Lately, there have been many reports about women choosing not to have kids all over the world. Despite the changing times, unfortunately, bearing a child still seems the very definition of womanhood in many sad parts of the world where a woman is deemed “complete” once she “fulfills her purpose of bearing life”. Well, last I checked this is 2020, and isn’t humankind supposed to be more evolved than that by now?
Before you judge me, let me clarify that I am very much pro-kids and maybe, someday, I’ll have one too. However, I also totally get if someone chooses not to have kids, to each her own.
However, this article is not about women choosing not to have kids (you do you, girl!). This article is about those who not only choose to have kids but are also incapable of talking about anything but their kids. This is a real problem. There are online discussions about this with people (including mothers) venting about why some women cannot stop talking about a smiley their kid drew the other day!
Hold On To Who You Really Are
We all have that one friend whose life circulates around her baby. I understand that having a child is a life-changing event – priorities shift and personalities evolve as we embrace motherhood and learn to parent. But, do we have to completely lose ourselves? Does our life have to be only about the kid’s poop, fart, food, and sleep?
Women undergo many physical, biological, emotional, and physiological changes in the process of delivering a child. Our appearance, the way people see us, everything changes. I strongly feel that amidst all this, it becomes even more pertinent for us to hold on to who we really are. Women as mothers have been put on these unrealistic pedestals where in some cultures they are treated like Goddesses (I won’t argue that though). However, jokes aside, we are not Goddesses. We are only human and we should have the liberty to freak out, get exhausted, and demand a break when we need, even from being a mum.
Trust me, I have never met a man who is only capable of talking about his kid. That makes me wonder if the real cause behind this is the deep-rooted heteronormative gender bias in all cultures around the world. The brand of the mother is always associated with care and nurturing while the stud dad goes out and earns a living. Well, this isn’t the 1950s, so women, please chill!
How The Society Is At Fault Here
Sometimes, this can be because of other reasons than just being over-excited about motherhood. If you observe closely, you will see a pattern. First, they obsess over their fathers, then over their husbands and eventually, over their kids. This pattern is alarming because it hints towards a total lack of sense of identity.
Across many cultures, especially in Asia, a woman’s entire life can be broadly divided into three milestones:
Being a dutiful daughter
Getting married to a fine suitor
Mothering a child
You must think I don’t know what I am talking about and that this is all ancient news but look around and tell me – is it really? In many parts of China, if women stay unmarried, they are called “leftovers”, and in many parts of India, if women choose to marry someone they love, they are slaughtered in the name of honor killing.
This brings me back to my original point. The fact that some women talk non-stop about their kids is probably because they have been made to believe that their existence on earth is not enough as themselves. They are made to feel that they must latch on to a man or a child whom they serve, care for and nurture to be essential.
I really hope that as we take baby steps towards a more progressive and open world, women are able to feel free and own their identities.
To those, who just love talking about their kids and disagree, I have only thing to say: “No, I don’t want to know what your child did today. Tell me, what you did.”
Surabhi Pandey, a former Delhi Doordarshan presenter, is a journalist based in Singapore. She is the author of ‘Nascent Wings’ and ‘Saturated Agitation’ and has contributed to more than 15 anthologies in English and Hindi in India and Singapore. Website | Blog | Instagram
Saturday mornings are such a thrill, as I resumed teaching my dance class on Zoom. It’s amazing what some music and movement can do for your soul. Treating yourself to the magic of it can catapult you from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Just that little “extra!”
As I was dancing, instructing and chatting, I stopped to share something with my class.
I was pushing through my sit-ups, I looked at my feet and saw my purple socks and it just…made me happy! The color purple makes me happy. And there it was, on my feet, saying a hello, as I was doing what I cherish so deeply—dancing and sharing that passion with others. It was a colorful flash of comfort and a reassurance that I’m not only capable of getting through this day but I’m capable of making this day awesome.
My 10-year-old son Indra and I have been running every other morning – waking at 6 am and then out the door at 6:30 am for our 5-mile adventure. I treasure that time with every bit of my soul. We talk, we share, we laugh, we wonder. And then, right when we start the running portion, we diverge.
He needs to rest; I need to run. And we let it be. I started to think that I should be challenging him to keep it up with me, to be the drill sergeant I know I can be. And then as I came around my third loop I saw him peacefully sitting there, waiting for me to do the next round. He was enjoying eating a plum off of a tree nearby. Plums off of a tree.
There it is. Notice your purple socks and find your plums. Relish them. Don’t diminish the significance they hold.
Life is so full of complexities from the chaos all around us. The peace is in the simplicities that will save us. The little things. If we search for them, connect with them, let them fill us with joy, then we will flourish in that day. And then each day will flourish into the next until we find ourselves on the other side of this mess, better and more cognizant than ever before. We are empowered with the most simple intricacies inside this great big complicated world. Purple socks and plums. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.
Sangini Majmudar Bedner is a former Miss India USA, Stanford University graduate and professional performer and choreographer. She enjoys life in Portola Valley, CA with her husband, two sons, and a crazy farm of beloved animals. She also offers an ongoing Saturday morning Zoom aerobic dance class, which can be taken live at 9 am or with a recorded link. Email her for info!
We need to pay attention to domestic violence in the South Asian community.
Providing support, resources, and intervention to those experiencing abuse is incredibly necessary, but what do we need to do to get to the point where fewer and fewer South Asian people experience domestic abuse?
Working towards a culture where we begin to acknowledge and break down the hegemonic structures that have shaped our community requires active engagement from all of us, regardless of if our lives have been directly affected by domestic violence or not. In one of the few notable studies on the topic, survivors emphasized the need for community empowerment and education to address gender-based violence in South Asian communities.
This summer, Narika, in collaboration with researchers from Harvard, is conducting a study in order to change this status quo. By collecting this data, we will be able to communicate the prevalence and severity of this issue through statistics, which is essential in engaging the community.
If you would like to participate in our ongoing research project and help us begin to make this change, you can take the anonymous five-minute survey here, and sign up for an anonymous 10-minute interview here. Participating will also enter you in a raffle for up to $100 in gift cards to a Black-owned business of your choice.
Data shows that South Asians experience domestic violence at higher rates than other groups in America. Information is skewed due to the reality of underreporting in our community –– the variety of social and cultural barriers that South Asian survivors face to even report their abuse, from immigration to familial stigma.
In one study, 42% of the 160 women surveyed reported that they had been physically and/or sexually abused in some way by their current male partners in their lifetime; 36.9% reported having been victimized in the past year. However, only 11% of those South Asian women indicated receiving counseling support services for domestic abuse.
Organizations like Narika begin to fill this gap of support services by providing culturally-informed counseling and programming for South Asian women and families. But one of the most significant obstacles of this work is how in the dark it is: there is very little academic research on gender-based violence in South Asian communities, despite the unique barriers and situations this community faces.
This lack of data and statistics to support the necessity of their work prevents us from understanding this issue completely and, by extension, doing all that we can in order to build a culture of empowerment and allyship to address domestic abuse at its root.
If you have any questions, concerns, or would like to learn more about this work, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bhargavi Garimella is a sophomore at Harvard College studying Neuroscience. This summer, she is interning at Narika where she is conducting research on gender-based violence in South Asian communities.
Legends of Quintessence (LoQ) is a new science fiction column that India Currents is introducing to cater to the varied tastes of our readers. This column will entertain you with science fiction short stories, introduce you to South Asian talent, and on occasion, invite you to showcase your own skills and imagination through the column.
The author of this new column, Rachna Dayal, is a strong believer that science fiction lays the groundwork for future discoveries by providing an outlook for inventors to uncover. She, herself, works jobs heavily influenced by innovation and strategy. By day, she is the Global Director for Strategic Programs at Johnson and Johnson, and by night, she uses the same skills to unleash her imagination and pour them into her Science Fiction narratives.
Rachna finds that writing Sci-Fi provides a satisfying outlet to theoretical inquiries, transcending dimensions of reason, and challenging traditional norm. She is a strong advocate of diversity and inclusion and has always felt Science Fiction to be a comfortable place to explore that.
Dayal has introduced the South Asian lens to storytelling by giving her voice to Sci-Fi and has moved one step further. The featured image accompanying this article is created by NYC-based South Asian artist, Hanifa Hameed, and commissioned by Rachna. Desi touches begin to remove the racial barriers that may have limited readership. Stay tuned for an interview the Hanifa and her artwork, hosted by India Currents, in the near future.
The name of the column, Legends of Quintessence, is founded in the idea of the fifth element – one that cannot be seen. It is beyond Earth, Air, Water, and Fire. The term, Quintessence, is layered by the definition cosmologists give it. It is believed to be a unique form of matter distinct from normal or dark matter and has peculiar characteristics. According to them, Quintessence is the reason why the expansion of universe has accelerated.
Legends of Quintessence will be mystical – a perfect blend of science and imagination unbounded by the burden of proof or convention! Science belongs to the universe but science fiction feels so quintessentially human. That is until we discover that outer-worldly species also indulge in the activity of producing science fiction…
Expect the unexpected and embark on the intergalactic journey with us next Monday, August 3, 2020!
Srishti Prabha is the Assistant Editor at India Currents and has worked in low income/affordable housing as an advocate for children, women, and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.
Ohio-based novelist, poet, translator, essayist, and diagnostic nuclear radiologist Amit Majmudar has served as Ohio’s first Poet Laureate. In a candid chat, he talks to us, among other things, about his latest book ‘Soar’, how he juggles multiple roles, his fourth poetry collection that is forthcoming in the US, and his favorite Indian American authors and poets.
A diagnostic nuclear radiologist, poet, novelist, and essayist, you were also the first Poet Laureate of Ohio. Tell us how you balance all these different personas.
It’s really just a question of time management. When the shift starts, I’m a radiologist. When the shift ends, I’m a dad. When I can sneak away or when everyone’s asleep, I’m a writer. As for the different kinds of writing, I regard them all as ways of sequencing words. You can accomplish some things with poetry that you can’t with fiction, some things with fiction that you can’t with an essay, and so on. I pick my form based on the effect I wish to have.
Your latest novel ‘Soar’ is about the friendship between a Hindu and Muslim soldier in the British Indian Army during World War I. How did you come up with the story?
I wrote it so long ago—2010, in fact—that I can scarcely recall the specific genesis of the story anymore. I have always been a World War I buff, and I remember the first time I read about Indian colonial soldiers being sent to theaters of war in places like Europe or Africa. How strange it all must have seemed to them! What innocents abroad they were! And yet sent there to shoot and be shot at; there to have their innocence stripped from them. That was probably the starting point for the novel.
Your earlier book ‘Partitions‘ is also about communal differences and harmonies. Is this a theme that you are particularly fond of?
‘Soar’ came immediately after ‘Partitions.’ They treat a similar topic in drastically different ways—one dark and tragic, the other light and tragicomic. I am very interested in the difference between person-to-person friendship and love; and the diametrically opposite group dynamics that can co-exist beside and behind that relationship. That contrast is the basis of so much in literature, going all the way back to Romeo and Juliet. Trust is built easier on the micro-level, person to person, than on the macro-level, group to group.
Your book ‘Sitayana‘, a retelling of the Ramayana from Sita’s perspective, focuses on Sita’s fierce resistance. How did you come up with the idea for the book?
The story is well known, but the kernel of the idea was to write the Ramayana epic in many different voices. So, it’s not just Sita’s perspective; her voice is central, but it is one of many. ‘Sitayana’ was a challenge of storytelling architecture that I set myself. From chapter to chapter, I jump, Hanuman-like, from perspective to perspective. Yet the book as a whole maintains a single, rapid, forward momentum.
Tell our readers more about your fourth poetry collection that is forthcoming in the US, ‘What He Did in Solitary’ (Knopf, 2020).
I write in a lot of styles and themes, and that book collects a large portion of my work written between ‘Dothead’ and now. There are poems about identity, love, loss, communal violence, politics, and the solitary nature of being. Everything under the sun.
Who are some of your favorite Indian American authors and poets?
I have one favorite Indian American author, and that is my wife, A. B. Majmudar. Her debut novel is coming out from Puffin Books India. It’s called ‘The Torchbearers’, and it’s a YA novel that’s an action-packed mythological romp that involves three kids (based on our own three kids) as well as Gods and Demons. It’s an astonishing story, but the back story is astonishing too: She had never written fiction before, submitted her first completed draft without an agent, and got a book deal on her first try. The book really is that good; she’s like an Indian-American J. K. Rowling. Between us, she is soon going to be the famous one, and I look forward to standing in her shadow!
What are your creative inspirations?
Other writers, usually dead ones. I am stirred to create my own work in the spirit of emulation and competition, yes, but above all, I am stirred by the ways in which other writers show me what can be done with the language. Shakespeare, Cormac McCarthy, Borges, Hilary Mantel, Ovid—countless others. Everything I read and love inspires me in some way.
What are you working on next?
I have a lot of works planned, and a few new books already completed and currently submitted to publishers. But I’m very superstitious, so I won’t be too specific—I want to avoid jinxing my chances. But I am always working on poems, even when I’m not physically writing them; that work is always ongoing. Language possesses infinite generativity, and I try to take advantage of that in the finite time I have.
Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Wanderlust for the Soul, an e-book collection of short stories based on travel in different parts of the world.
Disgusts me to remember that I thought I wasn’t enough
I think that I need more and more, plenty
But they don’t have much other than others company
Walked outside to the city, new country, poverty
For the first Time my eyes could see openly with
I fear that I’ve lived my life like the Buddha’s early years
Away from deprivation
Away from hardship
Away from the unfortunate
Away from poverty
Giving one a drop of water or a tiny cracker wouldn’t be obliging
Considering the number of them barely surviving
I hope that one day I can give all of the economy an equal chance of success
And maybe get away from seeing this horrible mess.
Rashmika Manu is a 9th grader attending high school this year. She enjoys writing poems, playing volleyball and traveling. She visits India often and has a desire to help the poor and needy when she grows up.
“I start my day choosing happiness and being in the moment, as the mystery of the moment opens up to me” writes Geetanjali Arunkumar in her book, ‘You are the cake’. Such revelations that she arrived at through travails of illness and loneliness are what she shares in this debut work.
This is a book written from the heart and is a timely and gentle reminder to tap into our essence, even as many influences sap our energy and erode our confidence. A joyous, tasty metaphor for everyone alike, young, old and in-between, the title leaves open the door to accepting and enjoying who we are as individuals and build on that.
Accepting such a notion and not just thriving, but flourishing is the author’s message, one that she’s obviously been mastering even as she’s overcome inordinate challenges.
Right from the get-go the reader can realize that this author’s journey is one that many of us can relate to, even if the challenges may be varied in intensity. Reading on, one also realizes that this is not from a self-help guru, though we need guidance at times from one such, but from lived experiences and lessons learned through struggles.
As she aptly says, trusting the inner voice clarifies the action and path empowering one to make the right choices, be it of friends or partners, and other life’s decisions, big or small.
For many of us life rambles on, at times desultory and as Michelle Obama writes in, Becoming, of her good friends, ‘ Most of us lived in a state of constant calibration, tweaking one area of life in hopes of bringing more steadiness to another’, and ‘’You’re the cake’ offers a recipe for that.
I’m one for mnemonics and “FACT-RE” as depicted by multiple layers of the cake – self- forgiveness, acceptance, compassion and trust, leading to respect and empowerment – is one I’ve begun remembering when I feel unsettled.
Geetanjali then expounds thru’ the Recipe and Utensils used for cooking up happiness, emphasizes what seems obvious, such as hobbies, but often ignored, limited by our daily lives.
The author quotes Muhammad Ali, “It’s the affirmations that lead to beliefs, and moreover once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” Affirmations convert desires into reality, but she points out it’s good to be realistic about desires to begin with, and with time it will lead to greater things.
Geetanjali provides tools like journaling, keeping a gratitude diary, or even tasks as simple as, when falling asleep ‘being grateful for the smallest things that happened during the day’ and, ‘ wak[ing] up in the morning using Abraham/Esther Hicks method of seventeen seconds of positivity and beauty.’ These soften the dissonance or even chime a song in our hearts!
Showing appreciation and acknowledging another person and being non-judgmental, as we’d like to be treated ourselves, strengthens the other and certainly builds lasting relationships.
I wish I’d had this book when I’d had an accident some long years back and was quite dispirited , but needing to pick myself back up, raise our toddler son and get back to work, with great support from my husband and loved ones.
There’s a Tamil proverb my grandma used to tell my mom, which roughly translates to, ‘only if you have a wall, can you paint a mural’. Only when we are kind to and take care of ourselves, can we be of support to others
Geetanjali’s talents show not only in her writing style – such as, “…. Ways to unfold your soul, which whispers to you the truth of your gifts…” and inspiring thoughts, which are well-researched and informed, but also she accompanies them with lively and spot-on illustrations. This Bay Area author serves up the cake with swirls of decadence and pearls of wisdom on an inviting platter!
Madhu Raghavan is a pediatrician who enjoys writing, exploring our great outdoors, gardening and art as pastime.
You might think it’s strange, but I chose having an arranged marriage in the midst of an era with dating apps like Tinder.
And I love my husband.
Generally people find it hard to reconcile these two things.
When I turned 24, my parents decided that it was time they made ‘arranging a daughter’s marriage’ as their top goal in life. As with any arranged marriage, entire families were enlisted to convince me that it should be my top priority as well. Although I was young, I knew that marriage would be a giant leap for me. It has always been thus for women – from moving into a new house and adjusting to a different environment, to changing her last name and finding her place in a new family; the institution of marriage was something not to be entered into lightly. I was not ready.
I managed to dodge and escape for a year and a half before I caved in. But I made it clear that I would not meet gazillion boys in the dance of acceptance/rejection that plays out in the arranged marriage system. No problem, my parents said, and created a profile for me on a matrimonial portal. I had complete freedom to screen and choose proposals based on my personal preferences. After scrolling through multiple profiles, Gaurav was the first boy whose digital proposal I accepted, and after two-three months of ‘courtship’ in the virtual world, we decided to tie the knot.
Although still sceptical of marriage, with both of us being based in India at the time of our engagement, we looked forward to the wedding, unaware of the change in dynamics that would occur in a few weeks. G was offered a job in Singapore, an offer that was too good to refuse. This added to my dilemma. I had not considered the possibility of leaving my full and fulfilling life behind to travel abroad to join my husband.
After the wedding, I chose to stay behind in Delhi, ostensibly to take care of pending matters. I had been working as a TV presenter at Doordarshan for the past three years and was on the cusp of a promotion. My second book ‘Saturated Agitation’ had recently been launched, and I was busy with book readings. I had just completed my Master’s degree in journalism, and was waiting to collect my original mark sheet. I was teaching journalism as a part-time lecturer and was reluctant to abandon my students in the middle of the semester. One of my dogs had given birth to seven pups. The other one was sick.
Nine months after my wedding, I kept adding more excuses to the already long list of valid reasons for me to linger in Delhi. Despite the distance, G was very considerate in not insisting that I move to Singapore. Was it because he was as tentative as me about our union? Things seemed fine on our occasional short meetings. We often connected over various digital devices and channels. But we did not share a home; we had no history together.
It is the month of August, the month of my husband’s birthday. This is his first birthday as my husband, and I do not want us speaking over flat screens. For some reason, I feel compelled to be with him; I want to make this day special. Is this love? I make plans and buy gifts. I am flying to Singapore tomorrow morning to see him. This is not a surprise visit because I cannot afford the risk of him being elsewhere if I arrive unannounced. I know that G has also made plans. We are both excited to see each other. It has been three months since our last rendezvous.
I pack my bags and lay out my favourite white cotton Anarkali suit for the flight in the morning. I wash my face, kiss my pups and dogs good night, apply night cream and sleep.
I wake up with a mild sense of excitement when my alarm goes off at 4 in the morning. I have to leave home at 5:30 to reach the airport on time. A I am getting ready, I sense a commotion outside our home, and the TV news confirms my misgivings.
A sleep-deprived, tired reporter screams out news about fire, mobs and roadblocks. People have turned violent to protest the rape conviction of Baba Ram Rahim who had subsequently been jailed. Oblivious to the implications of this news, I get ready to leave for the airport only to realise that I cannot step outside. People are walking the streets with swords and fire torches. It is a communal riot-like situation. There are half burnt vehicles on the roads with mobs screaming “Baba bekasoor hai, Baba ko riha karo” (Baba is innocent, release him from prison.)
I have a long phone call with G; I don’t want to disappoint him. I argue with my father about the unfairness of his demand that I stay home. Before long, I have to accept defeat. There is no way I can safely make it to the airport in time for my flight, thanks to the harsh reality of things beyond my control.
“The important thing is that you are safe at home. It is alright; we can always plan for next month or the month after.” G is incredibly sweet and understanding. He is the one consoling me even though I am the one throwing tantrums for not making it to his birthday.
As I sit with my head in my hands, my sick dog walks towards me, lifts his leg and pisses on my bag. And something finally snaps.
“Am I taking advantage of my husband’s understanding and supportive nature? Is this a punishment for being a terrible wife? ”
I see my father leaving for his clinic despite the unruly situation outside, knowing that there may be additional patients who need his help. I have grown up seeing him devote his entire life to the welfare of the people. His passion for his work and dedication towards helping others has been an inspiration for me. Being the youngest one in the family, I was naturally close to my father. What I hadn’t realised was how interdependent we have become in the past few years… I am so much like him. His preoccupation with work had always kept him away from his family. Am I doing the same thing?
A woman’s life changes entirely after marriage, and so does her opinion of it. Before marriage, my focus was more on the “wedding”- clothes, jewellery, make-up, events, music and whatnot. However, the next morning, when the band baja baraat was over, I found myself transformed from the kid of my family to the eldest bahoo of my husband’s family, a promotion of sorts that required significant adjustments to my outlook about my life ahead. With the completion of the rituals of marriage, I had wondered what other literal and figurative changes lay in store but had not ventured to find out.
Today, thanks to Baba Ram Rahim and his followers, I can finally see that it is not my career nor my dogs, not my students nor my mark sheet holding me here. I got married and was ‘given away’. From kanyadaan to bidai- every ritual confirmed my departure from my maiden home and guided me towards the road to becoming a wife. The only thing that is holding me is me. I haven’t mustered the strength to leave my father, my home, and begin a life with my husband, to become a wife in its real sense. Only I could correct this unfair situation. I had to let my marriage take shape, even though I had no idea how to create it. It was time to fly.
In the next ten days, I resigned from work, completed my assignments as best as I could and started looking for work in Singapore. When G came to Delhi to escort me to Singapore, my father waved a tearful goodbye. I knew then that my father was happy for me – he would not have asked his daughter to go away because he wanted me to take that step by myself. He would be fine, and so would I.
As the aircraft gained momentum and trembled with new-found energies to take off, I felt a gush of overwhelming emotions soaring within me that gave me the courage to start my married life.
Sometimes it takes more than mere rituals for a daughter to accept the position of someone’s wife, but it is never too late to start, and there is nothing wrong in allowing yourself some extra time to graduate to the idea of being a Mrs After all, marriage is one small step for man and a giant leap for womankind.
Surabhi, a former Delhi Doordarshan presenter, is a journalist based in Singapore. She is the author of ‘Nascent Wings’ and ‘Saturated Agitation’ and has contributed to more than 15 anthologies in English and Hindi in India and Singapore. Surabhi’s work has appeared in various publications in India, Singapore and Australia. Website | Blog | Instagram
A version of this essay was published in Desi Modern Love- An Anthology published by Story Artisan Press, Singapore.