For the first six years of my marriage, I constantly lived with the question “why don’t you have a TV?” There are some people who even went to the extent of telling me that “as your husband travels a lot, you must buy a TV.” Well, I never knew that televisions are substitutes for husbands. Then probabably I would have gone for a 42 inch LCD TV. Don’t they all say, size does matter. In that case, probably for many women in this country, it would have been a real blessing. It’s not that I was anti-television or anything.Prior to my marriage, when I was working in Delhi , I spent nights after nights watching MTV and Channel V. But as it seriously affected my reading, I thought of taking a break. And the break worked. It was that deciding soccer match between France and Brazil in 2006 World Cup that motivated me to buy a television. And much to my disappointment, Brazil lost the match. The humble TV is still there with me and I do pay regularly to my cablewallah. But I have made sure that it’s non-intrusive. Now, the most frequent question I face is “why you don’t have a child?” Again I love kids and I get along quite well with them, preferrably girls (no gender biases… I have always grown up with women and I find it comfortable… Blame it on habits). The only exception could be my little nephew Gogol. He has made me fall in love with little boys. But somehow, till now I haven’t felt the need to have my own kids. There is not much ideological/biological issues really involved. I always thought certain things should come from within. It’s that feeling of naked intensity of living with the feeling for days. It’s not like whether you want to have noodles or rice. It’s not like whether you want some ‘chai’ or ‘coffee’. Having a child means giving wings and roots to another individual whom you brought to the world by a conscious decision (though sometimes there can be abberations…). I don’t see children as ‘showoff’. I don’t see them adding brand value to my status as a married woman.I don’t see children as an insurance against old age. I respect them immensely. And if I feel the need, I will definitely adopt a girl child. I feel very strongly about adoption. In this whole journey of my ‘childless status’, I see a very different world unfolding before me. While growing up, I always thought motherhood changes you as a person. It makes you a better human thing. But slowly and systematically my idea of motherhood got deconstructed before me and I must admit it was an eye-opener. Few years ago, I lost my sister-in-law in cancer. And in those moments of intense grief and pain, I called up an old friend of mine who is a poet and flaunts motherhood like a solitaire on her finger thinking that she would understand my pain. She told me, “Why are you crying? After all, she was just your husband’s sister not your own.” It’s a statement that shook me deep within myself and in almost all possible ways ended my relationship with her. I have seen mothers feeding obscene amount to their already obese kids but will not even spare a packet of Rs 5 glucose biscuit or a banana to the kid on the street. I am no angel. I have my own flaws and I am sure hundreds of them but this kind of limited love and pettiness is something I can’t identify with. It’s a not a story of myself. It’s a story of all my friends who are single, divorced, happy/unhappy and charting a journey of their own with great dignity. Why do we as people and a nation follow a pattern in everything? How come nobody has ever asked me “why did you get married?” But my single friends always face this question, “so when are you getting married?” You can be single, married man, issueless woman — these are just adjectives which do not necessarily change the essence of a human being. In that case, our whole society would have changed long back. It’s still a tragedy that in a country of more than one billion people, there are people who are visually challenged. We still believe in clinging to our eyes even after we die. That’s something we should give a serious thought.
Even in a profession like journalism, where the favourite lines in editorial meetings are “think out of the box” and “no boring stories”, it’s the same old story. When my ex-editor saw me all alone in a multiplex on a dry summer afternoon, he was shocked. For 10 minutes, he kept on asking me “Where is your husband?” He called me to meet him in his chamber just to ask, “So what all things you do alone?” I was dying to tell him, “Sir, this is my way of living out of the box.” I mean, I could have also asked him “How do you watch a film with your partially dead boring wife?” By going alone, I was not committing a crime and it could be possible that my husband just didn’t like watching films or he was out of town. These are very personal choices. And often the comment is like that, “Oh, you want to be a free bird, you don’t want resposnibilitites.” I mean, what’s wrong if I want to be a free bird. That’s a choice I have made and what makes people think that married people or parents are most responsible persons under the sun. I have seen parents literally fighting with us to take their 6/7 year kids’ photo and story in the newspaper. There are people who have fought with me that why it can’t be done. There are parents who say that my child can recognise 10 cars… so pls do an interview with him. I mean, what are they trying to prove? This is certainly not an act of responsibility. Finally, we decided to discontinue the column and saved ourselves of those hysterical calls, anger, tears and what not. I am sure, we did a great job for the kids.
********A few days back, I went to a leading bank for some investment purpose. The investment manager kept on telling me about some life insurance policies. I asked him “After three years if I die, who will get the money?” And he says, ‘Your husband’? I told ‘No I want my money to go to Cancer Society of India. Only if you make such arrangements I will take the policy.’ Well, the bank is yet to get back. Probably, he thought I am a nut case. All screwed up because I am a DINK (Double Income No Kids).