Sunday, April 12, 2020

Lessons from a Pandemic: Quit Pressuring People into becoming Parents

Why pressure people into contributing to the population problem? 

Whenever possible, I try to watch a movie on Saturday night. Nowadays, a lot of time is spent in indecision as I wade through the countless choices, wishing I would just hurry up and make up my mind. Should I watch one of those award winning movies? This one is tricky. Highly feted movies like Parasite, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Marriage Story, to name a few, are well worth the laurels heaped on them. But there is also the risk of watching criminally overrated garbage like The Shape of Water which has exquisite visuals and little else or something like the Irishman, adored by critics who are determined to like anything at all Scorcese makes but which turned out to be an extremely tedious saga about ageing bulls which put me right to sleep.  Horror is usually a safe choice but there are hardly any standouts in the genre. The latest releases throw up some interesting options and I enjoyed War and Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo recently, which is why I settled on Dharala 
Prabhu, the tamil remake of Vicky Donor as last night’s viewing choice with less than my usual indecisiveness.

Is Harish Kalyan TN's answer to Ayushman Khurrana and Vijay Deverakonda?
It is a lovely movie made by Krishna Marimuthu with dignity and a fine sensibility. Films on sensitive topics such as sperm donation rely on clumsy humour which is extremely cringe – inducing. But this film was refreshingly different. Aided by great performances from the promising Harish Kalyan, evergreen Sachu and Vivekh as well as the delightful Meera Janaki Krishnamurthy, the film goes about the business of telling a story with minimal fuss and fanfare while being hugely effective. It does weave in messages about how there is still so much stigma attached to non – traditional methods of childbearing, adoption and even squeezes in a same – sex couple, but without being preachy or self – righteous. All of this works beautifully.

But since, I was born a contrarian, I felt that a few more issues need to be addressed when it comes to these things. Dharala Prabhu is very sympathetic towards people who are desperate to have children and are hounded by practically everyone in their lives and of course, society at large for imagined failures in this department. Many childless couples are pressured into spending truckloads of money to somehow pop out the little ones via sperm donation, in – vitro fertilization, surrogacy etc. Of course, I sympathize too but isn’t it high time we eased up on the pressure, quit idealizing parenthood and pretending that babies magically fill our lives with love, happiness, fulfilment and meaning while erasing all cause for complaint, sadness or despair?

Let us be honest. Parenting is one of the most high – pressure jobs out there. Raising children takes its toll physically, mentally, emotionally and financially. As for babies themselves, it is true that some days are magical and your children light up your life. But in the interest of full disclosure, let me tell you that there are also many more days when your precious boos or moos are perfectly capable of being jerks not above throwing tantrums, engaging in emotional manipulation, being extremely demanding of your time, attention and rights to the remote, and fully capable of provoking you into tearing out entire chunks of your hair and running out into the streets towards the nearest Covid – 19 positive patient.  

Not everyone is cut out for this and if folks decide they are not suited to be parents and would rather do other things that don’t involve poop filled diapers, we should stop judging them and making them feel bad for their eco-friendly choice. And no, please don’t tell them ‘If your parents had been this selfish, self – indulgent and unwilling to wipe your nose and bum, you wouldn’t be here.’ As for those, who want to have kids but cannot for various reasons, it is imperative that we leave them alone and stop piling on the hurt even if it is inadvertent or well intentioned. The last thing such couples want is ‘friendly advise’ about the ideal temples to visit in order to be blessed with a bundle of joy, rituals to perform that are guaranteed to ‘cure’ childlessness, fertility doctors and treatments, ancient remedies and what have you. And do me a personal favour, STOP asking newlyweds if they have ‘sweet news’. A little sensitivity goes a long way folks.

Finally, as the second most populous nation in the world, Indians are all too familiar with the perils of population explosion. In fact, if the pandemic has taught us anything it is that social distancing is next to impossible in a country as thickly populated as ours with its history of unfair and unequal resource management. It is high time we re-examined our overzealous commitment towards faithfully contributing to the national as well as international population problem.


Unknown said...

Nice article. The first half on movies kinda diluted the focus of the article. I had nice opinion on adoption, thanks to American serials, movies like Different Strokes. We contemplated adoption of a second kid but were persuaded against it/ didnt go through it. Wish adoption is a simple issue.

Anuja Chandramouli said...

Adoption is not a simple issue. It is always going to be a difficult decision to take and even harder to go through with it. We need to hope that it will still happen more than it does at present.

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