Read on how to enrich your life by purpose, i.e. to find depth and, a reason to get out of bed each morning, your own Ikigai.
Filled with anecdotes that will have you rolling with laughter, this satirical piece proves that many Indian families sure do have ‘issues’!
Wherever I look in India, all I see are people obsessed with procreation.
The sole goal of mothers and fathers of 20-something-year-old people is to find a perfect match, with “fair skin, good features, a nice long nose and lots of hair”; or “beautiful, fair, medium height, not too short but not too tall, perfect proportions and should have a head full of long thick black hair.” Then these two “perfect” people meet (these days, most of the times at a local Café Coffee Day, much against the parent’s wishes and better judgment) and finally decide to get married.
Right from the wedding ceremony, the pressure begins. You get to hear statements from many fat aunties, such as, “Give us some good news soon, eh?” In my wedding, as my new-husband and I bent down to touch the officiating priest’s feet (as is the tradition of showing respect to the elderly or the more learned), he gave us the blessings of, “May you both have a long married life and eight sons.” (Point to be noted: he did not say ‘long happy married life.’ In Indian marriages, happiness does not count, only longevity does). I stopped mid-way, looking at the priest with stupefaction and an expression of, “Are you crazy! Eight sons? Who has the money, time and energy for that these days?” Hearing the words “eight sons,” my husband too broke into a cold sweat, which, at that time, I had been ecstatic to see. (Yes! We were on the same page as far as the ‘eight sons’ were concerned).
I stopped mid-way, looking at the priest with stupefaction and an expression of, “Are you crazy! Eight sons? Who has the money, time and energy for that these days?”
Yes, we Indians are obsessed with procreation! The whole purpose of our lives is to marry at 22, have the first child by 23, second by 26-27, get the tubes tied by 29-30 and then live a settled, semi-happy, long married life.
Heavens forbid if there are any obstacles on this path! If any couple is having trouble conceiving (no visible pregnancy after 6 months of marriage), we love and thrive on putting pressure on that couple’s mother, father, grandmother, uncle and aunt, and hey, throw a few cousins into the mixture too. As a society we love to hear about other people’s fertility histories and issues.
“Are they going to the doctor and getting treated? Tell them to go in the evening, after dark.”
“Send them on a vacation alone, no?” (Instant solution)
“Tell them to relax. It will happen automatically only.” (That should be the inspirational message on every fertility clinic’s main entrance)
And best of all.
“Are they having proper intercourse? Maybe its not happening properly.” (That’s when one has to start banging the head on the wall).
Sigh! Yes, we Indians are obsessed with procreation. So can you blame the girls who are about to get married who immediately start day-dreaming of big bellies and babies? They are so brainwashed from childhood that even though they haven’t spent enough time with their spouses, they are surprisingly comfortable making babies with them.
The other day I was listening to a song from a movie called Abhimaan (like every other Indian, I thrive on Bollywood music) called ‘Tere mere milan ki ye raina’ (rough translation: It’s gonna be one night when you and I are gonna rock the house, baby!). In this song, listen to the verses carefully and notice how the guy is trying to talk ‘dirty’ (in a polite way) with his wife, but all his wife can conclude from it is that how those actions are going to “fill her empty womb and her arms,” how she has been pining for the little one and how excited and happy she feels about it. The guy tries to nudge her again to ‘talk dirty,’ but this wife is insistent on talking about that little ‘son’ she is going to be getting that night from him. The guy finally gives up, defeated, and pretends to be excited along with her. That’s how badly Indian girls are brainwashed about procreation. They will even convince the guys that its fun and worth it!
The word ‘issue’ has a whole different meaning in India. To hasten your understanding of the term, here is a real life example from my life. I was married for about 8 years then.
Some Aunty: “Hello Beta. Long time no see.”
Me: “Hello Aunty, how are you?” (This question generally always gets ignored, because we Indians can never give the perfunctory “I’m good” or worst-case, “I’m alright”. We either have to ignore the question, or dive straight into what all problems we are facing in our household).
Aunty: “Beta, you have been married for a long time now, no?”
Me: “Yes aunty. 8 years.”
Aunty: “Any issues?”
Me (looking at her with confusion. Is she sincere about her concerns regarding my issues?) “Yes Aunty, I have loads of issues. Which ones do you want to know about?”
Aunty (Shocked!): “Loads? How many?”
Me (I have caught on by then that something is not right): “Wh…what do you mean?”
Aunty: “Aarey, you just said you have loads of children!”
And that’s when I caught on to the meaning of the word ‘issue.’ When my answer to the ‘issue’ question was zero, aunty got all excited because being childless surely meant to her that I surely must have fertility ‘issues’. Having no children out of choice is something unheard of in her circles.
In spite of being obsessed with procreation, the other topic of taboo is how many issues we end up ‘issuing.’ If you have only one ‘issue,’ the responses are, “Aarey, you should have more. This one will be lonely no.” If you have two, and if its one girl and one boy, “Wah! Perfect! You are settled now.” If its two boys or two girls, “Life is good, but problem no?” Heavens forbid you have a third child. People look down at you with such condescension. “Can’t even use family planning methods properly. Irresponsible people!” Lets not even go further into the 4th child. You are pretty much banned from society, labeled as “Those rampant humping rabbits.” And yet the old scriptures urge us to have ‘eight sons.’
It’s so confusing to walk this thin line, to decide when to have children, how many, and at what intervals, or if we should listen to our elders and try for those ‘eight sons,’ after all.
Sigh, again! Yes! We Indians are really obsessed with making babies. It’s so confusing to walk this thin line, to decide when to have children, how many, and at what intervals, or if we should listen to our elders and try for those ‘eight sons,’ after all. We try to juggle all these new ways of life, and old traditions, opinions and norms and end up having real issues.
Then as soon as the first child is born, it’s mind-boggling how suddenly the obsession changes to ‘how much hair this issue has,’ but that’s a whole different obsession and a whole new article altogether.
Cover Image via Shutterstock
First published at the author’s blog
A doctor by profession and a freelance editor/writer by choice, I have a dream
“D 😀 This is so hilarious but sums up the Indian society perfectly. Having or not having kids is a couple’s decision, why is every one else bothered. And to top it off, the “social” pressure from parents and in-laws. Uff!!
Thanks Aarshi! I had a great time writing this article because that pretty much summed up my 10 years of married life. But in the end, nobody else matters. Its only you and your spouse, because after all, you are going to turn into a strong team when bringing up those ‘eight’ little ones of yours 😉 Good luck to you!
3 years of marriage and the dreaded babies question hasn’t come up yet for me. But that’s only because I’m studying for my masters I’m sure. Once I graduate and get a job, the questions, pressure and pestering will start! Thankfully my Dad knows about our plans (we don’t wish to have kids at all) and he’s supportive of it. My mom is in denial still…
When any person wants to take a different path, I don’t know why one gets judged in this society. Why do neighbours, colleagues and people who don’t matter pose personal questions anyway! Everyone thinks they know the path to happiness, which is – marriage and kids. And maybe, one more kid. Then you are a complete woman! (Even if you don’t look after the kids well enough later on.)
Good read. I have heard people saying “why did you marry if you don’t want to have babies”. A woman cannot have choice whether to have or not to have baby, as in India you have to have a baby to be called yourself complete. Above all “family” is only when you have a baby, else you are just husband-wife !!!
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