Save time for motherhood
By Mridula Sinha
I frequently meet several young women, highly qualified, getting heavy ‘package’. When asked about marriage and children they are mum. They have not planned for that. In their life planning kids is last preference.
One of my friends lost her temper when in the market somebody addressed her as Mataji. Three decades have passed. I am in Delhi. For me even after that much time passed the veil of Delhi has not been fully lifted. But the half revealed Delhi and Delhiites’ thoughts, modes and etiquette are still worrying me.
From the hoary past women have contributed to the development of society in the four forms—mother, wife, sister and friend. Our ideal has been that “the mother and the motherland are superior to heaven”. The duty of mother is the most imperative and that is why her place is the highest. Mother is the first teacher of all living beings including the human beings. That is why she commands more respect than the host of teachers. She has acquired this supreme place of honour because of the sacrifices of her natural human necessities and comforts. She expands the feeling of kindness for her children to the family and the society and that is why she has acquired the right of respect. Motherhood presents an ideal of moving from the individual to the social arena. She looks after her husband also with the same feeling which she has for her children. There is a Sanskrit mantra recited during the marriage ceremony, which says, “give her ten children and the eleventh be her husband.”
Down the ages, Indian society has paid respect to motherhood in the form of Gauripujan (worship of gauri i.e. worships of virgin). It means the society has been paying tribute to the creative power of the female child. During the middle age, under the compulsion of circumstances, many restrictions were imposed on women. But it is worth noting that according to Shankaracharya at the end of every ritual of worship, the worship of suhasini was made imperative. Steps were taken to worship motherhood in the form of Chaitanyashakti (power of consciousness), Sahikashakti (preseverance) and Prasavshakti. That is why the Shastras have repeatedly forbidden negligence and disrespect to women.
For the undisrupted continuity of human race they have been worshipped in the form of creator and protector. A legend says that having created the universe, Bramha was vexed with the problem of its protection and nourishment. So he instilled kindness into woman and so, the mother became His representative on this earth. Even in the females of birds and beasts, the mother became responsible for the security and protection of the progeny. Biologists tell us that there are many female insects and reptiles who give up their lives during the delivery of their progeny. One may see female crabs in the fields. At the time of delivery, their body raptures and dozens of new born crabs start creeping. The existence of the mother comes to an end. In the law of nature, the example of mother crab, sacrificing herself for the happiness of giving birth, is the supreme example.
Decades ago, the late poetess and scholar Mahadevi Verma was addressing a gathering of women. She lamented that inspite of individual, social and official efforts to elevate, the conditions of women have deteriorated. “After being rescued from Ashok Vatika of Ravana, Sita had to undergo the ordeal of ‘fire-test’. But, when for the second time the fire-test was imposed on her, she revilted. By then, Sita was a mother. A mother is above such tests. Nobody can challenge the purity of a mother. She cannot be an object of lust. A woman is the maker of man.” The poetess called upon women, “be a mother, discard your form of being an object of lust. Only then trade and commerce, torture and burning of women will stop.”
There is a story about prophet Momammad. Somebody asked him, “Who should be the first command of our respect?” The prophet replied, “Your mother.” He again asked, “Who next?” Mohammad replied, “Your mother.” Again he asked, “Who next?” He again replied, “Your mother.” When he asked the same question for the fourth time, the prophet replied, “Your father”. It means even in Islam, mother has been placed at the highest pedestal and she is considered the first to command good behaviour from the children.
In Christianity, there’s great emphasis on the devotion towards Mother Mary. The Hindu Shastras have gone to the extent of saying, “If you want to know about dharma, consult the Shastras. If the Shastras are silent, ask the saints and sages. If the saints and sages are not available, ask your mother. A mother is the best authority on dharma.” Here, dharma is a synonym for duty, and verily the mother, as a true well-wisher of her progeny, can impart the correct knowledge of do’s and don’ts. She is always wishing for the welfare of the family, the society and the world at large.
The gradual extension of consumerism, individuality and shirking from the duties have adversely affected women’s thinking. Of course, they have enough money, comforts but not happiness. Giving birth to a child is itself a happy occasion. Living for the sake of taking care of her body and demanding more rights has clouded the glory of motherhood. It is time to get alert before it is too late. Along with discharging the domestic and outdoor duties, the glory of motherhood should be preserved. This should be the responsibility of the men-folk, society and the government.
The Indian life-style gives importance to detachment and efforts are made to inculcate this spirit into the social consciousness. Vasudhaiva Kutumbkam is the great ideal. This is the fact based on an experience that the last pang of childbirth fills the mother with complete detachment. A mental vacuum and a sense of going beyond worldly thoughts. Coming out of the excruciating pain and passing through the sentiment or detachment, the new born baby brings her supreme happiness. Tied to the worldly knot, she starts rearing the child. But the pain and the detachment born out of it eggs her to looking at the whole universe as her own.
Woman has her specialties and her rights. To be or not to be a mother is her own choice and right. Nature has endowed her with some different qualities from men. And these qualities can have meaningful expression only when she is mother. This fulfillment of this duty is certainly painful. It entails the sacrifice of her body and soul. But this is the pain of creation and so it gives happiness. And this happiness is derived from looking at her re-incarnation. This is the consummation of woman’s life.
The question is how to make society benefited from this speciality of women, bestowed by Nature. How should a woman enrich the society with such qualities? In the reconstruction of society, she may sow the seed of affection and nourish it with kindness. But how? This is the food for thought for the society. On the one hand the society will have to glorify motherhood and at the same time find out ways and means for its protection and development. A woman devoid of motherhood will look like a dead wood.
In the changed circumstances, to preserve her motherhood, provisions will have to be made for part-time jobs, and at every workplace there needs to be crèche-services. In the rat race of searching jobs, establishing her efficiency and outpacing the competitors, young women have no time for bearing children. They complain, “It is better to adopt an orphan than to bear a child.”
Consumerism is killing the spirit of motherhood. It must be saved before it’s too late, because it is related to the health and prosperity not only of the society but for women also.
A young educated woman should go everywhere, work in every field, but she must keep in her mind that nature has allotted a duty to her only—to become mother.
(The writer is former Chairperson of Central Social Welfare Board.)