During the seventh month of pregnancy, there is a Marathi tradition equivalent to a Western baby shower, Dohale Jevan. This literally means, the pregnant woman’s cravings. The mother-to-be is dressed head to toe in flowers and given all the food … Continue reading
In my experience, once you have celebrated your first marriage anniversary, people start demanding to know when you are having a baby. It must be quite common because it’s not only me who has been constantly questioned and told that they should be pregnant by now. I am certain that couples are quizzed about their plans for a family all over the world, but it was such a huge surprise to me that as soon as our first anniversary rolled past us, it was like a switch went off, people started to asking me when my baby is coming, constantly.
I have been told it is one of the many traditions of India, after one year of marriage you should conceive.
One family friend told me that everyone is asking us because they are all “too excited” to see a “foreigner baby”. I am not exaggerating, shopkeepers and people I have never met before start swinging their arms in a cradle like motion with huge grins on their faces. I just reply with a smile.
Of course, I also have an online presence so I am getting even bolder inquires online. I’ve had a man wanting to know whether or not my husband and I are using “family planning methodology” because we don’t have any children yet. Even last week, another man commented on a post where I was discussing speaking Marathi with simply, “Why no babies yet? Is everything ok?”. How intrusive and insensitive is that?
There has been daily questions and even some tears from the eldest members of my Indian family, desperately hoping for a new family member next festival season. I know it’s not only India where the conception pressure dwells, my Grandmother in England has also been expressing her fears of passing before seeing a great-grandchild in her arms.
Don’t panic everyone, we do want babies, but it’s a personal matter.
I find the constant questions quite frustrating but I cannot imagine how this pressure feels for the couples who are not ready to be parents or simply do not have the desire to have children. Couples not only have to deal with their own distress and grief, but the pressure and demands from family and the society at large.
People the world over feel it’s okay to ask a couple when they are planning to start a family, but we must remember that having a baby is not a topic everyone wants to discuss openly and people have the right to privacy. We just don’t know who has been struggling to conceive, just been given a devastating diagnosis or recently experienced a heartbreaking loss. I am certain the last thing these couples need are people nagging them to start their family, even when they mean well and are just excited, deciding to have children should be a personal and private decision between two people.
Growing up, I was always searching for the universal truth, I really wanted to be religious and have faith. I wanted to know which religion was the true religion. I was jealous of those people who had a strong faith, I wanted that certainty and security, I wanted to know what or who God was.
Whilst researching all the theologies and ‘rule books’ of all the major religions, I felt conflicted and confused. I felt simultaneously attracted and repelled by separate parts of each religion. Unlike many people, I didn’t feel I fitted into a single religion. If only I could take all the pieces I felt resonated with me and ignore the other bits, but I assumed religion doesn’t work like that, religion doesn’t involve cherry picking. During my early teenage years, one of my friends told me that it didn’t matter how good of a person I was, I would go to hell if I didn’t become a strict Christian and go to Church every Sunday, that scared the sh*t out me for a while (just to be clear, that is not the opinion of many Christians).
When I moved to India, I slipped from an untraditional Christian tradition, into a traditional Hindu tradition. I automatically began to compare, contrast and search for the similarities between the religions my husband and I were born into. When you go to Church you pray, you look towards the altar, sing together, receive bread and wine which has been blessed. There will be flowers, candles and occasionally incense, there will be a sense of community. When you go to a Temple you pray, you look towards the deity, during aarti (a ritual) you sing together, receive prasad (a small token of food) which has been blessed. There will be flowers, oil lamps, incense, there will be a sense of community. I found the similarities between an Eastern worship and a Western worship, fascinating and I have found solace in both forms.
All religions at their heart value love, kindness, compassion, charity, faith, truth, peace, tolerance and forgiveness. All people should have those values too, sadly that’s not always the case (even those who would label themselves as ‘religious’). The way people from each religion worship, see the world and live their lives can be extremely different, but we humans are all different, this shouldn’t be a reason to discriminate and hate. Surely God, in his omnipresent and omnipotent splendor, would lay out more than just one road towards him/her. I now feel that wisdom can be found in every tradition, we don’t have to sign up to religious sect to feel worthy, we should concentrate on being good people.
“One should not think, ‘My religion alone is the right path and other religions are false.’ God can be realized by means of all paths. It is enough to have sincere yearning for God. Infinite are the paths and infinite the opinions.”