Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Forced parenthoods

I was sitting on the stone bench outside the church. The church was overflowing due to the Holy Week service. Kids were playing around while the teens gossiped and young parents ran behind their tots. It was a jovial atmosphere notwithstanding the Stations of the Cross going on inside the church.

An elderly lady from Kerala was walking around and rocking a baby who looked a month or so old. Time and again she would peep into the church as though looking for someone. When the baby got restless, she went inside and came out with a young girl. The young girl went into a car and fed the baby and gave it back to the lady who I presume was her mother or mother-in-law. The baby got restless again. The lady peeped into the church apologetically, her face pleading with the girl inside. The girl walked outside in some annoyance and grabbed the baby and went to the car to feed the baby again. I heard the lady telling her to feed the baby well. In five minutes the young girl was out of the car again and after handing over the baby to the lady in disgust, she walked back to church to join her husband. The baby, mercifully fell asleep. I felt bad for the lady who seemed to be the only person who cared for the baby.

Somewhere in the middle of the service, a young girl in jeans and her young hubby walked into the church. Another Malayalee couple. It was obvious she was new to Bangalore. They stood outside the jam-packed church and looked uncomfortable. The reason was obvious. The baby who looked about six months old was getting restless and wanted to be walked around. The poor girl walked for some time and came back and the baby started crying the moment she stopped walking. The young father took the baby from the mom and walked around for some time. The baby watched the people with fascination. But he started crying the moment the poor father stopped walking and took shelter under a tree. After some time the annoyed couple left the church.

I see these sights every Sunday in church. Somehow the new set of parents these days don’t seem to ready to be parents or seem to be forced into parenthood. And it is not just these couples. My colleagues from other states too narrate similar tales... of young couples with babies who are neglected because the parents were forced into parenthood by their parents. One such child, the niece of my North Indian colleague has stopped talking due to sustained neglect by parents. The parents do not beat the child or verbally abuse her. They just don’t care about her.

All these incidents have a culprit and it is the grandparents. The people who start hinting from day one to full scale nagging from day two of the marriage of their offspring. People change, but the changes in our society in the past 15 years have made the change faster for most of us young people, though our parents still lag behind in the 70’s. And this disconnect is making life really difficult for the most vulnerable section of our society…the kids.

Child neglect is increasing and will keep increasing say all my married colleagues and they don’t blame the young parents. As a young mom in my office told us at lunch, “I told my parents that I will have kids if they look after the kid. They agreed and moved to Bangalore. They will go back to Andhra when he is in high school.”

Now that’s what I call a sensible lady. Wish every young couple who are nagged by parents to have kids do the same. I am sure it will work wonders for them.