How ‘Badhaai Ho’ Made Me Realise That I’d Judged My Parents’ PDA
On one chilly night of a 90s October, our little home in Patel Nagar was aflutter with activity. Our father had thrown one of his lavish dinners where Ma cooked delicious rice and chicken while everyone sang and drank merrily.
Baba had just moved on to his favourite Rabindra Sangeet numbers when our mother came in with a large Borosil bowl of rice. He spontaneously decided to dedicate his next song to her. As he sang ‘Aj jyotsna raate...’ in his amazing voice making all the hearts in that group melt, there was a tiny one feeling quite the opposite.
I was shocked to see a warm ray of intimacy pass between my parents in the middle of that crowd. On an afterthought, I realised that even the crowd didn’t matter. I was just plain embarrassed at their chemistry – like it was something unnatural. In my mind, all their affections were supposed to be directed at us, their kids.
The next few times, I felt even more aware of their relationship. I saw the capital get chillier and our family time get ‘cozier’ with both parents huddled together on the carpet, watching movies, as my sister and I played closed by. It was difficult to fathom why the cuddling was, on those rare occasions, offered to the only other adult in the family instead of the children.
How Badhaai Ho Brought Back Memories
It is obvious, then, that a lot of memories came rushing when I watched Badhaai Ho recently. I related tremendously to Ayushmann Khurrana’s Nakul in the film. In fact, even when my friends had come to terms with the fact that the protagonist’s parents had gotten intimate, I, like Nakul, thought it was perfectly fine that he sulk for almost an entire hour of the film!
In the refreshingly quirky film, Nakul stops talking to his parents – both well over 50 – for having conceived a baby. It enrages him further that they plan to raise one when society claims it is Nakul’s hour to have one.
He refuses to go to his cousin’s wedding in Meerut because of the embarrassment of facing his relatives with an expecting mother. He even starts ignoring his colleague and girlfriend Renee for a while.
This is no secret to me or millions of Indian kids though, having possibly come to that realisation through pure common sense or just by becoming adults ourselves.
We also slowly tend to understand how most of this is conditioning; we live in a country that hates any public display of affection, something any Valentine’s Day tod fod will tell you. We become young adults and learn to display affection either in hushed gestures or in rebellion.
Why Do We Grudge Parents Their PDA?
And then, there’s the commercialisation and advertising that tells us that being in love is the job of the young and the restless. And much later, when we have greyed enough, we are allowed to hold hands while sitting in the park bench, according to life insurance ads. Simply put, we don’t see intimacy between parents as the norm.
As Ahmedabad-based consultant psychiatrist and author Dr Hansal Bhachech says,
Children’s reactions to parents being intimate depend upon how they have been seeing them since their childhood. If they have seen them displaying their affection in home and publicly, they will probably take their intimacy in a healthy manner. However, when they have been raised in a very conservative environment where they’ve never seen their parents showing affection to each other, naturally, any act of intimacy will be opposed with shame and aggression.
But while most real-life stories don’t necessarily end up becoming as dramatic as the one portrayed in Badhaai Ho, a slow burn comes into play when two adults keep checking their conduct for the sake of their children.
In a bid to keep things staid for the young minds, their relationship goes through a change tailored to others' needs. To match the child's perception of their relationship, intimacy goes for a toss and clinical behaviour slowly takes over, one that makes them parents first and people in love later.
On a personal level, I only wish my parents had hugged each other more often than I had witnessed, so that I could have been a little less like Nakul. While Badhaai Ho has turned out to be an eye-opener for most of us, a much deserved badhaai awaits Indian kids when they finally comprehend the concept of intimacy between parents.
And that’s only possible when the consenting adults walk the talk, sanskaar be damned.
(Runa Mukherjee Parikh is an independent journalist with several national and international media houses like The Wire, Bust and The Swaddle. She previously reported for the Times of India. She is the author of the book 'Your Truth, My Truth (https://www.amazon.in/dp/B076NXZFX8)'. You can follow her at @tweetruna.)