Life's Like That

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The age of liberation....?

I read this line in a magazine today " Illegitimacy is a terrible word, but lets not forget its only necessary for legal forms and certificates. Not for life and love." Unfortunately not too many people understand it.
My friend M got pregnant right after we graduated from college. Her boyfriend refused to have anything to do with her. His family egged him on saying that a girl like her could not be trusted anyways ( she came from a broken family, and there were religious differences between her and her boyfriend). All hell broke loose in her family. Which was kind of expected. But stunned me was the way our classmates reacted. Educated girls from well to do families, some among them who boasted / hinted of enjoying active sex lives themselves, who dressed in the latest fashions and partied only at the most happening night clubs. Some of these girls had actually known M since school. One of them called her up and asked "I heard you were pregnant and I wanted to know if it was true." On hearing her answer to the affirmative this kind soul asked " You are actually planning to keep the baby are you?Have you gone mad? First you do this stupid thing and then you actually flaunt it by keeping the kid? Get rid of it." Some others called her up, faked sympathy and offered support, then immediately called others and bitched and gossiped. I dont know how the boys in our class reacted, because by then I had lost touch with all of them except V. And V, thankfully, was wonderful. He stood by her throughout.
M's baby is 3/4 years old now. She is a lovely intellegent kid. I suppose she takes after her mother. Because K, the boyfriend in question, is an asshole. M was prepared to go ahead with her pregnancy on her own. But her family and K's parish priest forced them to get married after many a violent quarrel. K hit M when she was 8 months pregnant. He refused to take her to his house. Paid zero money for child support. Got abusive whenever they did meet. This went on for a few years before M got a divorce. Today, she is married to a nice guy, who seems to love her and her daughter. I hope they will be happy.
Everytime I heard about K beating M, banging her head on the wall till she blacked out, yelling at the baby..all the horror stories, I wondered why she had to marry him in the first place. Yeah he got her pregnant. So what? Any man who can turn around and question his girlfriend's charecter and call her a nymphomaniac in a situation like this is obviously an asshole. He does not deserve to be associated with either the woman or the unborn child. What kind of a husband and father would he make anyway? Sadly, I know the answer to all my questions. She HAD to marry him because that little baby needed a father's name to be accepted by society. And she needed a husband's name to be accepted by the same stupid shortsighted society. A man's name after yours somehow makes everything ok. And this is a urbanm context Im talking about. I dont want to think of what happens in rural India.
Open any magazine and you will see at least one article that talks of the liberated urban Indian woman of today. She who lives life on her own terms and takes her own decisions. Bullshit. Her independance is restricted to deciding to smoke in public. Her liberation means that today she steps out in a tube top and low slung jeans instead of a salwar kameez, and drives her own car. Financial and economic independance means that she now goes to expensive lounge bars on her own and drinks expensive cocktails. When it comes down to the basics, nothing has changed. She still needs male escorts to drop her home after a night out partying, she still needs men around to protect her from unwanted attention, she still needs to marry an asshole just so society will accept her and her children.
I know there are a few women who have actually gone ahead and defied society. Actually done their own thing. But I am sure that it was not an easy decision to take, or for that matter, live with. I know that despite what I say, in a situation like M's, I cannot with any certainity, say that I would not give in to societal pressure. Would I even have the guts to obey my instincts and carry the baby to term? Or would I listen to that kindhearted classmate and opt for the easy way out? I don't know. How would my family react if I did decide to have the child? Modern and extremely liberal though they are, I cannot answer that question. Would my Mother who always told me to stand by what I believe is right, other be damned, actually be able to follow her own advice? When will society change? Will it change at all? Why the hell cant people mind their own business?
I dont have the answers to any of these. If news reports are anything to go by, we seem to be regressing instead of advancing, becoming incapable of distinguishing between the lewd and the innocent. So convinced are we that sex related matters are against our culture that we are prepared to leave our children ignorant and thereby defenceless in the face of sexual abuse. I can only hope that this is passing phase. That we wake up to the fact that sex happens. Unwanted pregnancies happen,child sexual abuse happens, that a mature grown woman has the right to decide whats best for her and her child. I really do hope that day is not too far away.

7 Comments:

  • ronita, though i too hope, i doubt that the day is that close. but yet i think it will come one day. look at the differences in society now and yesterday. small and insignificant the changes might seem to us who are used to seeing these things or having these freedoms ... even these would seem massive to those from yesterday, i am sure. the small percentages who do choose their own path, mean something. and i think the number will grow, slowly but surely.

    however, i also know that there was so logic behind our social structures, although they had a lot of repurcussions for women. thus these changes too, when they come, will bear their own price. no such thing as a free lunch. either way has its pitfalls and its advantages. its heroines, and its martyrs.

    i am bad at explaining. what i mean is a) i beleive it will change, but take lots of time b) its not like the changes we want will not bring their own problems, which too will be huge and tragic - for some few people.

    By Blogger Ricercar, at 7:17 AM  

  • In the gloom, one positive development. By law, schools can no longer demand the father's name on documents. Either parent will do.

    J.A.P.

    By Blogger J. Alfred Prufrock, at 2:12 AM  

  • It's on its way. At the root of all independence is financial independence, and in urban India, more and more women are becoming finacially independent. Society takes centuries to change, and the mindset towards unwed women having children won't change overnight. However it is also true, that though today, many people (even in our parents' generation) react with a bit of disgust and sneering to babies being born out of wedlock, they don't head for a ritualistic cleaning in the Ganges on hearing such news. Which was more or less the case one generation before that - even in urban socities in India. Slowly these things will get accepted in society, just as - as you have mentioned - girls smoking in public do not raise as many eyebrows as they used to even 10 years ago.

    By Blogger Soham Pablo, at 11:05 PM  

  • Shabash! Said it like it is!

    By Anonymous T, at 7:38 AM  

  • "She who lives life on her own terms and takes her own decisions."

    ...men find it difficult to understand what education and non-discriminatory upbringing can bring a girl to... to think independently and self-sufficiently. now if that goes against the social setup because of reasons like premarital-pregnancy, marriage etc., she must buckle...

    i have been through all the situations you have listed in your blog article (both in my personal life or with a close friend) and contrary to everyone's opinions, 7 years later i have proved them all wrong. today, i am an achiever and i cant even find the time to scoff on the people who once called me a loser. but i consider myself warned.

    i have been thanking every girl i met who echos the first line i quoted from your blog... so Thank you RON.

    manasi

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:44 PM  

  • An excellent post, Ron. But on yet another angle on unwanted post-marital pregnancies, do take a look at this. Either way, the female of the species is doomed.

    By Blogger Rimi, at 2:56 PM  

  • Lets face it - It IS a Man's world ... or else men would make efforts to be less shabby!!! It has been that way for a long time now ... Women define the rules ... Men are just the vehicle - its biology. The biggest problem is that women are seldom united!... I have seen more cases of women dissing other women than of men dissing women ... ergo it is still a Man's world ... there won't be *any* liberation unless the women get their act together!
    as for me - I wish the dolphins would take over! Our civil *society* as a whole is pretty selfish when it comes to things that really matter!
    -Venky

    By Blogger Venky, at 1:53 AM  

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