Tuesday, March 24, 2015

XX or XY?

I have been reading Rujuta Divekar's "Women & The Weightloss Tamasha". I expected this book to enlighten me about a well balanced diet to get back in shape after pregnancy. But it turns out, that it enlightens you more about the being a woman in the Indian society. For the record, only the crème de la crème of the Indian society are in a position to afford a nutrition consultant such as Rujuta or "RD" -- as she's lovingly referred to by her following. So I was expecting her clientele to include all the non-famous Sonam Kapoors or Kareena Kapoors of the nation. I was surprised when I read about the kind of lifestyles all these rich women lead. Feeling guilty about preparing a food item specially for oneself, taking all the "cow" jokes cracked by their husbands in a lighter vein but feeling utterly defeated inside, giving up work to be a stay at home mom and then feeling worthless because of the choice, being okay with the male members of the family not contributing anything to the housework, and numerous other similar last century habits. It was saddening to find out that this still is pretty much the norm in India, even in the rich classes where women can easily afford professional domestic help. And it was a relief to realise that I am miles away from any of these impositions. 

Being pregnant also brought forth insights into the society into which I was going to let my unborn baby mingle. The news itself was received by praising my choice of "not delaying it too much", implying that we are a society that looks down on women who delay motherhood or do not want it. Then, as months progressed, everyone including strangers in the supermarket queue took a shot at predicting the gender of the baby. Some well meaning aunties advised me to eat certain foods to "get a boy". It didn't matter that I was already in my fifth month then, and the gender of the baby was decided! 

Every time I would lie down for a sonography, I would stare into a mandatory legal declaration in the consultant's office. It screamed in a bold font that sex determination is a punishable crime. The offenders could get up to three years in jail along with a Rs. 50,000 fine. It was always a comforting sight. I had even saved the toll free number given alongside so that I could report people who were surreptitiously trying to do it. 

Every time I touched an old lady's feet out of respect they would bless me and say out loud that I may produce a son. I always retorted, "Take that back! I want a daughter". I am the only daughter of an only daughter. I wanted to continue that desperately. I guess it was partly because I wanted to relive my own childhood and partly because I am a crazy feminist. I absolutely, from the core of my being hate being treated second to men. And I hate men who condone this kind of behaviour. And more than anything else in the world I have a big problem with women who consider producing sons their boarding pass to the flight to heaven. It is a sad fact that women are just as guilty of perpetrating this crime as men are. If men treat women as second class family members, women treat other women, especially the women married to their sons, as second class family members as well. 

And you don't have to go to the extreme of sex determination to see this attitude. Little gestures go a long way in showing you that you are not equal to your husband, even if he himself honestly thinks you're more than equal! If you come home from work and start cooking, it's no big deal; but God forbid if you sit down with your computer and the husband cooks, all hell breaks loose! You're expected to stay home way past the time you take for nursing because "the baby needs mom". But nobody has ever even thought of leaving that job to dad. I think a child would equally benefit from having a relaxed dad at home who would indulge him/her when the crazy disciplining mom is out to work. Bedtime stories would be so much sweeter in baba's voice than they are in aai's voice! And wouldn't it be a great Facebook cover photo where the mom is seen cooking and the son and father are helping her chop vegetables? Or better still the mom is seen working on her laptop as her babies bring her coffee? 

I was never very sentimental about these milestones. But somewhere I expected that motherhood would make me at least a little bit of those gooey-emotional-mommy types. But the only emotion I felt strongly all through my pregnancy was an urge to win this battle by having a girl! But I lost. And how! Even in my spinal anaesthetic high in the OT, I heard someone say that it is better to have a boy first. Then you can decide calmly if you want another child. If I wasn't so numb, happy and high at that point, I would have given that man a black eye. 

I can't not like my little guy just because I wanted a girl. Ultimately, girl or boy, mommy always loves them to bits. But now I realise that life has given me a tougher challenge than just raising a girl without this social bias. It has given me the challenge of raising a guy who would treat the women in his life with utmost love, respect and fairness. To teach him that no matter what old ladies say to your mom about having you, life would have been just as easy and happy had you been born as a girl. You would still get that extra piece of cake, and you'd still be dragged into bed at 9, whether you wanted it or not! 

Just like marriage, motherhood is also a personal choice. And yes, it is a choice. You are free to choose not to have a child. And I think our society also needs to learn how to respect that choice. However magical and fulfilling it is for you, it is still a universal phenomenon. Of all the sons born with "the blessing of the almighty" very few really turn out to be as ideal as Lord Ram -- the epitome of an ideal son. But we still see a lot of Seetas finding solace by giving up into the arms of Mother Earth, because they are not trusted by this world! 


ajay said...

Ultimate post Saee. Your son is fortunate to have mother like you.

Dnyanada Relekar said...

I am really happy you have a son for now we can surely expect one boy growing with clear ideas of gender-equality and not those of false chivalry. :)