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The Business Of Procreation

The Business Of Procreation

July 12, 2012
Meera Ramanathan

Indians are often bound by the tentacles of age and societal norms. Does the business of procreation stand any different?

Five minutes after the birth of my first born, the nurse declared that the birth of my second one would be easier. The only thing that stopped me from wringing her neck was extreme fatigue and sheer exhaustion.

The business of procreation is taken for granted by Indians. The sixty seconds following the nuptial knot is when the younger generation is wishing you good luck and the elder generation is prepping you up for offspring. Apparently, they don’t even want you to wait till the wedding night. From fire to frying pan, quite literally.

The milestones of an Indian women’s life is chiseled out for eons. Getting married at 25, first kid at 27, second at 30, raising them for what seems like the next billion years and patiently waiting for menopause to set in. If you are lucky and blessed with the rare breed of spouse who understand this trauma, you can squeeze in your passion for travel, arts and culinary excellence. Otherwise your mundane life grabs you by the frills and by the time it drops you, your youth is history. In the past few years, these milestones have been delayed by a few years but the roadmap is still set in stone. Any exception to this is strongly condemned and to fight this is a Herculean task.

By contrast most of my American friends don’t think of settling down until they are well into their 30s. Some never settle down and some have kids and still break up. Their lives are far more messed up than ours but to be free from the tentacles of age somehow seems exhilarating. The chains of matrimony don’t tighten at the big 30, the need for children don’t plague them right from their wedding nights with subtle hints and friendly enquires from “well-wishers”. One of my closest friends (30+) has been dating her 40 something boyfriend for many years now. They are travelling the world far and wide, exploring different cuisines and pursue successful careers. What they haven’t done is set their wedding date or further populate the world. While this would make most Indian aunties click their tongues and shake their heads pronouncing that their lives are no good and they are missing out on their productive years, I’m pretty sure their lives are well-rounded and extremely satisfying as it is.

Having experienced it first hand, I can truly say that having and raising a kid requires commitment and endurance. That said getting pregnant cannot and should not be a woman’s only goal or lifetime achievement. My friend just climbed the Kilimanjaro and I would give her equal credit, only the durations differ. Hers was a 10 day trek, mine is an 18 year and 10 month contract. Both require nerves of steel, physical strength and mental toughness.

Some years ago, I would have frowned upon couples not embarking on this chalked out journey after getting married. I would have ostracized them as radicals but today I have the mind to appreciate people who look before they leap. They want different things from life than me because in this journey there is no looking back. It is probably the most exhausting task you willingly sign up for, nevertheless, the most exciting. While I eagerly look forward to the years ahead and the adventures it would bring along, I’m also wistful of the days gone by. And that’s ok too… I’m still going to be a “Good” Mother. 

15 Comments

  • HARRY
    By
    HARRY
    25.12.12 07:40 PM
    @ Meera

    I do understand in what you and Vaishali is saying and I said it in my first paragraph that the pressure is on women not on men. So I do agree with you on that, but the things you said only applies in very ideal coditionds ( films). Living without the kids is luxury indian women don't have and are not allowed by their relatives either. Regardless where we live and what we do we will always be Indians and those conditions will always apply to us no matter what you and I say. Period. By the time you and I think outside this box it's allready too late. The way of Indianness has got to us all.

    I know about six to seven people who are only together because of kids not love. Don't you think that is large numbers of people?

    When a ghost of love vanishes from relationship the only thing that is left is two individuals and kids said one friend and you know what I agree with him.

    HARRY

    PS Don't get worked up and have lots of mince pies It's christmas. :) It's good to chat with you.
  • Meera
    By
    Meera
    25.12.12 02:11 AM
    @Harry: while I agree that nothing prepares you for the adventure ride that is parenthood, you need to be sure to embark in the ride. It is the same as going bunjee jumping but not te same as getting hit by a hammer. The diff being in the former you decide. Which is the whole point of my article.
    You have a right to your perspective but I don't think having kids is the only way to cement your relationship. There are plenty of people who decide no to have children yet enjoy each others company. So it has worked for you but might not be a norm... Don't you think so?
    Unless you are an Indian girl in your early 30s you have no idea how the pressure builds up! It gets suffocating to say the least!
  • HARRY
    By
    HARRY
    25.12.12 01:37 AM
    @ Vaishali

    Men and women have different views on love and relationship. You may argue and say no it's same, but trust me it's not. You may say that your other half likes and loves the same things, no he doesn't. Some men compromises with their spouce in order to keep things stable and calm, but trust me, it's not always same. No two identical twins even thinks and feels same things. For men it's normaly what I said. But for women it is different. Men thinks of things in more of physical way and women thinks in term of emotional way. See they appear same but not same. So in what I said, I stand by it. I'm not nasty but I'm realistic. :)

    HARRY

    PS If my Mrs and I didn't have the kids, I don't think we would together today.
    BTW The society will not change and other things will carry on the same as it always been in the past.
  • Vaishali
    By
    Vaishali
    24.12.12 11:36 PM
    @ Harry,

    I am not able to understand how can you say that a kid Is the only thing which makes a relationship work. Infact, I have seen couples having kids very early in life end up having the rockiest relationships.. If you are not mature to compromise and accept a relationship, imagine the fights in front of kids.
    In India, a 30yr old married childless girl would be scared by these aunties of health scares to have a kid after 30. Even, the doctors believe so. It would actually terrify a person so much that she might opt out of it.
    I hope the society changes and the present day moms donot turn into these gossipy aunties curbing the freedom of women.
  • ashley talwar
    By
    ashley talwar
    16.07.12 09:16 AM
    Deepa, I pretty much agree with everything you said. We are definitely on the same page. And let's all understand that the same gossiping "aunties" are present in every culture. It's really not just an Indian thing! People like to "advise" others all over the world. It's true that in the west we are probably more emboldened to speak our own minds, and do just what we dam well please, but it almost always comes with a good tongue lashing from at least one or two elders! Sometimes it works in our favor, and sometimes it doesn't. Oh, and thank you, Deepa, for pointing out that American culture is not the society represented by Hollywood, or entertainment oriented cities like Las Vegas! There are plenty, and I mean plenty of us whose moral conviction would make some Indians I've met look like Hell-Raisers! But I know the article isn't really about America. Having been married to an Indian man for four years, I've experienced first hand the pressures from well intentioned family members whose advice is less than welcomed, and not often adhered to by my husband and I! But, and maybe this is because I'm not Indian myself, it doesn't seem so much different from the advice and probing questions from my American family. Maybe his family tones it down a bit because they don't expect the same results from me as they would expect from a "desi" girl? I don't know. But regardless, I'd just say that women all around the world have to put up with this phenomenon! There's no escaping it! Run if you wish! But there's no hiding. The "aunties" will find you!!!! LOL!
  • HARRY
    By
    HARRY
    12.07.12 10:24 PM
    @ Meera

    I think couples are never ready to have kids at any age. This is like bunjee jumping, where you have to be pushed sometimes, unless it happens by accident. I also think that, the pressure is on a woman not on the man.

    I am glad that I became father at early stage because I don't think I would been able to cope at 40's.

    What I find in this discussion topic is, where people are saying, when you are ready to have kids, it's only then you should. This is same as saying, I will hit you with hammer on your thumb, are you ready, Which is the same statement you have used on top ( second one will be easier ).

    What I also think that elders pressures you to have kids because this is the only way to stablilise you in the relationship and the bonus is being a grandparent. The main point of this is that, our social norms tells as that, there are more chance of divorce in the early stage of married life because the couples have differences and the only way to cement this in the relationship is to gel them together with a baby.

    You may argue that it's love that keeps two people together, but until the couple don't live together, they will not realise that it's more then love that is needed to keep two people together. So all the theories regarding learning to love and plan for life and all the lovey dovey stuff goes out of window.

    When aunties and mums and mum-inlaw decide that you should have kids. It's not for their benefit but it's to fit you in the social norm box for long run.
    So that you can be stable and happy.
    You can not say that western formula is correct and eastern is not because they both work in their own way.

    Kids are an adventure, and you are about to start yours now, and good luck, because you will be needing this.

    HARRY
  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    12.07.12 08:52 PM
    @Deepa,

    To quote you, “I am sorry to say this, but I have already seen this happening. Women torturing their daughter-in-laws because they themselves were made to follow certain customs by their mother in laws. And so the cycle continues”.

    Therefore, the guess that made you shudder is correct.

    Never experienced any of those described by you in our life. My sisters two of them were never subservient to five of the other brothers or me. It is not any general rule that the same thing happens in every Indian family.

    If the female you know allows her brother to stay when she is married, he becomes guest and has no right to demand anything from her because she is now another man’s wife. He should be kicked out to find his own abode. We were seven children in the family and my mother never thought us a burden, my father being a politician was never at home until late in the night.

    The woman doctor, the husband and brother who are IT people are educated enough to figure out their lives. The misery is their own making because they cannot expect others go figure out their problems. If you read the comments I made to Meera once again, my request should be clear to change the societal norms of the past taking for granted most of the present generation are better educated and access to more information than the past generations.

    Life is what one makes of it.
  • C. Suresh
    By
    C. Suresh
    12.07.12 01:39 PM
    The important thing here is that the choice gets made by the people concerned and not by the people around them - no matter what the choice turns out to be! Wonderful write-up and it seems to have sparked up a lively debate.
  • Deepa
    By
    Deepa
    12.07.12 12:18 PM
    Oh, I am sorry, I don't mean to say that those who have kids early in life go ahead to regret it. Not at all. My only point was that whoever the individual be, if he/she's ready then all is well. But regardless of whether its someone young or old, if they're not looking to have kids at that age, but if they do end up having kids, then it might become a point of stress. I totally agree with the 'I cant imagine myself taking care of an infant in my 40’s' too. At the end of the day, it should be their informed decision (through education and such or age old wisdom, whichever way that may be).
  • Mariya
    By
    Mariya
    12.07.12 12:12 PM
    Divergent views , But I am pretty sure a fraction of the percentage of those who got married and had kids at an early stage would ever regret it in the later parts of their life. They would be pretty much happy looking back at their decision.

    I cant imagine myself taking care of an infant in my 40's. My first kid was born when I was 26 and I instantly knew what I was losing out in life without children ....


    I know the Gen X has all the education and information at its disposal and would invest more in assets rather than children but I would prefer the age old wisdom without regrets....
  • Deepa
    By
    Deepa
    12.07.12 11:38 AM
    @Rajpriya: I couldn't help but shudder at your comment 'Do the younger generation of daughters become the meddling Indian aunties of the future?'. I am sorry to say this, but I have already seen this happening. Women torturing their daughter-in-laws because they themselves were made to follow certain customs by their mother-in-laws. And so the cycle continues. It all has to do with upbringing too. If a mother raises her son and daughter with the same care and rights, the daughter would know her rightful place in the world and the son would learn to respect women as equals. But raise her to be subservient to her brother, drill into her the fact that she would need to do the same to her husband - she's going to teach the same thing to her kids too because she thinks that's how its supposed to be. I know of a female who just had a baby, her brother stays with her and her husband and they both demand constant attention, fresh meals both times of the day in addition to breakfast and evening snacks. The poor female trudges along every day managing three kids instead of the one she has, with absolutely no help. But her brother thinks its OK because that's what he's seen his mother do. The husband thinks its OK because that's what his sister and mother do. The lady is a doctor and the husband and brother are both in IT. Go figure. Unless and until they fight for their own right, no bit of people helping or trying to get them out of the net is going to help.
  • Rajpriya
    By
    Rajpriya
    12.07.12 11:31 AM
    Well written.

    You are spot on the societal norms of India that demands procreation as the main business of every married couple. These norms being followed for generations true to the letter and we the present generation boldly and openly discuss of it’s ill effects but stop short of making any move for change.

    Who makes it their responsibility to change and how do we stop the meddling Indian aunties who forever are bothered about getting their nieces pregnant? Daughters being considered as their biggest burden parents are forever in a mighty hurry to get their daughters out of their life and as soon as they can.

    Not satisfied having got rid of them they want them to procreate at regular intervals and we readily obliged to please them taking the fun out of our life. Do the younger generation of daughters become the meddling Indian aunties of the future?

    We need to sit down to lay down new norms to make marriage become a more meaningful relationship: a companionship to grow old together, take on life’s challenges, run around, have fun travelling together, take time to know and love each other.

    It’s time for change instead crumbling and the sooner the better for the next generation.
  • Abu
    By
    Abu
    12.07.12 11:20 AM
    cultural differences.. donno which one is the better of the two.. 'western' or 'desi'.. but till the time we can figure that out.. we're already conforming to the norms around us.. yes, "I’m still going to be a “Good” Mother".. I agree on that one.. irrespective of what we think and what we desire - we do make good parents..

    nicely written.. could closely co-relate my experiences, even though I'm a 'good father' :)
  • Deepa
    By
    Deepa
    12.07.12 09:29 AM
    I can so relate to this article. Thankfully our in-laws and parents haven't been pestering us, but everyone from the 'friendly' neighbours, gossip aunties, even our house maid has asked us and 'told' us that it is high time now. Having a baby is a big decision, one that you need to completely be ready for. Never should it become a regret. And hence, at the end of the day, whether to have a baby or not, when to have one if the desire be, or even whether and when to get married should all be the individual's choice. Don't you think? Gen X is very much educated, intellectual and capable of making one's own choices and living it. If a man and woman turning 21 and 18 respectively are termed as adults who are then legally allowed to marry, certainly they would only gain more experience in the years to come to decide their next steps. They are not children and should not be treated as such. Unfortunately, in many parts of the country decisions are still taken by the 'elders' of the family regardless of whether the couple is ready for it or not.

    As far as people in the west go, what we see on TV is not really all there is to the West. US shows India always by way of slums and poverty. Similarly, for Indian TV, US is mostly like Vegas or LA. We both know that these are not true. Not everyone is messed up in the West, in fact, what we might call messed up is probably good enough for them. I know quite a few families which display much more stronger familial bonding than some Indian families here. Hard to generalize. At the end of the day, its up to the individual(s).
  • umashankar
    By
    umashankar
    12.07.12 09:08 AM
    Robert Frost says:

    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.


    Except that, you chose the one more travelled by and that has made all the difference!

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