I got married a few years ago. Long before we were back from our honeymoon; long before we even unpacked most of our luggage, we started feeling “the great expectations” creeping into our life.
Mostly, it was those strange nudges and indecent insinuations by the mothers-in-law and their various variants (khalas, chachis, mumanis, etc). We tried to ignore them, but very soon, the probing agents came out with full blown blatant interrogation, geared around just that one question:
‘Has it happened yet?’
You cannot say no to that question. I repeat: ‘No’ is not an option, never was and never will be, as we were soon about to find out the hard way.
Their first reaction to an answer in the negative is always along the lines of this dialogue from some Indian film: “Badu normal chey (Is everything normal)?”
And you can claim all you want that yes, everything is normal; it is normal not to have “something happened’ in the first few months right after the wedding, but you'll be doing it to no avail.
Our perceived inability to make it ‘happen’ was explained away in myriad ways, with given reasons falling across a wild range, from ‘effects of horse riding’ to ‘bad company during teenage’. We even had to undergo a rather embarrassing medical examination at a prestigious hospital just to prove ... our mettle.
When everything was proven (‘all sat’), there came the advice mafia, and boy did it become a full-blown pandemic.
Friends and foes, near and far, relatives and acquaintances, regular folks suddenly turned into urologists and gynecologists.
Aunties we had never met in our lives, old women in the neighbourhood, even perfect strangers and bystanders started offering us the most intimate of advice.
Ab-e-nesaan, the water from nauroz rains, the kurtas from holy shrines, the mithais, the totkas and the recipes...we had it all.
The most relentless and ubiquitous was the demand that USA makes of Pakistan these days:
When every other tactic failed, we decided to seek refuge in the concept of family planning. I mean it was easy to accept that everyone had a right to enjoy his/her life and control its events, right?
Apparently not. This is where the real headache started.
Are you insane?
How can there be happiness, rather, how can there be a life without babies?
We were given a dozen arguments, all based upon the fickleness of life. Now there is a huge variety of these, but let me summarise a few:
‘What if you lose your ability to procreate in the next two years?’
Barring accidents, we did not see any immediate danger threatening to kill our ‘production facilities’. We did provide some solid lab reports and some detailed opinions by the doctors, but in vain.
Argument no. 2
We learned that there is a target line that we must meet, in terms of our age ratio to the age of our children.
Which is to say that when you are around 60, your kids should be around 30. This strategy helps to ease your retirement by ensuring that by the time you retire, your kids are employed, thus maintaining a healthy breadwinner-per-family balance.
Now this logic is hard to beat, but the argument does not cater to the fact that many individuals have different retiring ages, while different careers have different induction rates.
Argument no. 3
Parents (usually mothers-in-law) want to see their grandchildren in their lifetime. The wish makes its way to your ears attached with the emotional blackmailing that they are getting old and sick and may depart for good, any day.
While true, this argument did not justify hurrying it anymore than the others.
Married people just can not escape this juggernaut of doting, loving, caring but persistent insistence, no matter how passionate you feel about the population problem.
Lucky for us, the circus ended on a beautiful Sunday morning, when we found out that we were indeed going to have a baby. Besides the wonderful feeling of being introduced to parenthood, we found a sudden and immense relief in the fact that the nagging and advising would all now come to end.
As it turned out, the aunties were just getting warming up for ‘the second child conundrum’. But, I’ll leave that story for another day.