On the bus today, a woman with a Gucci bag sat next to me. In her arms, she carried a cute child. As always, I had my earphones on, still woozy, in a sleepy haze and getting used to the fact that the sun was up. The child made my effort to stay awake tad simpler when she took a fancy to my locket. She tugged at it, sampled it and played with it.
To humour her and also fight sleep, I joined her game. Now, she pulled at my hair, which is a common occurrence with me; children generally love my curly hair — some have even find similarities between the crop on my head and ‘maggie’ noodles. Her mother looked on, a smile played on her lips and then stumped me with this stunner: “You will make a good mother.”
Taken aback, I mumbled a word of thanks, not wanting to engage her further. But she pressed on. She informed me about herself, asked me searching questions, things like “are you married” to “when do you plan to settle down”. I played along, limiting my responses to the bare minimum. I was just a student, I insisted. I have a lot to do before even considering either marriage or motherhood. Then she said something that got me thinking. “Of course, all girls say this. But you do know that you eventually must marry and give birth. Look at me. I studied in the US, came back to start a family. It was the right thing to do. Don’t get me wrong. But this is what happens. This is normal.”
I tried to reason with her. But a woman can be mother without being wife; wife without being mother; wife and a mother both or neither. It’s her choice, her life. Unconvinced, she asked me why would a man want a wife who wouldn’t be mother of his child? I felt like shouting — Excuse me, but haven’t you ever heard of love? No argument, no convincing moved her. At the end of the conversation, she hectored me: “You are young. You’ll eventually understand.” Soon after, she got off.
For a moment the future looked bleak. What was the use thinking about life if everything was preordained, decided, so cast in stone? All I had in store was to be dutiful wife and mother? Soon, the rational being in me took over and shrugged off her comments. That was her way of looking at life, I surmised.
She appeared well-off, well-settled, comfortable in her skin, had seen a bit of the world. And, she believed it was imperative for a woman to become a mother. Her thought process struck me as so primitive, one where a choice did not matter.
Motherhood is beautiful — it is pure, means a woman taking responsibility of a soul. And, it means a lifetime commitment. But what happens to child and mother if the mother isn’t ready for this responsibility, when it is forced on her? All those who were never given a choice; those who didn’t know they had one — what is their fate?
Am I to go the way of these women? Certainly not. I’d never be found in a place where there’s no freedom to choose my path. I’d much rather live by what I believe in, my sense of right and wrong, my morality. That’s a tough way to go, but may God give me the courage to stick by my mission. Amen.