Call it the grand-daddy of all ultimatums. A couple in Uttarakhand is suing their son and daughter-in-law for not giving them a grandchild after six years of marriage and is demanding Rs 5 crore as compensation if a baby is not produced within a year. A grandchild, the couple says, would be something in the nature of a payback for all the money that they “invested” in their son, including for his expensive education in the US and lavish wedding and honeymoon trip.
In the rest of the world, this lawsuit is making news. But as so many Indian children — both married and unmarried — would know only too well, this is just another example of classic, desi parent guilt-tripping. One of the most effective of parental tactics, guilt-tripping has, for generations, been used to decimate even the slightest hint of independent thought on the part of the offspring.
Daughter wishes to study fashion design, instead of medicine? Remind her of how you used to ferry her on your Bajaj Chetak to and from coaching classes all day under the hot sun. Son wants to give up his unsatisfying, high-pressure corporate job to make and sell kombucha on the beaches of Goa? Make long, sobbing phone calls about how the neighbour’s cousin’s son is earning enough to gift his parents a round-the-world cruise. Clearly nothing, not even a choice as deeply personal as whom to marry and whether or not to procreate, is armoured against this deadliest of all arrows in the parental quiver.
Having characterised the non-issuance of, well, an issue, as “mental cruelty”, the Uttarakhand couple has significantly upped the stakes in the guilting game. Will other parents now employ similarly deadly manoeuvres? Can the present move even be topped? Beleaguered offspring all over the country await news of further development with bated breath.