Ask him to help. You need the money. You don’t ask. Instead: panic, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome set in. Take refuge in the toilet.
For someone who’d lost their job during the first wave of COVID layoffs, requesting financial assistance from a family member (ahem, my father) shouldn’t be so hard. But I couldn’t manage it. The conversation would have to be parked for another time.
In October 2020, our young family moved from Mumbai to Goa. We’d seen our friends from the creative industries make the switch and make ends meet. We had savings set aside for moments like this. And right enough, six months later, I took on a couple of consultancy roles: One for an Indian cultural adventure video game and another, as an editor for a national transmedia publication. I was getting out of my comfort zone. And it felt like the right time for my soul to feel some growth as well. I went all-in on therapy.
My initial conversations with the therapist quickly revealed that I had a complicated relationship with money. The memories came flooding in, the patterns were suddenly obvious. Through therapy, I was able to detect that a toxic combination of people-pleasing behaviour and pent-up feelings towards my parents, rooted in childhood trauma, was taking up plenty of space in my head and my heart. On the one hand, I had embraced the frugality of my BEST- and local train-loving parents. On the other, I swore to enjoy my own money to the last rupee, without comprehending what that really meant for me or who I really was.
My therapist’s forgiveness exercises allowed me to experience reduced anxiety and improved mental health. They also helped me understand that my parents did the best with the information and tools they had at their disposal, in spite of their circumstances. After all, they were the ones responsible for the soundest financial decision I ever made.
I was on holiday in Ladakh in 2005 when my parents called to say I was one of the ‘winners’ of the annual Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) lottery — a dream scenario for three generations of Lobos and D’Souzas. I eventually got around to buying said flat, thanks to a lot of convincing from my dad and some good advice from my friends.
My dad had helped make it a reality, and now that we’d leased the flat out to tenants, that rent was being deposited in his account to pay off the money he’d put in. This loan was now repaid, but he continued to receive the rent. I’d broached the topic with him a few times; he always brushed away my query. But when, two years into our Goan honeymoon — both consultancies done and staring at returning to city life in Mumbai — I needed my flat’s rent, I still hesitated to initiate the conversation thanks to a mental image of my father that I had held on to since childhood.
My therapist gave me two powerful tools. The first, to accept that I was only responsible for my own emotions, to remain calm no matter how my dad reacted. And secondly, to recognise how I was reacting, preferably with my adult ego instead of my hurt inner child. When I came around to having the talk, much to my surprise, my father agreed to make the change — the rent would now be deposited into my account.
Along with the money though, I now have a renewed relationship with my father. By embracing and owning my mistakes — of being either too anxious about spending or being reckless with money — and building new patterns for myself, I’ve come to accept the past, and not let it hold me back from asking for help. I simply wish I’d done it earlier — therapy, and then speaking to my father.
Kenneth Lobo is a cultural producer who executes concept-based, original projects collaborating with and commissioning artists across genres and generations to deliver cultural experiences with depth, scale and reach.