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Good news in India is synonymous with one thing, and one thing only. Impending motherhood, after getting married. That is important.
If one decides to switch on his/her television set and tune into the news- there is so much breaking on the scene. If that is not enough, the daily newspaper is full of news – global, national, local. If that too, leaves one dissatisfied, social media platforms; mobile platforms and other media platforms have enough news to share.
Living in this crazy world where there is a news-overdose, I find it surprising that people still have the time to ask married women of child-bearing age- “when will you share some good news?” Another curious question that is directed to mothers with one kid, “Why did you stop with one? When will you have another?”
If these questions are familiar, this might sound familiar too: Johnny is poor and Julie is the spoilt daughter of a rich industrialist. Johnny meets Julie in college. They fall in love. Johnny fights the entire world for Julie, even incurring the wrath of Julie’s father who has by now disinherited her from his will. Julie walks out of her castle straight into the arms of the ‘poverty-struck yet hard-working’ Johnny. They get married and soon enough Julie shares the ‘good news’ with Johnny and his folks. She is then shown pushing a pram. The on-screen happiness of the young couple, their home transforming into a heaven and Julie’s father being overwhelmed with the joyous arrival of the little one; ends up welcoming Johnny to his home. The whole family lives happily ever after. Yes! This is straight out of the many blockbuster Bollywood films that most of us have seen and grown up with.
Films, advertisements and other social platforms create imageries and stereotypes in the minds of many. In her paper, The Ideal Woman, Jennifer Holt points out to a research conducted by Courtney and Lockeretz that stereotypes are created that project the male superiority and feminine domesticity. She points out that the society plays an immense role in the construction of individual gender roles, and in turn our identity. “Motherhood and the care of the home and husband are the ultimate goals of a woman’s life and her greatest creative opportunity.”
Parallelly, stereotypes of women who did not bear children portray them as frustrated, selfish, immature and individualistic.
Many young working women in their twenties wish to live their lives without having to take the crucial plunge into marriage and starting a family soon after. The debate of what’s wrong with independent self-reliant single women not wishing to enter the social web of marriage desires another in-depth article, however let me reiterate that the pressure to reproduce can be overwhelming, and this appears to be a global phenomenon.
A Google search for “societal pressure to have a baby” yields about 83,50,000 results and articles from across the globe. It has been studied that these pressures are mostly exerted by family and friends. It is reported that many young women feel left out as their friends soon shift into new role of ‘mommies’. These women feel alone when conversations shift to diapers and day-care talks. They feel the pressure to start their own families or to find new friends.
In the Indian set-up, the elders of the home begin to ask the predictable ‘Good news?’ question to the married couple (mostly the woman) and then slowly demand that the ‘Good News’ be shared with them sooner rather than later. The addition of a tiny tot in some parts of our country is still perceived as a symbol of deliverance from ill-luck.
Should these factors form the basis of a lady’s personal choice on when she is ready to become a mother?
A small input to this is the growing influence of strong feminist role models, newfound financial independence and other support systems for urban women which make them tick the choice of deferring motherhood. It is certainly worth examining if the ‘good news’ works as an economic indicator in terms of human capital or is a manifestation of the societal pressures that young married women need to cope with?
Motherhood (as all mothers would unanimously agree on) is a huge responsibility and calls for significant commitment, emotionally as well as physically. Rushing into it, to answer the proverbial question “koi achchi khabar hain kya’ is certainly not ‘good news’!
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