WWW.DAWN.COM The expiring Asian contract
17 November 2012I met an old friend of mine the other day for the first time in 20 years. A white working class man, from a working class area of Birmingham England. He said, " I've moved back to Birmingham to look after my parents. They're old and frail. I've reduced my working hours as well, to look after them."
I said, "Do you get paid for that?"
He said, "No"
I said, "But you're white."
"White people are not famous for looking after their elderly. In fact, well known for putting them in an old people's home and seeing them once every three months"
"I know" He replied. "But I don't want any regrets. I don't want to regret not having looked after them".
I thought this to be admirable. Excuse my predijuice but this is a white working class man. Wasn't he meant to have moved to Spain with his girlfriend for lots of sea, sun and sex and then just turn up for the funeral and cake?
It put some of my Indian and Pakistani friends to shame. Some of them have certainly packed up their bags and moved away to pursue flash cars, numerous wives, casinos, and illicit weekends in Dubai hotels. Saying things like, "Oh my parents are not old, they're only 85 they've got at least 10 years left and they don't really need me yet".
Obviously they will be there just in time for the chicken biryani and jalebis.
This must be a new development because it is our culture to look after our parents. It goes without saying love them or hate them, irritated by them, annoyed by them, angry about them, there is no question about it, when they're old you just have to do it. It's in the Asian contract when you're born.
That used to be the case.
When I was a kid I used to go to people's houses for dinner where they would make jokes about white people sticking their parents in homes, it was a running joke that these people didn't value their elders the way we did. Now it seems the tables have turned.
My parents have been such dominant characters in their children's lives. larger than life characters that have their noses in all our business, have our lives planned out before we are born always know best, are always right, can find you a better husband than you can, know much more than we'll ever know, and their favourite line, "If you don't look after us now you'll pay for it in the next life". Which makes us all so scared we immediately start doing the washing up and helping them up the stairs.
I can't imagine my parents ever not being alive. They have always been alive, and for now at 75 seems such a long time. I think I take for granted them being alive. because I can't imagine a life without my mother saying, "Why have you brought those dirty shoes inside the house? And where are my grandchildren?" and my dad saying "Are you sure you're male friend is gay?"
I don't think about them not being here, because I can't see it. I can't imagine it, but there would probably be no worse feeling than living with regret. You can't hug your parents after they're dead. And nothing will ever prepare me for that loss, with regret thrown in as well; it might just be an awful way to live the rest of your life.
Asians often think of themselves as a superior race, ‘we make good doctors, good husbands, loyal wives, well educated children, love hard work, we know all about respect, and are top of the league in judging other races and cultures, but maybe all that is a thing of the past. My generation and those coming after me are turning white and the real white people are turning Asian. We'd better watch out otherwise soon people will be saying, "God those Asian people have no respect for their elders, no family values, are lazy, immoral, and way too liberal.
We could learn a lot from the white man who we thought would throw his parents to the dogs.