As far as Darwin is concerned, mating is solely for the purpose of continuing one’s lineage. That’s a rather simplistic interpretation of the whole family business and yet speaks the truth for most of such unions in traditional societies. Here in Pakistan marriage is dictated on the same terms: the furthering on of one’s familial name. The ability to do so acts as the benchmark for many in such unions. Women who bear sons are the elite in this cynical hierarchy. It seems Darwin’ theories weren’t so abstract after all.

A clichéd justification to arranged marriages often goes something like this: marriages are not solely between the two partners but in fact between two families. True, to some extent. That said, this remark misses one very important detail in its explanation: the children. Marriages are always taken as a union between the two without really factoring in the future entrants to this societal union.

The children are born into this union and in most cases see the end of it in their lives. In other words, the children’s lives truly encompass the union of their parents. There are many advantages to this of course. As is the natural way of things, the parents are responsible for their off-spring. From feeding, to nurturing and indeed teaching them the terms of trade of everyday living, the parent guides the young one. The young learns many things from their parents at times growing into similar reincarnation of their parents. In most cases, this is a good thing.

A marriage as mentioned previously is not between the two individuals but is, more importantly, a habitat to rear the young one. Children, irrespective of the ‘Nature vs Nurture’ debate, learn and adapt to all that their parent teach them. They learn to live on the terms of their parents, to either polish or mellow down their instinctive abilities. The children become, in almost all cases, the humans their parents make them to be.

All that said the process of child rearing is a difficult one. With the changing times, the lessons learnt by parents at times, grow primitive and ineffectual. The child too, exposed to the onslaught of ‘newness’ finds little charm in traditions and has a strong chance of growing into someone who has misplaced roots to the way of thinking. The two should ideally compromise to a balance of the two but real world has proven that such a balance is a work of fiction. The conflicts that are brought forth are hence taken as a normal way of dealing with the other generation. The arguments too are taken as a norm of either growing up or growing old. The norm forces a generalized interpretation to what is in fact a completely individual and unique phenomenon. The arguments are not part and parcel of the process of growing up and growing old. It’s simply an indication that something is very wrong.

In Pakistan we undermine the psychological impacts of our woes. Psychological counseling is looked down upon and stays a hushed phenomenon. Feelings and exasperations are expected to be silenced and ignored, and psychological scars are treated very casually if considered at all. This is obviously a wrong way to deal with things but Pakistanis do have a habit of continuing to practice what is blatantly wrong.

Let me again repeat that the children’s playground is their parents’ lives. The playground however can grow thorny if the parents themselves are disturbed. I speak of ‘disturbed’ here as a metaphor to ‘psychologically scarred’ because it best summarizes the state of such familial cases. Serial killers, though an extreme example, best shed light on the effect of a parent’s psychological woes on the growth and grooming of their children, the future serial killers. Serial killers often grow out of ‘disturbed’ or ‘abusive’ childhoods and either repeat or avenge all the wrongs done to them. The parents rarely face the music of their making. The child however, continues to practice all the wrong in his/her life. The process of course doesn’t stop here. The ‘disturbed’ child of the ‘disturbed’ parents ends up forming the same thorny playground for their children. It’s a furious cycle, this one, and it rarely ever stops.

The movie ‘Detachment’ has been one of the favorites for a while now. The movie deals with the psychological abyss that exists between different generations, one I have indicated in the above prose. It rightly so emphasizes the impact the dependee has on the dependent [that said, aren’t we all dependent to some dependee?] The relationship best comes to light in the form of the students Henry Barthes teaches as a substitute teacher. He sees them exhibit their familial misgivings and finds them chained to all the hurt that comes out of their distasteful relationships with the parents. In a monologue, he concludes that: There should be a prerequisite, a curriculum for being a parent before people attempt.

The relationship between a child and a parent is a fragile one and each and every one of us must be ready to realize both the physical and psychological repercussions of our behaviours onto those dependent on us. Unions need to be made keeping this in mind, after all there is no escape for a child in this case. Kafka, in his famous Letter to his Father best sums the ‘disturbed’ child’s predicament and will act as the perfect conclusion to this write up: “It is as if a person were a prisoner, and he had not only the intention to escape, which would perhaps be attainable, but also, and indeed simultaneously, the intention to rebuild the prison as a pleasure dome for himself. But if he escapes, he cannot rebuild, and if he rebuilds, he cannot escape.”