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.