The joy of reading is overwhelming to me. I like to smell the book, to rustle the pages and go deep in the story. I read and start imagining it literally. The characters are all alive and almost there in front of me performing, crying, laughing, speaking, dancing. It is a beautiful experience rather journey…from the first page to the last. I don't have a make-up kit, sunglasses, deo in my jhola but one would always find a book these days. Being in a foreign land where people are marooned in their ipads, kindle’s….always tucked in is their headphones and are surfing the internet…they are VVIP and I am certainly not! I have time to glance outside the windowpane and enjoy the journey, to think about something important or for that matter to do nothing. If possible start a conversation with elderly people on the bus or trains. They are the people who love talking as they never had mobiles, ipads, kindles ever during their days. So anyway I am the least important, lost soul and then no one to talk….I prefer carrying a book to read rather than listening to music. It was in the last week when I finished with a book ‘Baby Proof’ by Emily Griffin. I remember how I was in a hurry and picked this book with no idea how entertaining it would be. Let me introduce to the main characters Ben and Claudia based in the US. They fall in love after series of serious relationships and finally exchange vows. The interesting part of their marriage is they both don’t want children. Simply unconventional. Well this made me think, did I ever have that clause in my mind? Claudia is a well-known writer on a good post and is very happy with her professional life. She thinks that she doesn’t have the gene which generates a feeling of motherhood. I admired Claudia as a woman who is so firm on her thoughts.
How many of our Indian women can say this to their families? If she says so she would be the last person to get married. Everyone would look at her suspiciously as though she has some psychological disorder. Our society has definite plan for everyone. For a girl then doctor, teacher, lecturer, software engineer are the best professions for her. Before she realizes her dreams the relatives (not her parents) start discussing about how grown up she looking and how she might prove a perfect match to XYZ’s son. I know parents and I am very happy to see that they want their daughters to be independent first and then get married. The neighbours, distant relatives try to show their deepest concerns about the wedding bells. These discussions are on peak when one happens to attend a wedding. You always see a group of elderly females sitting and chatting about everything under the sun. Something like this
A1: With the plate in her hand she says, ‘the food was good but not great. I would have liked if they had some more varieties of sweets. Anyway the couple looks good but the girl should have been a bit fairer. What do you all think?’
A2: Nodding her head and in unison with A1’s opinion, ‘It is not the traditional food. In our times it used to be so traditional and there is no one to come and see if you needed something. No respect these days…I don’t like attending weddings these days’ eating her last gulab jamun she says, ‘I heard that they have given a lot of jewellery and also have booked a flat in the name of bride-groom. Nowadays it is all about money, kaala-gora koi nahi dekhta’.
A3: ‘Yeah true. It is only money that matters. For instance, do you see that girl in the blue dress?’ All of them raise their heads and some also get up to see the girl in the crowd.
A1: Very inquisitively replies, ‘I can see, she is pretty and fair. Who is she?’
A3: Not so happily says, ‘She is my first cousin R’s youngest daughter. I don’t know what she is studying’. I asked her once, ‘she says she wants to do a PhD and then do some research’. Now you tell me at that age who will marry her? She will be 30, her looks will not be so attractive and I also know that PhD’s don’t earn much. Look at the bride, she is 26 years old and is a software Engineer.
A4: After eating almost everything on her platter she says, ‘this is how parents these days are spoiling their daughters. They are giving them freedom and treating like boys. My grand-daughter too wants to go to the US for further studies. But I have warned my son that she cannot until she is married. How can she be on her own all alone?’
A1: Passes on some mouth freshener’s to all and pops one in her mouth. Bending in the centre so that no one should listen to her, she whispers ‘I have also heard that there is some disturbance in between Mr and Mrs P about making a baby. Mrs P has gone to her mother’s place due to this matter and is firm that she isn’t ready for a baby. A growing trend about having children in later stages of marriage. Girls don’t want to be caged in responsibilities these days’.
This is how it goes on and on. I experienced such questions often during PhD. One of my distant cousins came to me and said, ‘Why are you so obsessed about PhD? Leave it, get married and complete it from wherever your husband takes you.’ I thought of explaining her that I can’t leave my 2 years of work which I have already invested. Rather than to anyone, it is a self-commitment and I have to stand by it. I just smiled at her and said, ‘Relax Di, I will get married before your daughter does.’ She gave me a strange look and I almost remembered that song..Naa Jaane kahan se aayi hain, naa jaane kahan ko jayegi…yeh ladki!!
After being married for 4 years I was on the train to Solapur from Pune and I met a group of ladies – conservative ladies. They started talking to me.
L1: ‘Solapur ki ho?’
Me: ‘Haan. Mummy-Papa Solapur mein hain aur main Pune mein’.
L2: ‘Sasural Pune mein hain?’
L3: ‘Shaadi ko kitne saal hog aye?’
Me:‘Sasural Ajmer ka hain. Shaadi ko 4 saal.’
L1: ‘4 saal ho gaye aur abhi bachcha nahi? Kuch problem hain kya? Doctor ko dikhaya?’
Me: Awkwardly replied, ‘hum log abhi padh rahe hain. Bachcha nahi chahiye.’
L2: ‘Shaadi ke baad jitni jaldi hoga utna acha nahit toh bahot problem aate hain. Meri Bhaanji abhi treatment le rahi hain. Tumhe Doctor ka naam aur address doon kya?’
They were feeling so pity for me and desperately wanted me to have a baby. If they were magicians I would have had a baby in my lap at that very moment....Aaabraa Ka Daabraa and Choooo...lo bacha aa gaya!!
But will they be coming for babysitting when we would be off to our labs for the whole day? Will they look after when the baby is ill and I have experiments running the whole day and night? Will they cook for our baby when we sometimes managed to live on the canteen food? Will they pay the expenses as we managed our lives with a limited stipend?
To my relief my phone rang and I walked away from there leaving my reserved seat.
I don’t know why people in India are so concerned about anybody’s personal life? Times have changed and we have to change. Why there are a set of rules for woman? After marriage the first thing they want to know is the ‘good news’. It is sane to know each other first and then plunge into the next responsibility. Marriage and parenthood should be out of desire and not by chance. We all at some point of time are influenced by social pressures in every decision and I am no exception. One of our very good friends here doesn’t’ want to go back to India as they are always driven mad by the question of baby.
A woman has every right to stand by her opinion. The society can’t chalk a plan and now reformation is needed. Live your life all lovely ladies before plunging into any new relation. Sing and publish an album, write a novel, trek Mount Everest, go camping. When you feel that you have done everything that you wanted and are ready for this BIG step…STEP IN!
Remember: What seems Conventional to us now was Unconventional long ago!
Baby Proof, Women’s web inspired me to write this