Freud And The Indian Mama’s Boy

Is there an Indian equivalent for Freudian thought? A Sigmund Fraud perhaps. The Oedipus complex makes no sense to most Indian boys. Not for noble reasons that the mother is the goddess archetype yadayada no she’s very much the fertile womb with human casing. But it’s because the mechanism is faulty. We’re supposed to identify with our fathers, then go after his objects of desire thus making him our rival and resulting in our wanting to supplant him. Well, joke’s on Tiresias because in India, Laius hates Jocasta, she’s practically his slave at worst or housemaid at best, so Oedipus can’t possibly inherit any desire for her. So to Freud, Indian boys like me shall say, not today sir, we grew up without any of your neuroses, perversions, and traumas, thanks to responsible parents who had the good sense to make it clear to us that they viciously hated each other.

There are of course strange Indians who will claim their parents had a romantic marriage and loved each other as equals, and I imagine whole psychology textbooks can be written about how messed up they are. For the most part of the normal curve, however, Indian marriages don’t harbor any uncertainty in the power dynamic. The father is the boss, the holder of the house. The mother is the maker of the home.

This explains this stereotype: overgrown prepubescent sissy 30yr old male -> overly coddling mother -> overly strict father. The reasoning never needed to be questioned. The father was too strict with the boy, the mother compensated, the father then had to become even more strict to compensate for the compensation, then the mother compensates again until there are two polar opposite parents raising a sissy. A Freudian spin on this, given a Girardian mechanism of mimetic desire, is the start point of a parent-couple with the largest power-imbalance. Where the householder vs homemaker dynamic is strongest, ie most unequal, then the son identifies with the father and through mimesis acquires the object of the father’s desire, a submissive mother who makes my home-life immaculately comfortable, hand-fed hot meals on demand, clothes fresh and clean, soothing affirmations about how that scoundrel Sharma in Finance is a back-biting sycophant who stole my promotion. Everything a perfect marriage is supposed to be, everything except sex, which is obviously only for Western degenerates, an unholy institution of fornication that was forced onto us by British imperialists.

Saying the Indian Mama’s boy is Oedipal therefore hints at something half right, that the mechanism of mimetic desire identifying the father as a rival is certainly at play. Except it is entirely wrong that the object of desire has an Oedipal nature. The Mama’s boy inherits the father’s desire for the mother to see to his every comfort need, physical (food) or emotional (support). In this the mother has limited time and resources and the father consequently becomes a rival, following the Freudian reasoning. The rival must be defeated and replaced. The Mama’s boy starts sucking up more and more of the mother’s comfort resources until it is he who eats dinner first where the father once had the Lion’s seat at the table, it is he who draws sympathy and compassion from the mother in fact using the father as the foil and caricature villain, not only depriving his father of the mother’s compassion but also making him an object of scorn.

The coup is complete. Look at me father, I am the captain now. I will take no wife, she doesn’t cook and clean as well as my mother, nor does she tell me that women are scared off by my overwhelming good looks and personality. None of this is in any way insightful. It’s terribly obvious. But in a field of psychology that is vociferously antagonistic to evolutionary biology and structuralism for reducing the market cap of Psychoanalysts Inc., there is strangely little culturally relativistic variants of standard theory. The fact that Freud can be applied to India, or Nigeria, or Papua is not at all terribly obvious. But what’s terribly obvious is that there is an overarching mechanism that would explain both the Freudian Oedipus of Vienna and the Vedic Parashurama of Uttar Pradesh, and the goal of cultural relativism is clearly to present contradictions in the current thesis that should result in a new synthesis. Next time you’re walking down Delhi’s illegal street book markets and buy yourself a copy of Sukhman Fraud’s Psychoanalytic theories, hopefully it’s not a typo.

A related theory of mine is the Reverse Anna Karenina Principle: All unhappy families are happy alike, but each happy family is unhappy in its own way. Happy is such a strange word. The word itself. It looks so awkward and childish. So what happens when the son identifies with the father and the father’s primary desire is the happiness of the son? My cynical theory is that the initial mimetic desire process cannot handle abstractions and instead desperately clings onto the most concrete object it can find in its place. So the father wanting the son to be happy cannot translate into a mimetic desire. The father instead seeks objects, like toys, that make me the son happy. I become a raging narcissist in a tragic-hero way, ie I obsessively desire not happiness but objects that will make me happy, ie the desire to desire happiness. However happy I become, the desire to desire is still unchanged and I will therefore never attain happiness. Instead of my criminally affectionate selfless father, I will blame Coke and global consumerism for making me chase happiness relentlessly. It’s always somebody else’s problem to fix. Out of my control.

A novel insightful exercise to determine the pragmatic difference in intellectual payoff between a novel insight and an obvious fact mistaken for novel insight.