbors carried the woman out and fed her.
I have seen various lengths of this video. But even in the longest video, the woman hasn’t talked. She hasn’t responded much to the daughter howling with severe emotional pain at finding her mother in a state of near-death. Can I say that I have cried each time I saw the video? It’s harrowing.
But whether this video will bring tears to you or not, it does raise an important question! This woman, as we know, had another child. A daughter! Who was within capacity to meet her mother. Why wasn’t she informed so she could either come stay or bring her mom to her place?
Why are sons considered the sole providers for their parents? This isn’t an Islamic doctrine, before you tie this somehow with Islam. Islam instructs both son and daughter to assume responsibility for their parents.
Here’s my unpopular take on it! Women are born to serve someone else’s parents. Yes, their husband’s parents. They’re born to cater to that family. That’s actually considered their real family in many Pakistani households. In fact, their in-laws are considered more their family than their own family even when they have no in-laws. The imaginary in-laws that our girls circle around their whole lives is such a pathetic part of the Pakistani culture that it just takes the empowerment debate back to the dark ages and puts a damper on all progress that we have made.
Boys, regardless of their SES, are expected to provide for their parents. If they can’t, they still have to. If they won’t, the parents will just have to suffer.
So why aren’t Pakistani parents more self-sufficient so they won’t have to depend on their kids? Good question and actually a great idea. But in a financially struggling country and its rapidly nosediving economy, sometimes all you can do with single earner households is educate your kids, feed them and pray for these kids to be independent enough in adulthood that they’d be able to take care of you in an auxiliary capacity .
Also, if you were fortunate enough to have a government job in Pakistan you are probably counting on pension. But when you find out that pension means standing in long lines and answering pages of questionnaires that exist to rip you of your pension then the flame goes out after many fruitless interactions with the unpleasant officers who have the power to release your pension.
So ultimately most Pakistani parents predominantly rely on their children. For food, shelter, basic needs and eventually, their funeral. And they predominantly rely on their sons.
If you are the rare daughter who has stood up to the excuse of a culture that we celebrate everyday, kudos! You broke the norm. But don’t expect constant validation and praise. You’re doing just what you were expected to do. There is no added glory if you chose your parents over your in-laws. There is no extra praise in giving our parents what they are entitled to.