Malayalam actor Kunchacko Boban's wife Priya recently opened up to Vanitha magazine about the pressure she faced for not having a baby. The couple, who've been married for 14 years, had a child in April this year.
In the interview, Priya spoke about how insensitive comments from people affected her, to the extent of forcing her to keep away from functions and events. At other times, she would wear shades so nobody would see her tearing up when people questioned her about the couple not having a baby. Though she is the wife of a celebrity, Priya was not spared the harsh remarks that are reserved for women who have either decided not to have a child or are unable to have one because of several reasons. In fact, it's likely that Kunchacko's spot in the limelight placed her under even more scrutiny than usual.
Priya's frank interview draws to attention the unfair onus on women to become mothers as soon as they get married. In Bollywood, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, who married Abhishek Bachchan in 2007, and gave birth to a baby girl four years later, was subjected to constant speculation on whether she was pregnant and if she was undergoing any medical treatment to conceive. Actor Samantha, who is married to Naga Chaitanya, is also subject to such gossip although she gives it back as good as she gets it. The actor hilariously retweeted a news article asking if she was pregnant with the comment, "Dammmnn... is she? When you find out please let us know." Tennis player Sania Mirza famously shot down veteran journalist Rajdeep Sardesai's question on when she was going to become a mother and "settle down" during an interview about the release of her biography.
No matter how much a woman may have achieved or how happy she is in her life, she is judged by whether she has managed to find a husband and procreate. It is as if she has only one body part – the uterus – and the entire world is invested in finding out whether there's any activity there or not. Women who are past 30 and haven't had a child out of choice or circumstances are constantly reminded that their biological clock is ticking and that their eggs are dying out. While some, like Samantha and Sania, may be able to withstand the pressure and give an apt rebuttal, not everyone is in a position to do so.
Many women, who face cruel labels like "barren", are pushed into depression because of these seemingly "well-meaning" questions about when they are going to get pregnant. They turn reclusive and avoid family gatherings and reunions with friends because the dreaded "Any good news?" question is inevitable. It is all the more painful when the woman really wants to have a child but is unable to become pregnant. Men, too, may be asked the question but their entire existence is not reduced to just that. Their identity is seldom limited to that of husband and father, unlike women.
With the social pressure to become a mother as soon as a woman gets married, many young couples enter parenthood well before they are ready for it. Often, they know very little about each other and the added responsibility of a new baby could end up putting distance between the two of them. And then, ironically, they decide to stay together for the sake of the child.
If you still feel that asking about good news is compulsory at a gathering, here are some other "good news" questions that you can ask instead:
1. How is work going?
2. Where did you go on holiday this summer?
3. What are you reading these days?
4. What did you think about XYZ movie?
5. This haircut looks great, where did you get it?
6. Are you still swimming/playing piano/painting/singing/dancing/running/learning karate/baking/insert any other productive activity?
7. I discovered this awesome restaurant, have you been there?
8. What shows on Netflix are you following right now?
...you get the drift. Unless someone volunteers information about their marital or uterus status, do not feel compelled to ask them questions about either. It does not serve any purpose other than hurting them (but you knew this already, didn't you?).
Views expressed are author's own.