Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The politics of parenthood

In the light of moral policing and security issues of IIT Madras where media and parents are extremely concerned about the moral decadence of their wards I wonder- What rights does one have on one’s life? It takes me to even larger question, why are we being born? The leap of questions would seem large but my justifications will soon clarify your qualms.

From birth I was reminded I was a girl and hence my role is to study the basic minimum stuff that would help me be a wife material and my education would suffice to teach my kids and therefore save the tuition fare. My uncles still believe it was a mistake letting me choose doctoral studies.

 Why are we as a nation so obsessed with having children and thereby designing their lives? To the extent that we go frenzy when the biological clock ticks away and in sheer desperation get married to any tom, dick and harry. I believe we live in a marriage and procreation obsessed nation where the beauty and true meaning of both the institution of family and commitment is absent. We marry and procreate as casual as a high school kids graduates from school to college.

Many of my friends ( Not all) who are single with a Phd mourn their singlehood and freedom. The one’s married mourn their decision and chaos. And finally what was this race for? For the building of a new generation. What is it about parenthood that makes us so gleefully vocal? Why are  the single and childless shunned by this society? And what does being a parent mean? Isn’t this turning to look like a wasted life?
I fail to understand friends who tell me I have not learnt the true meaning of my existence as a woman Just because I don’t change nappies and feed a baby 24 hours does not mean my life is meaningless. Then of course I am told motherhood has more to it. And I am fed with the Johnson and hohnson dreamy ads. But, I refuse to listen to the sermons of these individuals who fret over their baby’s teething and first step. I refuse to be fooled by Karan Johar movies of parent child love, where duty and honour inter twines to make a melodramatic mis-e scene.I am bogged down by the endless mails from my alumni announcing the birth of their progenies and reminding me I am last in the race. I calm myself and ponder why would I want a child?
I love kids, I really do, but I am not a narcissist to believe my life and this world revolves around my romanitic notions on parenting. I, infact see this as the biggest threat to humankind. In this so called divine intervention which I would call parental engineering we are so obsessed that we no longer enjoy the process. My peers fret over their diets, choice of maternal care, future schools, names, careers for their babies and all I see is a meticulous project plan under process to welcome an individual into the new office called ‘family’.
 Our children become our quests. We procreate to rectify our mistakes, to make amendments, and with the ease of designing our interior décor we design our children. We save, starve, and lavish over our progeny in the hope of recovering from them what we have invested. And no matter how much we deny this to ourselves our true colours come out in the right situations.
So for parents who ask “How dare you decide what you study”? “ How can you decide you are gay?” “ How can you decide whom you marry”? these are those junctures, those right situations when you suddenly realize your children aren’t  shares, fixed deposits and  flexi bonds and you did create them with lot of calculations.And suddenly you lose your marbles, for your children failed you.
I don’t understand who gives a human being the right to decide for another just because he or she is older. After all we all make, have been making and will make mistakes irrespective of our age.  Why is a younger generation and their hormones often blamed for deeming them incapable and us as parents or elders to be demi gods.
In the current debates on alternate sexual preferences, drug abuse and related matters at IIT a voice constant heard is about how much the management owes to parents who have trusted their wards to the institute. Which again makes me ask why does a parent worry so much?  I see this mother staying back at IIT with her daughter over a semester. She is here to help her daughter complete this course while the poor kid is under depression. I wonder what this means. Instead of telling your kid go home and relax you are willing to be by her side to undergo this torture. Is this parental love and responsibility?
I would flatly say no. It is a calculative act. Because the IIT tag sells, the hope that the daughter gets a job, a prospective groom, the offers are endless. And this is not the first case. Many parents I have interacted to whose children are depressed asked me if their child would ever complete his/her degree rather regain sanity.
Lets accept it, we want children because we are bored, or want to strengthen our relationship with our spouse, or to compete with our neighbor, relatives, or to feel successful and get a sense of accomplishment in life. We want children because we worry what the society might tell us if we don’t have them, we want them so that they take care of us, inherit our property, carry our legacy, do what we could never in life. We want them because it is a natural human disposition to have a kid once you get married, as it is to join a college after you finish schooling.But maybe we forget that, they are independent beings in flesh and blood and we have no right to torture them constantly because we bore them for nine months and paid for their expenses. They never asked for any of it.

If this is parenting, I don’t regret being the last one in the race. For I don’t want to commit grave injustice to another generation to fulfill my unfulfilled desires. I am aware of the fact that some smart kid of mine will dig this up down the line to get his or her demands fulfilled but I hope I don’t stand on pedantic pedestal and lead him/her to the option of doing so.
If my child wants to be a homo, atheist, cycle mechanic, I want to be able to trust his decision and only when I can transform my mind to that level would I choose being a parent. And I promise I wont ever make the mistake of owning my child and would always respect his/her identity as an independent one.

And quoting from the tele show Satyameva Jayate I would like to end an age old debate on elderly respect Indian firmly believe in and is the foundation of every family. " It's not elders that should be respected and looked upto, it's the behaviour that should be respected and looked upto". So being a parent does not deserve respect perhaps we have learned from experience that not all elders show responsible and respectable behaviour.So why should they be respected blindfoldedly?

If anything should be respected it's behaviour and that would not give anyone the right over the other just because they are biologically older or hierarchically senior or at advantageous position to fund, curb and control your life.Perhaps we need to have perspectives and a decentralised approach to parenting where we consider children as individuals, where there is a scope for dialogue and a constant    reflexion that we don't do this out of mercy and every child deserves this from a parent.

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