This essay, like a few before this, was born out of a conversation I had with a friend. The conversation was about the right of an individual to choose his/her mate. In India, the norm is for the parents to choose the mate.
If you were to go home and tell your parents that you had found a girl that you wanted to marry, 8 times out of 10, there would be an earthquake of sorts. The time immediately following this event would be filled with your parents outlining to you all that they have done for you over the years. “Is this how you repay us?”, is an oft repeated question. This question is what formed the basis for the rest of the discussion – Just how much does a child owe his parents?
When we cut out all the frills, the principle duty of any living thing is ‘propagation of the species’. It all comes down to that in the end. You can achieve greatness in any number of fields, but if you have not done anything towards ensuring that your species is carried forward by at least a generation, you have failed in your primary duty.
Based on this premise, it would also make sense to derive that any person owes nothing to the previous generation. If your parents gave you birth and brought you up, they did it because it was their primary duty. It was not a favor bestowed on you. In the same manner, you will perform your duty and obviously pay back your parent when you bring forth the next generation and care for it.
Caring for the previous generation is an option, one that you may accept or refuse. But if you do choose to care for your parents, then it is you who are doing the favor.