Here's the premise: After we've helped support our adult children through college and early work years, they (and their spouse) owe us grandkids. If they don't deliver, they should pay us back. Moreover, we can sue them if they don't fulfill their part of the next-generation equation.
Hah! A laughable notion, right? But in India, a mom and dad are suing their son and daughter-in-law for failing to come up with a grandchild after six years of marriage--and years of financial support that included paying for a lavish Bollywood-style wedding.
The suit may sound out of whack to our Western ears but, as reported in the New York Times, in India the suit made headlines in national newspapers and "prompted a debate about how much control parents should have over their children’s life choices." The demand is, according to the couple's lawyer, "an Indian parent thing." (The parents are suing for $650,00 in damages.)
Cultural differences aside, it's hard to accept that a sense of let-down can be righted by a financial transaction. That said, the grievance is all too relatable. It's culturally acceptable here to encourage our recently married children to "get on with having a family," even to make what we think are "cute" little remarks along the lines of "what are you waiting for?" If they decide to go forth childless, we may choose to make our displeasure and disappointment known at our peril.
Here's a little more from the Times story on what pushed the parents over the edge.
After spending their savings to have their son trained as a pilot in the United States, Sanjeev Ranjan Prasad and Sadhana Prasad financed his lavish wedding back in India, along with a luxury car and an overseas honeymoon.
They assumed their investments would eventually pay off, in the form of a grandchild. But as time ticked by, they say, the not-so-newlyweds showed little interest in producing one.
After waiting anxiously for six years, they decided to sue.
While the suit is given little chance of succeeding, that doesn't mean it hasn't hit a sympathetic chord with many parents of adult children.
Raavi Birbal, a lawyer in India, said that the suit would probably not go far because its arguments violate rights enshrined in India’s Constitution, including the right to liberty.
“This is actually a very rare case,” Ms. Birbal said. “That is why it is so much in the limelight. But, ultimately, it is the couple’s choice to have a child, not that of their parents.”
Hari Bhushan Yadav, 52, a shopkeeper in Haridwar, said that residents had been discussing the case with great interest over tea outside his shop, and that older people tended to sympathize with the plaintiffs.
painting: Claude Monet, The Cradle