No need to abort female foetuses or drown baby girls: A practical solution from Baba Ramdev and company

Want to be ASHTA PUTRA SAUBHAGYAVATI ? Without aborting the female foetus. Or drowning the newborn baby girls. Or raising them teaching how to be perfect Sati-Savitris?

An army of Hindu fertility experts are coming to rescue you from the misfortune of being mother to a girl.. or gasp… many girls… or gasp gasp… no kids!! Baanz… apshakuni women of holy India- rejoice!!

You can buy a boon, a medicine, a male heir from none other than Baba Ramdev ( Jai ho) that will instantly make you pregnant with a KULDEEPAK.

First they said that every Hindu woman should produce at least 4 kids. Because otherwise Hindus will be a minority in Hindustan. Then they thought 4 is too low. So they made it 10. A nice round figure you know. Dashputra Saubhagyavati Bhav!!

Now you have a 100% guarantee that majority of these ten offsprings to be sons.

All you have to do is pay a few hundred rupees and bear a glorious male child. Or ten of them. Baba Ramdev’s pharmacies bring you the golden elixir that is guaranteed to produce a glorious Hindu army of 56 inch chaati males in our Bharatvarsha.

I have a male dog. So maybe I should call myself ‘EkKutra Saubhagyavati?’

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Another nonsensical lip service a.k.a MOTHERHOOD IS THE TOUGHEST JOB EVER…

Another ‘pat on your back plus hollow lip service‘ message for mothers.

From President Obama to your neighbourhood Facebook banshees, everyone screams hoarse on how motherhood is the world’s toughest job, like EVER EVER EVER…

Yes ladies, bring forth that Gajar Ka Halwa or its modern childcare equivalent, be garlanded for your holy martyrdom and shut-up about your postpartum depression. You might be a commissioner of the police or a prime-minister, it is NOTHING as compared to the celestial and 24 hr. job of being a mamma. Do not dare to ask for privileges, or equality, because hey, we all know it is also THE MOST REWARDING WORK YOU WOULD EVER DO EVER..

Forget the coal miners or women labourers who break their backs doing construction work for 18 hrs. or finance minister working on annual budget of the country or a social worker working tirelessly with child prostitutes… well, you get the drift.

I really wonder if mothers buy this kind of nonsense? Going by media coverage, a significant number of them do. And other mothers, thank god, call out the hypocrisy and the saccharine sweet gender stereotyping such messages re-enforce. This is a sophisticated version of the Nirupa Roy syndrome Mothers. No hunky Vijay is going to save you from baddies or take revenge or raise you from poverty kyunki mere paas maaa hai!!

It is one thing to recognise the tremendously valuable work of child raring that (largely) women do, for no money, meaningless titles of CEO of the HOUSEHOLD notwithstanding. And it is another to give this dumbified messages which would raise the hackles of any self-respecting woman or man, mother/parent or not.

Stay At Home Moms and $$$

$$ value of a SAHM's labour

$$ value of a SAHM’s labour

Charts such as these which assign $$$ value to Stay At Home Mums’ work abound the modern American debate- from feminist blogs to Mommy blogs to conservative blogs to general controversy mongering headlines.

What would be the Indian counterpart to this chart? Especially since labour in India is pretty cheap vis-a-vis United States ( ask Devyani Khobragade), how would this chart look like in Indian context?

This particular chart is hugely problematic because it compares salaries of professionals with SAHM who is clearly not executing these duties on that scale of professionalism. When you assign salaries for skills, there is an assumption that you execute them in a professional environment, have a financial goal associated with your performance which is appraised in financial terms.
Emotional feelings of all-powerfulness of mother aside, we can not take professional salaries and assign them to SAHMs without these parameters then.

So what are SAHMs truly worth, in hardcore financial terms? ( We had this debate a year and half ago when a bill was going to be proposed that would ensure housewives get a salary. )

Related to this and more important perhaps is to ask what of financial security for SAHMS in Indian context? Especially today, when financial dynamics practically dictates social and family life.

I know that many women ( I will not say ‘parents’ because the number of male parents who stay at home to look after their kids is too minuscule to consider here) do not stay home just as a replacement of paid child care, but to ensure that their children grow in healthy ( mental, intellectual, physical) manner. Many have no support system of parents/ grandparents to look after their child. Many do not want paid care to raise children because it might be unsafe or unsatisfactory. Many leave their salaried jobs for emotional satisfaction of being with their children.

So, how can we put price on what these women bring on the table? While you can not assign market value to everything, especially emotions and relationships, I firmly believe that financial security is paramount to Indian women. And if they are spending their prime years working hard, it should be recognised- in real terms and not Bollywood songs.

So let us not only sentimentalise about priceless experience of child-rearing, but also try to look at it from financial perspective.

Fair Labour and wage laws are sign of an evolved society and logic that some work is ‘outside’ these laws is dangerous to the people who do the said work.

I want to puke when people offer sentimental lip service about how women are sacrificing their lives for building the nation. The same people then leave these builders of nation to the mercy of their earning husbands and a vague notion of moral responsibility.

I am not even talking about the choice that women make to stay at home because they miss their kids. In absence of gender equality in parenting, we can not call something a choice when it is overwhelmingly expected of one gender. More often than not, society, culture and economic need expects women to be the primary parent and ‘choose’ between career and childrearing.

So, what about hardcore monetary security?

If something goes wrong in the marriage and the woman wants to leave her husband, the non-working-for-salary woman gets a pretty raw deal even when it comes to the same kids she spent her live raising. A cousin undergoing divorce is finding it tough to retain custody of her kids since she has no property in her name. In real life, the welfare of kids would require financial security which is not compatible with our divorce laws.

Tougher is the life of a woman who might not want to look after her kids anymore, and do something of her own in late stage of her life.

And what about women whose kids have grown up and do not require their mums as much as they did? What would be the financial worth of these women then?

And how is the performance to be appraised? What if an excellent mother’s kid turns out to be a thug? Whose parenting will be under scanner then? ( Rhetorical question this. For centuries people have blamed mothers for ill doings of their offsprings.)

While alimony, child-support and joint- investments exist , most women would find themselves in tough corner, especially middle-age onwards, if they do not have financial security that they can call their own.

When we say that the family- husband, parents, kids – would ensure that the woman who devoted her life for their comfort, we are putting the woman in dependent position. Because familial relationships may or may not be based on objectivity and fairness, how to ensure that the women get their due?

For this, we need to know what is their due in financial terms.

In absence of the same, the woman is dependent on her spouse to ‘recognise’ her work- both in terms of quality and quantity.

I am not writing this as yet another ‘mommy-war ke aag mein tel’ provocation. Women who work outside home do many of these tasks as well, and the ‘double shift’ is topic of another post.

For the first time in my life, I have formed acquaintance with SAHMs, thanks to the kids and babies who are attracted to Puppyjaan and want to talk/touch/play with him. As the babies coo, gurgle and wave their hands while Puppyjaan stands like a patient tiger; the mum and me usually chat with each other. I go to lunches with them sometime and this very new group experience always forces me to think about the tremendous financial punt these women are taking by leaving their jobs and looking after their kid full time.

I really do not understand how to put value to the work of women who choose to stay home. I also do not understand why 100% of stay-at-home-parents in my 21st century, Mumbai housing society are women. I do not understand how to make sure that child-rearing is seen as a specialised job that requires special privileges.

What do you think?

Creepy ad on FB this morning!!!

An ad staring at me from FB with a pic of a crying kid.

It says:

“Mom – Save My Life! Bank your child’s milk tooth & potentially save life from multiple diseases. Signup Now!
14,488 people like Stemade Biotech – Dental Stem Cell Bank.”

It is creepy yaar!!!

I can imagine a mother ( like the one in the ads: smiling, wearing short kurti and ankle length pants, long flowing hair and faint lipstick) bending over this crying kid and slowly knocking the milk tooth out and preserving it in the freezer with organic cereal and real juices and all the heavy duty stuff required to feed kids these days.

Sort of like OLDBOY meets ads featuring Hema Malini with her daughters.

Good I got my teeth cleaning done last week, I wouldn’t have dared to; knowing kids are getting their milk teeth out on the very same chair for some stem cells.

I admit this obsession with a silly ad springs from the very teeth cleaning combined with Rosemary’s Baby that I read recently.

I have never heard this dental marvel BTW. I had to be dragged around by my parents even to get cavities fixed when I was a kid. Wonders of modern science, I am telling you … from the other side of the grave that too..

The whole point of this post was, that these ads with ‘Mom do this if you want me to grow healthy’ or ‘ Mom don’t do this or you will screw me up for life’ grate on my nerves.

Ek toh, what is this ‘MOM’??? If we have to be la di dah and all, Can we stick to our colonial past and call Mummy , Mum, Mumma. Or be a deshbhakta with Aaai, Maa, Amma etc.??

MOM, Jeez, Gee, Bro, Dude, Wassup: can you go back to land of Amareeka puhleez???

Coming back to the point, which is not much of, as I realize by now, I want to ask mothers: DO YOU OR OTHER MOTHERS FEEL PRESSURIZED BY THIS LINE OF APPEAL??

Do you feel pressurized by modern science to do things right or you would be responsible??

So much for a meaningless rant. I absolutely, dedicatedly, determinedly don’t want to even pass the dentist’s building or read scary mother-kid horror for some time now.

Mothers’ Day #4 : Give them a break yaaaaarrr…

Ahhhh… hullo mums …I fully sympathize with you when you open the papers today and breathe a sigh to know you are like the most important person to the entire nation. And as token of our gratitude everyone is offering you a 50% discount on all cuddly, fuzzy, motherly things.

Hand that rocks the cradle and all that.

No need for policies that can actually help you as a person you see. Or change in society. No No… if you demand that you are not saintly enough, and consequently, not motherly enough.

Your son can get you a tube of Volini or your daughter can gift you a package of spa. Music channels can play some obligatory Maa focused songs in non prime time to appease you.

All over the world , from president Obama to Shahrukh Khan can sing your praise for doing the ‘most important job in the world’. What more do you want heh? You are a mother now. Behave. If you don’t, your kids could turn out to be a terrorist, sociopath, plain old bores, people who scratch their crotch in public, immoral sluts, rapists and god knows what.

Dr. Edit Schlaffer’s contention that mothers have the power to stop the radicalization of their kids troubles me. Despite of Women Without Borders’ credentials.

Because too many times I have heard this ancient Indian adage “ Tumhari Maa ne tumhe kuch Sikhaya nahin kya??”

If, as Dr. Schlaffer says, the mothers have the power to stop the radicalization, logically mothers are to blame if the kids turn out to be radical. They didn’t do enough to stop the kids.

As if Dawood Ibrahim would be volunteering at Welfare of Stray Dogs , if only his screwed up mother hadn’t pushed him into crime..

So, why are we blaming the mothers for their kids’ violence? Hulllooo, is Osama Bin Laden’s mother going to be on the FBI’s Most Wanted??

I fully agree that mothers are, more often than not, the most influential person in the life of kids.. And I agree that they do have a huge influence on their kids’ future. We just have to look around to see numerous cases of women who pull their kids up socio-economic ladder by working hard and literally sacrificing their entire lives doing that.

As a sister and wife of men raised by feminist mothers, I also know that mothers do influence their kids’ set of values and beliefs big time.

But the problem comes when culturally we expect women to hold the agency of their kids’ future disregarding the social influences on kids.

It places an inhuman burden on women. Along with the arduous physical labour, and the childcare : they are also expected to mould human beings for future in a socially acceptable way.

Society and kids themselves are ready to blame mothers if anything goes wrong. Or if the mother doesn’t fall into clichés of acceptable motherhood.

So, a woman can not have limitations. She cannot be flawed or weak when it comes to her kids. She has to be pillar of strength, morality and flawlessness. Any small act she commits can be a responsible for what their kids do for the rest of their life??

She shouldn’t have ambitions higher than her child. She should not be a ‘person’ over her identity as a mother.

So Margaret Thatcher was not a great mother: so what???? Do we know how Manmohan Singh is as a father? No. Do we want to find out?? No.

There was an entire drama around Ajmal Kasab’s last letter to his mother in Pakistan. Several reports speculated about how his mother must have looked the other way when her son prepared to commit one of the most heinous crimes.

How much power and agency did she have?? Forget as a mother, even as a person??

And lets say, even if she did have power, how can we claim that her sanskaar caused her son to turn into a terrorist?

Whichever way you see, mothers can not escape scrutiny.

It is a tough burden to bear!!!

But maybe that spa visit for four hours at 50% reduced rate can lessen that a bit??

Mothers’ Day #3: Spooky Mother Kid pairs in movies

Last night I couldn’t resist picking up the movie Babycall starring Noomi Rapace… ( Noomi is well known for playing Lisbeth Salander …Pls watch her in the original Swedish movies – there are 3 of them, yayyy- and not the total crap Girl With The Dragon Tatoo that Hollywood made. She is divine)

Anyway, this movie Baby call is predictable and so so. She is excellent though.

And that made me think of all those mother- kid pairs who feature in Horror/ thriller movies.

A mother and kid pair moves to a strange place. Male figure is usually missing/ gets killed off early in the movie. Kid starts to see strange things. Mother has to protect herself and the kid from that eerie presence. Or the live menace ( usually a violent husband/ lover). Or kid is dead and comes back. Or mother is dead and comes back.

Delicious formula for a touchingly thrilling movie.

So today I want to do a countdown of my favourite Mum-Kid pairs in horror/ thriller movies.

1. Shining

Scary talented kid + screetchy mum + dozens of dramebaaz ghosts & crazy dad= One of the best horror movies ever.

2. Dark Water

Only Japanese kids look that cute and only Japanese movies make a normal city apartment that scary. This movie makes you cry and want- to – shit – in- the- pants with fear at the same time.

3. Half light
I don’t know why this absolute gem of a movie is not popular. A grieving mother sees the spirit of her small son, but is not sure what he wants from her. Touching and gorgeously shot.

4. Panic Room
I am not a big fan of the movie but it is Jodie Foster kicking collective ass, and playing mama bear so who can resist?

5. Psycho

OK, I have huge problems with mama-blaming in this movie, that basically suggests overbearing mothers produce psychotic sons. But hell, it is still the best thriller ever made ( and this trailer narrated by Hitchcock himself is to die for).

6. The Others

Spooky house+ Nervous mum+ Cute kids: this movie still shocks you with its twist despite of dozens of copy cat versions.

7. Ju On

Japanese pair of blue spooky ghost kid with his blue horrific ghost mamma. Avoid the crappy HW remake and stick to the original scarefest.

8. We need To Talk About Kevin

Absolutely stunning movie about a mother who has mixed feelings about her sociopathic son. It is brilliant in its subtlety and I love the fact that the movie doesn’t blame the mother for the horrific act the son commits.

9. It’s Alive
A baby who kills and eats people, like from the time it gets out of the womb!! It is one of those movies that is so bad, so bad, so so so so bad… that it is good beyond words. I think pregnant women should avoid it though!!

10. Exorcist
The original scary kid movie that has been copied so many times that it is amazing you still want to look away when Regan turns her head 180 degrees!!

Ummmm… mothers and kids make a deadly pair for a horror/ thriller fan.

Lack of male figure is at the same time troubling and empowering I think.I want to see a movie in which a mother saves her kids even when her husband/ lover is very much alive.

Mother’s Day #2 : Cost of Motherhood

Couple of years ago, one of my team members’ maternity leave got extended because of a medical complication. By the time she was back, it was appraisal time. I rated her in the top three since she was, well, in the top three of my team for the last four years that she worked here.

I was shocked when the HR rep. told me, confidentially of course, to rate her lower. The logic was, that she had missed out on several projects and the appraisals are based on one’s performance in the last 4 quarters. Since the department has allotted budgets, this way those teammates who had worked hard in the last 4 quarters would get better raise.

This is an MNC , BTW, routinely called one of the best places to work for in the world!! I told the rep. off curtly and lectured her about how it was illegal to discriminate against women because they have been pregnant. I still kick myself for not lodging a formal complaint against the HR rep.

One of my best friends who has spent 18 years in HR in different industries in Mumbai told me that this is not an unusual sentiment.

This incident has stayed with me since it forced me to examine what truly is the cost of motherhood. And I mean the cost in hardcore commercial terms that I have seen in corporate India over the last ten years. I work in an industry that is more liberal than most, has several women in senior positions, by nature encourages freelance options, is dominated by some of the world’s topmost MNCs.

But what I see is nothing short of blatant sexism when it comes to mothers.

A disclaimer : I am talking about upper middle class, educated, urban Indian women who go out to work in organized private workplaces and get paid monthly salaries.

Mothers account for most of the Gender Wage Gap.

The infamous ‘mommy track’ is around us all to see, especially in India.

Since employers believe that mothers do not prioritize their job, mothers are routinely neglected for plum projects. Assignments that are challenging and would ultimately result in promotions/ raises.

Most workplaces do not want to invest in employees who have demanding priorities, like kids.

Mentoring and opportunities that are critical to growth from middle to senior management are rare for women in general, but more so for women with kids.

The invisible social code dictates that women should be happy to have a ‘flexible job’ that allows them to ‘balance’ their family life, mainly kids.

Many women themselves say that they prefer it. But how much of it is ‘choice’?

In absence of real options it seems like a compulsion. If men truly contributed equally to kids’ growth, would mothers hesitate to seek professional growth? (Numbers from truly gender progressive countries like Sweden suggest women continue to grow professionally at all stages thanks to a responsible childcare and social attitudes towards equal parenting.)

This of course means huge gap in the salaries between men and women, typically in their late twenties/ early thirties. This is the time when missus is busy keeping work-life balance for ‘her’ kids, while husband is busy climbing the ladder.

And why don’t as many men want to spend time with their kids? Many of my freelancer colleagues are men, and care for their kids’ daily school-play- classes routine. And I believe them when they say that even on weekends and holidays it is almost always women who ‘choose’ to spend time with kids on activities.

Since men around the world do not have to bother about ‘work-life’ balance, is it any wonder that they get to be the leaders in workplaces??

The increasing gap of salaries between spouses also means that when required, it is the woman who drops off the job market since her husband is making more than her. Not to mention, has a better chance of professional growth in future. So it is always the woman who is stay at home parent, and even if it is her choice, the choice is drafted by the social code.

The cost ( or benefit!!)of motherhood can not be calculated only in terms of money, I understand that. Neither is success in corporate world the only parameter of growth. Hell, success in corporate life has virtually nothing to do with talent , we all know that. We also know the glass ceiling applies to all women, all over the world and not just mothers.

But mothers loose out more if they are ambitious and want to go up the ladder. And let us not talk about a few women who rule the boardrooms. They are exceptions that prove the rule: Corporates care very little to groom and mentor mothers for professional growth.

So I think the next time corporates celebrate mother’s day with silly gift hampers from Body Shop, we should all ask them to shut up and pull themselves really up, heh?