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.