On of the most difficult phases in a human’s life is the teenage phase. Neither a child nor an adult, confused over the physical changes due to puberty, enduring the hormonal roller coaster and the suppressed rebellious streak. It is not only daunting for the teens; it’s daunting for their parents as well. And, in Malaysian Indian teens, there are distinct problems and parents don’t exactly tackle those problems effectively.
Gone are the days where you can flog your child or rap their knuckles with a hard ruler to discipline them and impose authority. If you do, you will be jailed at a dial for Teledera. Adi vothevere maari annan thambi uthava maatan adage has lost it’s relevance due to development and globalisation – free flowing information = internet.
The problems disadvantaged and advantaged Malaysian Indian teens face
In the days of our grandparents, they had 10 – 20 children and they raised them just like that. Because nature raised them and elder siblings doubled up as parents. Ask kids these days what are dappa pazham, naatu cherry, milk guava, wild tubers, etc and watch them go blank. Ask them from where eggs and milk come from and they’ll tell you they come from Tesco. I was lucky enough to experience kampung life and it’s one of the best things that ever happened to me.
I don’t know why but most poor and lacking resources Indian parents breed like rats but the well off ones have only one or two children – the most they have is 4. While the former Malaysian Indian teens have too little, the latter have too much. Let’s look at them one by one by comparison.
1. Lack of space/too much space
Let’s take an example of Malaysian Indian teens having a big family living in a single room flat. They go back home after school and try to find a space to recline – they see the room occupied by their younger siblings, hall occupied by older siblings. There is simply no space for them to do their school homework comfortably or rest. So, such Malaysian Indian teens (especially boys) try to find space outside. They start loitering at the car park/field/any empty space. More like living Malaysians Indian teens congregate there and they form a group. Then, vandalizing kicks in. They will kick a post box, steal coins from public booths or harass girls who pass by. Soon, many people start recognizing the Malaysian Indian teens’ group as violent and refrain from messing with them. That fear of public make the group feel powerful and they start indulging in criminal activities like extortion, betting money over card game, stealing, etc. They are mere kids but as a group, these Malaysian Indian teens feel they got what it takes. Many would develop gang affiliation and do heavy crimes like murder. An Indian man in his 40s was slaughtered in broad daylight in the area I used to live last month. The killers were 2 Malaysian Indian teens, aged 18 and 19.
Now for Malaysian Indian teens who have their own room, their own PC, smartphone, tab and even LCD TV in their room. Parents think their kids use those gadgets to study and refer to facts when in fact, the Malaysian Indian teens watch porn, do cyber crimes (harassing, blackmailing, defaming, threatening others) in social medias and all kinds of nasty things online. For Malaysian Indian teens who are female, they can easily be trapped by guys who have an agenda to exploit them. The attention craving and validation seeking age is to blame – Malaysian Indian teens who are female will melt when a random guy tells her she’s beautiful. He’ll coax her to send him more pics of herself, each, more scantily clad than the previous. After the pics are in his possession, the guy would ask the girl to pander to his sexual demands, threatening that if she wouldn’t, he will release her pics on porn sites. Male Malaysian Indian teens open gang pages/groups and organize gang activities online. Or have gang based Facebook profiles, pledging loyalty – Tamilan Katti Berani Mati.
Suitable tackling by parents
Parents who have a lot of children should give some parenting power to elder siblings. Make the older children responsible for the younger children. Lack of space can be obliterated by taking turns, keeping tabs and caring for each other. Define responsibilities and assign tasks for the children. Make the children know that they have a part to play to keep the family running efficiently. Most importantly keep your teenage children at home. When you go to temples take your teen sons with you even if they don’t want to. Don’t let your still in school sons go to Thaipusam with their friends. They depend on you for everything so they should follow you – make that clear. Get to know your teen children’s friends. Talk to the kids – tell them how hard you work to provide the best you can for them. Teach them the value of money. Teach them to save money and be frugal. Don’t give them too much money too fast. Money spoils kids fast.
Parents cannot afford to be technologically backward anymore. It’s either parents get to know what are Facebook, Viber, WeChat, GTalk, Yahoo Messenger, Whatsapp, selfie stick and whatnot and have them or don’t give any gadget with internet connection to their kids. Have a common PC in the living room instead of one PC in each room. If there is one PC in one room, closing and locking the room door when surfing the net should be disallowed. Monitor your kids’ online activities. If your teen kids won’t add you in Facebook/Whatsapp, etc, make them deactivate their accounts on the basis, “If you have nothing to hide, why won’t you add me?”
Kids as young as 10 are coupling up and making out. Yes, love in Malaysian Indian teens is a force to reckon with. Deivigha kathal at the age of 15. Female Malaysian Indian teens are so into love. And, the irony is high on this one. The girl will be a top student, prefect and her lover would be rotting in the bottom of the barrel, in the last class – low in brains and high in bravado. This type of boyfriend selection are inspired by movies like Paruthi Veeran, Aadukalam, Maari, Pokkiri and Thalapathy. There are many cases of female Malaysian Indian teens eloping with their boyfriends, insisting to marry them right now due to the fear that the girls’ parents will separate them. (Again, Tamil movies inspired) There are counselors who try to talk the besotted female Malaysian Indian teens out of the idea. They try to convince them to complete their education then get married. Tell them marrying too early is detrimental to their health (teen pregnancy), will result in unsound financial status and the vicious cycle of subsisting or worse destitution. Some listen and go back to their parents and school. Many don’t and end up being single mothers, out on family support (disowned because they punctured the family maanam and gauravam) and living a difficult life. I had a schoolmate cum school bus mate who married her boyfriend when she was 16. She stopped schooling. My another school cum bus mate who was also my neighbour eloped with her boyfriend after SPM. She was disowned but accepted back when she had a baby. I was doing Lower 6 when she had her child. This is a similar story of my another schoolmate.
Sadhguru once said, “By the time a teen reaches 18 years of age nowadays, they would be in 25 active relationships, 3 in real, 8 in Facebook, another 8 in Whatsapp and 4 in Viber. They love fast and get out of steam fast” This is the truth. Malaysian Indian teens love to display their love on Facebook. The tying of thali, the proclamation of ‘ImHisGulfie’, ‘He’sMyBoyfie’ and vice versa and the exchanging of rings Raja Rani style, “Yaaru othukele na enna?” and the subsequent postings of the pictures of the conducts. When any of the monkey love results in failure, then sad updates regarding the breakup will start inundating their Facebook. Names change into ‘Kathal Victim’, ‘Don’t trust girls’, etc. Some would chastise their ex profanely, publicly. Others, slash their wrists and post the bloody pictures on social media with the captions, ‘Can’t take this pain anymore’, ‘I just wanna die,’ ‘Life is meaningless,’ etc. Several days later, they will update their relationship status, ‘In a relationship with PweetyPurpleSwaggieGurl’, or ‘In a relationship with StyloPrinceyBoyArun.’ Malaysian Indian teens are extremely creative and mostly patiently skillful. For the life of me, I can’t type the way Malaysian Indian teens do.
My mother said once, “Inthe kaalathu pullinggeku padippu varutho illeyo, love mattum moonthiri kotte maari vanthurum.” I disagree – yenthe kaalathu pullinge aanalum, love varum. En amma kalathule ‘Aval nookinal, naanum nokinen’ nu pochu, ennode kaalathule, ‘Kannum kannum Nokia’ nu pochu, ippo ‘Palagikalam, what’s your name and your number girl’ nu poguthu. Almost all Indian parent be like, “Ennathu? Love ah?? Adi serupala!!” “Padikere vayasule enna kathal vendi irukku?” when they hear of their teen kids’ relationships. This scenario is amply drilled in by Tamil movies. That’s why Malaysian Indian teens hide their love matter from their parents. Nowadays, almost all Malaysian Indian teens are in love. When their parents find out and forbid the love many female Malaysian Indian teens run away from home and refuse to return to their parents. Parents need to change their approach when dealing with their teen kids hormonal blitzkrieg. Assure your kids that you can tell anything and everything about them. Jokingly ask them, ‘Dei, yenthe ponne avethe nee love panna vitukku kuttitu vaa da.” “Love pandrethu thappu ille ma, aana amma te sollitu pannu. Veetukku kootitu va.” Be like the dads in Raja Rani, Varanam Aayiram, or the mother in VIP. Embrace your kids’ hormonal surge and they will be in your loving arms circumference.
As for internet savvy Malaysian Indian teens, parents of Malaysian Indian teens have no other way except being gadgets with internet connection savvy. And, ensure that you are in touch with your teen kids in the cyberworld. Explain to them the dangers of internet. If parents are in the know of their teen kids’ love relationship and have their online contacts, then this phenomena can be controlled to an extent. I know that to be old and wise, one has to be young and stupid. But when being stupid is synonymous to being dangerous then precaution should be applied.
Malaysian Indian teens have no dearth of rebellion. It is compounded by the off handed approach Indian parents use when dealing with their teen kids. They would wash their hands off the teens, saying, ‘Varuthu par, erume,’ ‘Ithellam yengge urupade pothe?’ Let me tell you even wounds heal but harsh words will stay in mind till one dies. It’s either that or fulfilling their teen kids’ every whim and fancy. Kononnya don’t want to make them feel deprived. My brother does this sometimes – he tells us not to tell his only son to switch off/turn off appliances when he doesn’t use them. Logic apa benda tu aku pun tak reti. We tell him to switch off anyway because thottil palakkam, sudugaatu mattum.
Suitable tackling by parents
Again, change your approach. Parents vilifying their Malaysian Indian teens incessantly, ain’t gonna make em change for the better. Calling them derogatory names don’t help either. And, never openly humiliate teenagers especially in front of relatives and friends. That will kill their psyche. My mom used to do it at me and those were the lowest points in my life. Know when to be your teen kids’ parents and when to be their friend. Make surprise visits to their schools, talk to their teachers, get to know their friends, encourage them and mostly, give them the assurance that you will be there for them no matter what. Watch movies together with them with your kids and don’t narrow down their window to the outside world. Be by their side and tell them what is wrong and what is right. Guide them – never forbid your children from watching violence and intimate scenes in movies. It’s based on a simple logic – the more you forbid something from the knowledge of your child, the more they will be piqued to know what’s it about. This applies to adults as well, Adam, Eve, The Devil in the Guise of Snake, Garden of Eden, the forbidden fruit – lacunae lie. Eventually, they will find other channels to rid their curiosity – often from misleading resources. Which one is better? Your kids learning about the birds and bees from you or from friends who are misinformed or the internet which is a repository for information but not necessarily correct information..??
Most of all, lead by example. If you tell your teen son not to smoke and drink while puffing away like a chimney and in a drunken state yourself, your words will escape him. Your action registers so you have only yourself to blame if son turns out to be a smoker/alcoholic later on. Your words are as effective as the warning – pughai pidipathu putru noi undakum, madhu arunthathal udal nallathirku kedu shown at the beginning of every Tamil movie and at smoking and drinking scenes. Adults themselves ignore such warnings and graphic depiction on cigarette packets, so you expect teens to follow the words? Monkey see, monkey do. Child see, child do.
Parenting is an art and children are empty canvases waiting to be drawn on. Paint virtues, correct priorities, responsibilities and felicity on the canvases using the strokes of love and colours of hope. Because I am a pathetic poet. But, do consider reflecting on what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong in painting your teen kids if you don’t want to end up being a pathetic parent.
The future of Malaysian Indian teens lies in the hands of their parents!