Monday, March 9, 2009

Parents as Proxy Playmates and More

I grew up in a family of five that included my parents. I would say that it is an average family size in Bangladesh. Growing up, I was close to my parents, especially to my mother, although the idea of calling my mother my best friend (or even friend for that matter) never occurred to me. I was quite terrified of my father, as he would frequently ask me to memorize chapters from my text books all the time. For example, before going out to work in the morning, he would ask me to memorize chapters one through three in my physics, chemistry, and biology books. "When I come back form work in the afternoon, I will test you on your memorizations" he would say. So every second of the passing clock made me more worried as that would bring me closer to seeing my father again.

But still, I felt close to both my parents - I loved them and respected them and I knew they will be there for me when I needed them. And still, they were not my friends in the way we use the word 'friend' in Bangladesh. Just like Airhihenbuwa (2007) wrote, the "idea of throwing a ball around with my father would have been as strange to me as it would have been to him" (p. 85). Even though my family was not a big one compared to many of my relatives or friends, my parents never had to be proxy playmates. This scenario was overwhelmingly the norm in Bangladesh.

Interestingly, I had a female friend growing up who considered her parents her best friends even then. She said she loves to watch Baywatch with her father, which was a sign of mental instability for the rest of us to even think of that. Her expectation was that her behavior was 'normal' at that point of time, and that our reality was different.

Attempts has been made over the years to make instances like watching Baywatch as a family (not such a good example, but for continuity's sake I am using it) in Bangladesh a common practice. Parents now have become more proxy playmates to their kids, not only because children now can rarely go out and find a field to play, but also because such "parental friendship" has become a more modern thing to practice. Just as in family practices, campaigns has been launched to modernize medical practices in Bangladesh as well. Many of these campaigns created vertical programs - programs that stand alone only to promote donor agency agendas. But as Unschuld (1992) puts forward, a proper interrogation of such practices may reveal that the local and the Western practices may not be as different as are theorized to be - perhaps there are common rounds to both ways of looking at things (as exemplified by Chinese and Western medical practices) hat may be more accommodating of locale needs.

There are many in my family still who believe that all that was good was during the Pakistan time, or better, during the British era (see Cultural Imperialism by Edward Said) and our independence has weakened us socially, culturally, and medically. I am not sure if much can be done to influece that chain of thought for those people, but with schooling less influenced by the Western ideologies of education, further marginalization of Bangladeshi culture can be stopped.

1 comment:

Lala said...

Albert Einstein, Rabindranath Tagore, Raihan Jamil...ah!! what august company!!! and what a profile pic