Ik was, meanwhile growing up without a father. I don’t know if it is my imagination, but he has matured way beyond his years in the past few months. He has never asked for his dad, except one day when I had scolded him and he was crying uncontrollably saying he wanted to go to his dad. The new maid was unaware of the dynamics of the situation and as I hugged Ik tightly, my heart broke into a million little pieces.
Did I do the right thing in taking the child away from his father? Should I have borne everything out with a smile for the sake of my child? Are we becoming too intolerant as a generation? On last count by the law Ministry, there are apparently 55000 divorce cases pending across 200 family courts across the country. The Madras High Court has even come up with a weekend court to try cases for working couples. While one must salute the legal minds of the country for being so innovative, it is actually rather poignant that so many of us decide to give up so easily. Did our parents not face the similar problems? They did not even have counsellors to go to. Why is it that we have everything in the world we need and yet feel compelled to give up so easily?
Could it be that because our most of our parents were midnight’s children who grew up wanting so much that they valued each and every thing that they had? In striving to provide for us what their parents could not provide for them, dollops of comfort, could our parents have turned us into ingrates? Who are so used to having their way, the moment we encounter anything that is not utterly butterly Amul smooth, we give up instead of working through it?
Or is it only a question of choices? Are we so spoilt for the plethora of choices in front of us that we give up the minute we encounter a road block? Did our parents stick it out because they had no choice?
But were they genuinely happy? Or did it have to do mostly with appearances that had to be maintained for the sake of society?
Ultimately, however, in the deeply patriarchal society of pre and post liberalization India, it was mostly women who suffered silently in the name of maintaining status quo. A ford Foundation project that I had worked on in the mid nineties, about the reproductive rights of Muslim women in Mumbai gave me a first hand account of the torment that women endured. The mother of a friend quietly gave up on life when her doting husband started giving the glad eye to his student who he later married even before the embers on her funeral pyre died down. The glamour girl of the Indian film industry, Zeenat Aman, suffered in silence as her out of work actor husband permanently disfigured he face, standing by him till his last days.
But then again, perhaps, the winds of liberalization that came in the nineties in India, opened up the economy and minds at one go. Suddenly people realized suffering in silence was not such a cool thing to do. Divorce suddenly stopped being a taboo word. While divorce rates are still at a low as compared to the United States, for instance, it is rising and rising fast, mostly among the urban professionals.
We are all children of change, seeing our values, our beliefs, our culture being turned on their heads. Nothing that we had come to rely on, growing up as children, seem to be the same any more. And it is these winds of change that take us down a tortuous road, where our emotional pendulum oscillates wildly between the old and the new, our past and our future, tradition and modernity.
We are so self poised, yet we have never been so unsure of ourselves. Are we doing the right thing? Or is this going to be the worst mistake of our lives? Would it be better to stick with what we knew or should be step into the uncertain future?
I rode a similar emotional rollercoaster when I decided to move out. While I was sure I would be much better off, I was petrified about the implication of the separation on Ik. I scoured the internet and self-help books for months before I moved out, but realized on the day of the move that no amount of self-help books would help me. I had to play it by the ear. Taking each day as it comes.
I wanted Ik to never feel disconnected from his father. And it is from those sentiments I called Professor X to tell him that he could be in Ik’s life as much as he wanted. He was Ik’s father and nothing would change that. I wanted Ik to have an extremely healthy and close relationship with his dad. Just because he was with his mother and his parents did not get along, should not change the fact that Ik needed his father and his father would hopefully need him too.
Ik never ever mentioned his father, except once.Was he being mature? Did he understand things had changed? Did the little computer in his brain figure out that mommy would not be happy if he mentioned his dad too much? While I certainly did not want to give him that impression, as much as I would hate to admit it, most of us are, after all a little proprietary in our love. Did my five-year old son look through my soul and uncover my deep dark secret?
Professor X, being a little challenged in the caring department, did not show up for a month. He was in Delhi, but ostensibly, could not find a six-hour time window to meet Ik. Which was all very good for me, because I got to be the sole object of Ik’s affection. Having been taught the virtues of sharing from almost the first day of my life, this was one thing I was glad was mine and only mine.