Shakti perspectives: Shamita Shiva
"You protected. You loved. Fiercely. But you suffocated him.
You shed your own skin in a whispered past and devoted your entire existence to him.
You wanted to become him, almost as much as you wanted him to become you."
This extract from "Twin Flame", a new upcoming movement film is one that still makes the hairs on my neck stand.
When we think of mistreatment or abuse in children, loss of identity is a rare topic of discussion. However, the idea of living vicariously through your children; wanting to mould them to become carbon copies of their parents, or 'better’, is highly commonplace within families of Asian backgrounds. Parenting styles of diverse communities are wildly different to those of Caucasian backgrounds. When white parents compare their children to the 'model Asian students' who are studious, respectful, and don't get into trouble; little do they realise what often occurs behind that curtain. The degrees of pressure on Asian children can vary from 'private tuition 4 days a week' and 'excessive extracurricular music lessons', to 'a metal ruler to the leg' if a B grade exam is brought home from school.
We often hear about the physical abuse that occurs, but far more common is the emotional abuse when a child is considered to be 'different' in an Asian household. If a child expresses interest in something other than what their parents have set out for them, it is often met with disdain. Its purpose is questioned if it doesn't directly relate to their academic success, or their parents' interests.
Sometimes it is laughed at, or belittled. Being 'different' is not something to be embraced. The child is given the anecdote of the long hard journey their parents endured to get to where they are today. They are told to be grateful; they are told to respect their elders' decisions. Ultimately, they know what is best for you. This is an easy pill to swallow as a young child, but as one gets older what starts as rebellion often turns into withdrawal, acceptance.
The choices you think are yours to make, are in fact not. Because choosing for yourself would be selfish. To decide to do something that benefits you, but not the family directly, is abhorrent. These children are told a thousand times over- be good, be better than your father/ mother. We made many sacrifices because we love you, and you can prove your love for us through following the path we have set for you. Love is conditional. We are often guilted into our futures by the people who raise us.
This is where it becomes damaging. Even when there is genuine care and love between parents and their children, there is always a constant need to fulfil and go beyond expectations. Not for yourself, but for the health and wellbeing of your parents. By the time you've reached adulthood, unless you have committed social suicide by flunking, or dropping your undesired degree; you have essentially fulfilled your mother or father’s dream. Your mind has been conditioned to a specific idea of success, and you believe that this is what it looks like for you. Because all those times you protested their wishes as a child, and the times you tried something because YOU wanted to, have been long forgotten.
This loss of identity was something the team of ‘Twin Flame’ wanted to explore within our film. We both spoke about how as children there were times where we knew we were SO loved by our parents, but at times their fear to let us find our own way, or have personal ambitions seemed overwhelming. Our character Parvati, the epitome of divine familial love and devotion- seems as if she can do no wrong. Her ultimate goal is to raise the perfect child and teach him everything she knows. We want to explore the loss of identity that sometimes occurs in motherhood just as much as the loss of her child's identity. Post-natal identity loss is infrequently discussed, as are the effects of living only for someone else. Loving something too much can be closer to toxic obsession than we realise.