Category Archives: Religion

Choice

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This subject is a polarizing subject for me. I am beginning to have strong opinions (on it) and keep wanting to express them. Much like all subjects and all people today. I read this book over a year ago. I had jotted these points down. I want to put them out there.

I also realize that reading book that promotes my point of view is hardly broadening my knowledge. But I did read it. And I feel the need to reinforce, to myself, the reasons for such decisions.

Selfish, Shallow and Self Obsessed – sixteen writers on the decision not to have kids

Edited by Meghan Daum

  1. Babes in the Wood – Courtney Hodell

It’s always interesting to know how we think we should feel versus how actually feel. We also juxtapose these feelings against what others are or are not supposed to feel. This essay made me think about those brief moments when I did believe I wanted a baby. It passed.

  1. Maternal Instinct – Laura Kipnis

This essay made me think a lot about the “naturalness” of having children because we are women or because we have wombs. As an aside I feel like I show get to know this author better because her name is so close to Tipnis, a close family friend.

  1. A Thousand Other Things – Kate Christensen

This particular essay reinforced the societal conditioning that demands we must want children. Must love it. Expect it with excitement. The author spoke about missing her phantom children during a particularly dark period in her life. It’s not something I could relate to.

  1. The New Rhoda – Paul Lisicky

This essay was a very different POV. Not just because it was a male POV but because of the time it was set in. I had never encountered (in writings) the generation that was singed by the AIDS epidemic. I never thought about the impact it had on reproductive health of that particular generation.

  1. Be Here Now Means Be Gone Later – Lionel Shriver

It’s an interesting thought that once life and education improves, women will push out having children. There are statistics and other curves proving that very fact and yet society somehow pushes women in the other direction. It’s as though nature (and society) want to disprove reality? Maybe not reality but it helps everyone apparently except women for women to constantly be stuck in the cycle of bearing and rearing children.

  1. The Most Important Thing – Sigrid Nunez

This essay talks about how your own upbringing influences your decisions – something I can relate to very keenly as a large part of my reason in not having children is linked to my upbringing. I was not traumatized or deprived in any way. I am not trying to compare myself to what sounds like hell for a lot of these writers. But I relate to it being linked to our own upbringing.

She mentions a lot of Sylvia Plath.

  1. Mommy Fearest – Anna Holmes

What is perfect femininity? The crazy devotion that motherhood it seems to demand? And the glorification of it leads to the other extreme POV of women staying children. She, along with others, talk about the fear that having children leads to losing any opportunity to create any memorable position/ achievement.

(It lead me down the road of thinking about my achievements, whether they were of any value especially since I did decide to get married but not have children; choose to work but not really pursue a career – where do I lie? Where do I find my place? Is it linked to this gender and this role and parts that I play or will I be shaped by parts I choose to exclude?)

  1. Amateurs – Michelle Hunneven

This essay drove home the point that we interpret life’s nuances to mean things they might not.

  1. Save Yourself – Danielle Henderson

This story talks about abandonment and makes me wonder about the wisdom/ ease of procreation. How fair is it that women who can so easily endanger their kids should be allowed to have kids! Is this (my) judgement fair?

  1. The Trouble with Having It All – Pam Houston

The title of this essay is pretty self-explanatory. More importantly, here the author speaks to a young girl who, while is very patriotic, is also very clear that she does not want children. She declares her view at a table where women of different ages are discussing child-bearing plans. There is no ‘having it all’ for any or every side.

  1. Beyond Motherhood – Jeanne Safer

In this essay, the author, who is also a psychoanalyst, details her painful coming to terms with the fact that she does not want children. She, like others in this collection, want to want children. They even have physical reactions to the process.

“Asserting an Affirmative No”

  1. Over and Out – Geoff Dyer

I loved this author’s writing style. It’s very non-apologetic, non-defiant unlike some of the female voices in this collection. He touches on all main points – freedom, (dis)inclination, propagating the species, leaving the legacy. Two points stood out – Why does life have to have meaning? And we regret (he does he said) almost every decision, so why should this be any different. “When it comes to regret, everyone’s a winner!”

  1. You’d Be Such a Good Mother, If Only You Weren’t You – M G Lord

This essay also talks about a physical reaction to having/ attempting to have children. The writer feels like she doing something wrong when she expresses relief at no children. It feels very painful – as though it was painful for her to get there.

More than one essay share this theme. Where it almost feels like the author/ writer/ person had to go through physical wrangling just to get to the point of admitting that, no she doesn’t want children.

  1. The Hardest Art – Rosemary Mahoney

One of the few questions strangers everywhere are apparently permitted to ask is “ do you have any children?” This essay addresses the vulnerability of being a parent and having little emotional agency. She knows she will succumb and wants not to do that. “Parenting is an art and not everyone is capable.”

  1. Just an Aunt – Elliott Holt

This essay touches on not being able to take care of one self emotionally – (genetic lottery) and consequently making that decision. Depression and self harm are scary companions to introduce a baby into. That can be scary.

  1. The End of the Line – Tim Kreider

This was the third male POV in the collection. Yet again it’s a voice that’s very irreverent. Not having children is a decision much like other decisions in life that are not taken. High risk ones.

Some other observations.

#1 There are multiple common references that run through many of these essays. One such reference is about articles that appear in the press about being childless and “carefree”. The stories showing visual depictions of “freedom” without children.

#2 Judgement from fellow parents. (I have never encountered a parent saying they’ve had to deal with judgement from non-parents) Again mom vs non-mom yes but do men face this too?

# 3 Women writers in this collection are constantly critiquing their decision. The male writers don’t seem to face such internal dialogue.

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What is forgiveness? And how do I get some?

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A film dialogue got me thinking recently.

When you pray for forgiveness, does god give you forgiveness or does he give opportunities to fogive?

When you ask for courage, does god give you courage or does he give you opportunities to be courageous?

That’s perhaps a better way to approach all the things you don’t like in your life. As an opportunity to do something new, different and entirely doable.

That big, brave world

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Reading this interview made me think how sterile a rape can be in reportage. There is talk of doctors, swabs, semen, DNA and many other technical things but none of them ever talk about what it is actually is, a power trip really. You might want to read this too.. it proves, at least, to some degree that women are the worst critics for women.

Though I have to be honest. When the Shiney Ahuja news broke, I remembered thinking he may be guilty of cheating on his wife but having consensual sex with any other woman cannot be construed as rape just because he reneged on promises he made to the woman. That was my initial thought but since the blogs and media have made the issue murkier and now I do not even claim to know what may have happened exactly.

Even the Madhur Bhadarkar case was fashioned from similar circumstances. It usually pisses me off when women claim rape or any form of abuse because some promise has been reneged on and they have already dispensed with the favours, usually sex. To give Preeti credit, she had filed a cheating case on him but it seemed (through the coverage) that she was accusing him of rape. It seems to be a favourite method to claim the slighting of the Indian culture.

There doesn’t seem to be a conclusion to this in my head but  it is upsetting to see how the real issue almost always gets buried in any form of journalism today, for a better headline, it seems…

The unfairness of the advantage

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I know for most of the people in the not northern part of India, the Gujjar agitation means nothing. Just another group fighting for another cause. Especially because it will not really affect you and me, and our living. Or so we think. The current agitation is because the Rajasthan High Court has put a stay on a reservation granted to them about 3-4 years ago, as a part of caste politics. It has asked for quantifiable proof that it is a ‘backward community’. Indeed, if we are getting technical, I want to know what is a backward community and how can I become a part of it.

A few years ago when the Gujjar agitation has started and they were burning down buses in Delhi, it was affecting in my life. And, at that point, someone had taken the pains to explain to me what they were demanding. The community, based in Rajasthan, I understand was demanding a 1% blanket reservation in all jobs, college seats and wherever else reservations were used. This was over and above the already 50% of reservations we already have for all kinds of backward communities in India. That is what the court stayed.

The person explaining the fight to me also found it necessary to explain that Gujjars were a rich community, at least in the cities. A lot of the law enforcement in Delhi and UP consist of the Gujjar community. So money certainly was not a requirement. Being categorised backward was perhaps.

That got me thinking. About really affluent Dalits, who are well educated and make 6 and 7 figure salaries and whose parents have worked in cushy government jobs (maybe due to the reservation, I do not know)… do their children still need reservation? And if they are benefiting from the reservations, why aren’t the deserving Dalits, back in villages benefiting? And if these affluent city folks are successful and educated, why this crutch of a certificate?

The Gujjars you see lying across the tracks protesting the stay- are they the ones to benefit if the reservation is back on track? Or will all the cops of Delhi stand to gain? Making it only a victory in principle for people who perhaps actually need the reservation.

Isn’t that what we hoped education would do? Stop them feeling the need for an edge over the disadvantage? Give the equal platform and bring them to par? But now it seems to succeed you need to be of a backward caste. That’s an advantage the common man won’t give away for the money and success of it while the politician will not want to take away, lest he lose his vote.

And at the end of it all, two-three generations after Independence, there are still huge cities and towns of people who do not get to use the advantage they have had while the so-called meritorious or earlier know as upper caste, today look for ways to fake a ‘backward caste’ certificate.

Yes, of course, I am a Brahmin and wouldn’t be complaining about the advantage if I had it (I think). But my being a brahmin is just because my father was so why should that decide who or what I am and what opportunities I am entitled to? If I can prove my worth, I should be eligible. So what if I am Dalit or a Gujjar? You have the marks/ abilities/ qualities, you get the job, seat etc. But today good marks or skills make me eligible for half the available opportunities, all because of my surname. But I guess that is the argument that was used for reservations in the first place.