Monday, February 22, 2010

Encore?!... Hmmmm why not?

Most people I know, in my age group at least, have chosen to stop at one kid, if they have chosen to have kids at all. My friends almost hyperventilate when they hear that I am planning for three, two at the least. After being a parent, a mother, for four years, I sometimes understand where they are coming from.

Easy is the last thing I would call it. Having a kid means all kinds of changes. Less pubbing and more exhausted evenings; less adda and more nurse duty; waaay less intellectual soirees and many more PTA meetings; less splurging on jhing-pangs and much, much more economizing; and a complete and total absence of any kind, form, or semblance of personal life, identity, space and time. I seriously cannot remember the last time I was just Jia; the last time I did something or went somewhere or just “was”; without half my mind being engaged in mommy gear. I feel like I have been joined at the hip with this little person for every second, of every day, for the past four years!

No matter if I am asleep or awake, working or at leisure, home or out, talking to friends or being silent with my thoughts, more than half my mind is always on what the monkey is up to. From the day the doctor handed her over, and sleep became a distant dream for years, my daughter has been the single common denominator for every second of my existence, and every thought in my life, at least subconsciously. From lighter sleep, so as not to crush the infant, to permanently cancelling the tradition of “date-night” with my man because of lack of babysitting facilities, life HAS changed unrecognizably.

Does it ever get to me? Sure it does. The bharatiya mother who NEVER feels overwhelmed or put upon in the completely selfless service to her family, and especially her children, is either superhuman, or a liar. I tend to the latter view, because it would be inhuman to NEVER feel down, or consider yourself. The only problem is that women all over the world, no less in India, are conditioned to consider everyone other than themselves. The minute a passing thought of “selfish” consideration occurs, it would be squashed in no uncertain way in the woman’s mind, because it is not how “good” women think. She will not admit to herself, let alone to the world, that she has a SELF, which deserves attention too.

Me? I am happy to say I definitely DO have a self which is separate from my identities as daughter, sibling, partner, mother, friend, and which I love and wish to nurture equally. And it is the increasing intellectual starvation of this self, and its hankering for no-longer-accessible space that gets to me the most. The physical exhaustion is great, but fades to nothing when compared to the mental, emotional exhaustion of being constantly responsible for another person, all the time! Needless to say, there are times when I want to scream, and times when I want to run away from it all!

Having said all that, accepting that it is all true, what on earth would induce me to do all this again? And as double jeopardy at that! After all, my four year old and all her needs will remain the same. Another child at this point means MORE of everything. More exhaustion, more responsibilities, more attention, more work, and much less time and energy for myself. It will mean having to deal with a host of other issues too. Not only do I have to worry about all the normal ‘sibling rivalry’ issues, and make sure my first child doesn’t suffer any long term consequences from a feeling of neglect, and plan for the financial commitment; I also have to deal with a host of problems associated with HOW I am planning to have the second one.

When I adopt (and if I can get the GIRL I want) there will be many associated hassles. the extended family, for one, is not thrilled about the idea of adoption, and that will need some dealing with. There might be issues later over how the extended family treats this kid, as compared to my “own” (in their opinion) daughter. Later, there will be issues of breaking the fact of the adoption to the child, and helping her adjust and accept. All in all, it’s a can of worms waiting to be opened, and a ticking time bomb waiting to go off (and I want to do this twice!!!!!). so what does that make me? A glutton for punishment?

Well, I have my reasons. Firstly, I knew as early as when I was twelve that I wanted to be a mother, and the more the merrier has always been my attitude to kids. However, money being what it is, and bringing up and educating a child costing as much as it does, it’s clear by now that I won’t be able to indulge my desire for two dozen tykes (hence the “cubs” and the Jiamata syndrome I think, sublimating that desire with grown children). However, nothing will stop me from bringing up as many as I can afford. Secondly, I REALLY don’t believe in ‘only’ children. In my experience they tend to grow up self centered, unused to sharing, and very, very lonely. I want my child to know the joy of having their best friend at home, as I have. I want her to know that the whole world may turn against her, but she always has an ally where it counts the most. I want her to learn that the world is not her oyster, that she is not the center of the universe, and that the world does not OWE her anything. I want her to learn that sharing everything she has is a very natural and happy way to grow up.

Also, exhausting as it is, there is nothing quite as rewarding (to me at least) as being a parent. Seeing the first step, hearing the first word, being there on the first day of playschool, the joy far outweighs the ‘mehnat’. Now that this little one is fast reaching a point of independence, and outgrowing all the AWWW moments, I wish to recapture it all. The middle of the night feedings, the nappy duty, prams and baby powder… since rewinding is not an option in life, looks like it’s time for an encore.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

what's in a name?

Just ran across this on  a blog i follow

“Two points about people making weak jokes about my name: 1) This happens all the time; 2) everybody always seems to think they’re the first to comment on it. It’s amazing.”

All I can say is BOY! DO I KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN!!

Lived with this syndrome all my life! My mother, a poet and a great fan of Urdu, named me Jia, saddling me with a problem for life!

Every third Hindi film song has my name in it. What can I do? The word means heart, and practically every Hindi movie song is about love, more’s the pity. So, all my life I have had people asking me my name, and when I tell them, breaking into one of the millions of songs with my name in it. It’s amazing! It’s like a well programmed reflex! The minute they hear my name, 90% of Indians will go into “jiaoh jia kucch boldo”, “jia bekaraar hai”, “tere bina jia jaye na”, “ jia jale jaan jale” or some such.

It always amazes me that they REALLY think they are being funny! They really REALLY believe they are doing something cool and unprecedented! Don’t these twerps realize that I have had people doing this, in the exact same belief of their own coolness, for EVERY SINGLE day, for over thirty four years?! And let me tell you buddy, although it might conceivably have been funny once (it wasn’t) it sure ain’t funny anymore! It would be downright irritating actually, if I was not busy taking pity on these people for their complete lack of sensibility and sensitivity.

Another favourite joke about my name is more region specific. Bengalis, especially those living in Bengal or Bangladesh, will instantly ask me one of two things… “are you male” and “jia ul hok na jia ul rohoman”. The first few times this happened, I was flabbergasted, I had no idea what, and why, they were saying. And then I realized that local language influence was interfering with communication here. The softer ‘z’ sound is absent in bangla (although not in regional dialects like sylheti where people routinely say zawa, zaite, instead of jawa and jaite.) the less aspirated ‘j’ sound – as in ‘jug’ is the one that exists. Hence the word Zia is usually pronounced Jia instead, and hence all the confusion.

What they don’t know, of course, is that Jia and Zia are two TOTALLY different words! Jia, heart, should not be confused with Zia, an Arabic word meaning light. What’s what got to do with gender? A lot! Added complications arise from the fact that two MEN, with major roles to play in the history of the Indian subcontinent, had names beginning with Zia -- Zia ul Haq (the light of truth) and Zia ur Rehman (the light of the forgiving one—Allah). As a result, the name Zia has come to be automatically associated with men. As a direct result of these two phenomena, regional language influence, and local history, my name – which is a completely different word has become a matter of joke.

[Interestingly though, and completely off the track of my raving (which I will get back to soon enough), JIA is actually a word of the masculine gender, and ZIA feminine … go figure!]

Of course that’s not the end of my Name troubles. The other most common question is “Muslim?” As if only Muslim people have the right to have an Urdu word for a name, and all other people belonging to all other religions should have language specific names too: Hindus – Sanskrit or modern Indian languages (except Urdu of course), Sikhs – Punjabi, Christians – English, and so on. Or, Bengalis will assume I am a non-bong, and have fits when I say I am a Bengali… albeit a non residential one. “That’s not a Bengali name” they commonly say. As if region or ORIGIN too, should limit one’s choice of name.

Well, I beg to differ. While it is true that most people tend to name their kids in their religious, cultural, or language traditions, I believe that has more to do with established ways of thought and conditioning, than any conscious ghettoisation. With modern life being what it is, those boundaries are slowly blurring although a large section of the populace seems unaware of the fact. TV, movies, books, neighbors and friends from different cultures and backgrounds are all contributing to hybrid names. Gujrati girls called Paromita, and Bengali girls called Simran are becoming more and more common. So why not Jia?