REPUBLICAN Mike Huckabee, who is likely to run for the White House, are his words after blaming Oscar winner Natalie Portman in April last year for glamourising out-of-wedlock pregnancy and single motherhood. It has evoked a huge debate in the US, but is it an issue at all in India?
DARING TO FIGHT
Suja Shankar, a publicist (name changed), had a great job and a fabulous relationship with her boyfriend. Two years into the relationship and with her biological clock ticking away at 38 years, Shankar decided to move fast — to go ahead and be a mom.
But when she found out she was pregnant, her life took a different turn. Her lover was not ready for a commitment and Shankar realised she needed to take control of her life rather than brood over it. She did something very few women in India dare to do - she decided to keep the baby. "I spent a lot of time thinking whether to keep the child or not, but then I knew it was now or never. I knew it would take a lot to be an unwed mom but once I decided, there was no looking back," says Shankar.
With her parents standing by her decision, Shankar decided to get herself into a happy state of mind and make the most of her situation. Now the mother of a two year-old, Shankar says it was her parent's support that helped her weather the crisis and fulfill her dream of motherhood. "Society is unkind and mean to a single mother. Having a child is every woman's right and if she has the financial and moral support, why should she wait till she is married," says Shankar.
But then we are far off the mark when it comes to the kind of society that sociologist Shiv Visvanathan talks about.
He feels society should develop tolerance for deviancy from norms. "Portman might be promoting deviancy from norms, but she also promotes tolerance. There should be a balance between tolerance and deviance. Earlier divorce wasn't accepted in our society. But now, it's not looked down upon. Things have to change," says Visvanathan.
But mindsets are unlikely to change in a hurry — no, not even if the single mother has opted to adopt kids. Educator Geet Oberoi, single mother of two adopted kids, has been at the receiving end of many caustic comments. "I was told by many that my children would have been better off at an orphanage than with a single mother!" says Oberoi. With her life revolving round five-year-old Indya and two-and-a half-year-old Maya, Oberoi does not feel the need of a man to raise her kids. The support of her family of course keeps her going, she admits.
Oberoi believes it's time society took a step forward. "I don't feel the need to have a biological child, that's why I went for adoption," she says.
MUM'S THE WORD
Actor Neena Gupta, Bollywood's eternal example of a single mother, did a dramatic turnaround during an interview when she advised women " to never have a child out of wedlock". After raising cricketer Vivian Richards' love child, Masaba, she believes that raising a child as a single mom in a conservative society like India is no cakewalk.
If societal pressure made Gupta buckle under pressure, the legal system in India offers little help too. Actor Sushmita Sen proud unwed mom faced red- tape and judicial speedbreakers before adopting Renee and Alisah. It was only after a protracted legal process that she could go ahead with her adoption plans.
OBJECT OF ATTENTION
Besides the stiff challenges of bringing up a child as a single parent, women often become the butt of social ridicule and curious comments. Shankar says she has learnt to deal with nasty queries and curious gazes. " I am now immune to weird personal questions from strangers about my son's dad.
Though I disclose my unwed status only to people who, I think, will understand, at times it does get on your nerves," says Shankar.
Oberoi, too, has found ways to brave the volley of queries. "When people ask me about my marital status, I tell them I'm single. Then the next question would be whether I am a divorcee. I tell them Iwas never married and that leaves them perplexed. But usually there are no further questions after that," laughs Oberoi.
Single mother Vindya Sharma too feels that her daughter doesn't need any connection with the man who deserted them for another woman. "I want to be known as an unwed mother rather than a divorcee, and it's ridiculous that school records and other official documents only ask for the name of the father, who is inconsequential in my daughter's life," says Sharma.
Sharma appreciates Portman's statement that children are deeply desired, even by women who love their jobs.
Isn't that what motherhood is all about?
Reproduced From Mail Today. Copyright 2011. MTNPL. All rights reserved.