Mental and Physical Abuse in Desi Culture


Have you ever felt like you’re not good enough? Anyone and everyone would answer yes. There is always time in our lives where we feel inadequate in some way.  Of course, it’s painful.  At times, you may even feel worthless. But, with every growth comes growing pain. With every trial and challenge comes growth and elevation to a greater version of yourself.  With that in mind, we have all heard that you can never compare yourself to anyone, as it is important to focus only on yourself. Each journey is tailored to a specific individual.

But what if you don’t heal from the pain?  What if the pain becomes a norm?  You truly are never good enough?All you know is how other people view you?  Such is the reality of every child raised within the Desi culture. “Log kya kahenge?”, translates to “What will people say?”. Hasan Minhaj had famously joked about it in “Homecoming King”. Although, it was used for comedic purposes, if you take away all the laughs and jokes you’ll left with the disturbing truth that every Desi kid relates too.


Picture a girl comes home from shopping. Her mother asks to see what she bought.  She pulls out a skirt. What kind of skirt? That doesn’t matter. All her mother can think is how her daughter even has the audacity to spend her father’s hard earned money for garbage. The mother immediately berates her daughter.  Belittling her and shaming her by degrading her value to that of a commodity, because “log kya kahenge?”

Now a boy.  He is bringing home his report card to get signed by his parents. He’s only 12, he truly does not have to worry about college until he reaches high school.  Yet he knows better. He can already feel the sting on his cheek from the slap his father will deliver to him. He reaches home, and his parents ask to see his report card. With shaky hands, he hands the report card over to them. He bows his head in shame, waiting for the screaming and beating to begin. Disappointment and anger is etched into his parents’ features as they glance over. He performed poorly on every subject except for English and Arts.


Subjects that his parents thought were the most valuable and important, like Math and Science were his weakest. He is unable to fulfil his parent’s dreams of becoming a doctor.  Not only does perform poorly in those subject, but he has any interest in them or becoming a doctor.  Each time the discussion  of his career and future is bought up by his parents, he tries to tell them his dreams of being an artist. And, each time, his parents reject his idea saying the society which they live in will never respect him for his choice, so essentially, “log kya kahenge”?


So what happens next?  Can the boy and girl stand up to their parents and society and embrace their individualistic natures? No. Some parents would rather die than see their children disobeying him. Parents would rather ensure the child’s status in society by making sure him and her behave appropriately, is religious, listens to elders, provides for the family, and studies to become either a doctor, engineer  or lawyer. Regardless, if the child is happy or not, parents would rather let them suffer then taint the family name and honour. In essence, Desi culture strips a child’s identity starting from their childhood.

Why exactly can’t the child stand up and rebel against society and parents? Because emotional manipulation is one of the most influential form of abuse any parent can commit. Parents have the ability to make you feel guilty for being unhappy for the life they have chosen for you. You owe them your life, and they will take it by any means or force necessary. 


Of course, that isn’t all.  South Asian, or Desi kids are subjected to traumatic experiences without even realising it, as this has become normalised in society. So what is the outcome of this?  South Asian countries have been reported to have higher the suicide rate than rate averaged globally.  There have been several student in India who have committed suicide because of stress from courses and parents.  In Pakistan, there has been an increase in suicides among teenagers; cases which report some sort of failure to meet society or parent’s demands. Unfortunately, Desi kids in the West experience similar traumatic issues as more parents still hold the toxic mentality and approach to dealing with children.

The horrifying reality of these kids, seems to never end, and the parents seem to never learn or understand that methods of discipline, only contribute to the child’s downfall.  As a result, the depression rates and suicide rates amongst teens and even those above the age of 18 have increased.  Because this toxic mentality may never change, the pain will only continue to become a norm. The kids who have been abused by their parents will more than likely abuse their children too.  And so, the toxic cycle of physical and emotional abuse continues, until the subject is addressed and changed. 

By Anika Shakir