It continues to amaze me how often people ask me: “Aren’t you scared that your biological clock is ticking away?”
And invariably I say something stupid like, “I’m hoping the batteries run out.”
Honestly, that’s just a counter; I don’t hope, I don’t even think about it. I’m perfectly okay with the biological clock doing its own thing: in this case, ticking away.
Many years ago, me, my brother and my aunt (my chaachi) were coming back to Calcutta from Kalyani (a lovely town where my grandparents lived). It was a two-hour bus journey and we hurried to the stand to get good seats. Sadly, the bus was almost full, and all window seats were taken.
My (then) six-year-old brother started yowling: he wanted this one particular window seat. There was a woman sitting there. My aunt asked her if she could “please” move to the aisle seat and let my bratty brother occupy the seat with the view.
For my part, I thought: why is this brat being taken so seriously? If I had my way I’d have boxed his ears, asked him to shut up and told him to park himself wherever he could.
The woman, for her part, refused. Point blank. And turned back to gazing out of the window from the static bus. “God knows what her problem is: why is she so selfish?” my aunt, who’d normally qualify as being ‘hip’ (she wore jeans at a time when my mother would wear solemn saris), was expending serious lung power. “I’m sure she has no child/children of her own — that’s why she’s like this… so weird.”
While the 10-year-old in me was horrified, everyone in the bus glared at the poor woman. My brother was still yowling. A kindly gent got up from his window seat and offered it to my brother. With a delighted whoop, he plonked his plump derriere on it.
For a long time, that notion stuck with me. If you don’t have children (and somehow this applied only to women), you become crabby, unreasonable – basically, a pain to have around. Plus, it was always assumed that you cannot choose not to have kids: it had to be a stroke of misfortune — biological problems (and no one had a problem calling you ‘barren’ on your face) or because you hadn’t found somebody to marry and father kids.
Happily, I think more and more people around are getting used to the idea of ‘childlessness’ (for whatever reason). But as I watched the Oscar-nominated Juno — wonderfully warm and matter-of-fact — the other day, I wondered when we’ll acquire a collective conscience that would be okay with saying stuff like: “I’m going to give it (the baby) up for adoption and I already found the perfect couple, they’re going to pay for the medical expenses and everything. And in 30-odd weeks, we can just pretend that this never happened.”
Yeah, all right,
is about teenage pregnancy. There has to be a certain amount of caution exercised — that’s what the movie hints at without being schoolmarm-ish. But having a kid — or not having a kid — is, well, just a decision, a personal one at that.
There’s also acquired motherhood. My friend Munu recently went to Janpath and bought herself a T-shirt, and some extra cloth that she tailored into smart shirts and pants for Woody and Lambie. Woody is a stuffed dog from Austria; Lambie is his compatriot, but a lamb (well, obviously). Munu has three stuffed chimps — Zizou, Grozy, Ninnoo — who are angry as hell that they haven’t been given a new collection this spring.
Munu doesn’t have kids (the flesh and blood variety) and she’s quite okay with it, but at times she cannot resist her maternal instinct. Which is when her brood of soft toys gets new clothes. It’s as cool as that.
I was chatting with another friend of mine. Now, she has a friend who’s dating a single dad — a man with a boy aged six or thereabouts. The single dad and my friend’s friend hope to tie the knot soon.
“Your friend is okay having a brat clambering all over her?” I asked.
“She says the boy is well past his potty training phase — so she has no issues,” my friend was chomping on a jar of Pringles. “Besides, boarding school is always an option.”