"Your majesty, please...I don't like to complain
But down here below, we are feeling great pain.
I know, up on top you are seeing great sights,
but down here at the bottom, we, too, should have rights."
- Dr. Seuss in "Yertle, The Turtle"
Indian filmmaker and the man with alternate sexual choices who recently came out of closet, to the chagrin of LGBT activists, a wee bit too late, a wee bit too little, is a single father now. This is the front page news. Social media has sprung into action.
This post has been kind of simmering in me for a long time. These are strange times of political correctness. On everything, there are defined positions, which are defined by powers that might be, approved for the lesser mortals as worthy of being taken. If one has some sharpness of the intellect, some audacity of the mind and, well, some brinkmanship of character; one would say that these positions are defined as correct and socially appropriate, not on their merit and substance, rather by their strength to uphold the intellectual stranglehold of the elite, their ability to augment to fake grandeur of their enormous and often monstrous egos.
It is hard to put thoughts in public without the fear of backlash. This is totally strange. Any thought not to the liking of the liberals (a fake term, I debated in my previous post), and you will be pounced by the very people who claim to be fighting for the right to dissent. So dissent you must, but only from the ideas 'they' approve. They will oppose the patriarchal masculinity, but will patronize a girl, twenty year old, if they find her words furthering their agenda, and they will attack and hound another twenty year girl, however accomplished she might be, if she happens to disagree with them. Let us not be fooled by the use of terms like democracy, liberty and Freedom of expression, by people who support the ideology proven worldwide for the establishment of theocratic, absolutist state. GK Chesterton wrote in his satirical novel, The Napoleon of Notting Hill, I was reading few days back (accidental, totally accidental!) which he wrote referring to a fantastical time of 1984 (a fictional future, when he wrote it in 1904), so true, only he predicted the year about three decades too early.
"What a farce is this modern liberality! Freedom of speech practically, in our modern civilization, that we must only talk about unimportant things. We must not talk about religion, because that is illiberal; we must not talk about bread and cheese, because that is talking shop; we must not talk about death, for that is depressing, we must not talk about birth, for that is indelicate."
But we must talk about birth now. It will invariably fall on the wrong side of the debate, I am sure. Somehow, unconventional sexual preferences are linked with feminist emancipation, not only for women, rather for men, as well. For the life of me, I do not know why. Rights of people are important, for women, for minorities, for LGBTQ. But why must they all be bundle together as if some sort of bouquet. They are not only bundled, but are somehow put in one container and shaken so violently by the interested parties, that one hardly knows which is which. All the affected parties gets impacted by social orthodoxy in different way, but then clubbing it into one group, makes it easier for those who want to handle it as a tool to power, votes or escalation upwards in social hierarchy.
So the fact that Karan Johar, a man with affluent past and even more nauseating affluent present decided to get himself two kids will somehow become a case for personal liberty and one will not even realize when it becomes a case of women's liberation. Elections in world's largest democracy quickly became that. Against a man with loose morals and corroding character, the argument was not another 'person' of nationalistic credentials, proven character and impeccable morality. It was a woman. How quickly slogans overwhelm the cause. The world women's Day is around the corner and Spa advertisements will be out to be flipped with manicured fingers in metropolitan cities; journalists and the self-proclaimed guardians of social conscience will make necessary and appropriate noise on Social media, but will sit like an obedient courtier when they are in front of the party leaders who campaign for a candidate charged with rape in recent elections. These will not make to studio debates and the tribal girl will wake up in the morning and go to collect firewood, under the slimy eyes of the forest contractor. Moral correctness will always fall short of political affiliations.
The debate on a Tusshar Kapoor or a Karan Johar or even a Shahrukh Khan opting to have a child through surrogacy, is not a debate on surrogacy. It is also not a debate about Gay rights; nor is it about individual liberty of the man who wants to live an unconventional life and wants to have the fruits of an old-fashioned conventional life. It is also not about the consenting woman who offers her womb for rent, pushed by her economic distress. I would not call it a consent which is given under duress. Although I am not against surrogacy, per se, if it is a service given out of free will, although it will be hard to judge where empathy was elicited by economics for the consenting women, to couples struggling to have progeny. Although even for those couple, I would always advise adoption. There are kids around who deserve a better life, and who are not getting it, rendered homeless by cruel designs of nature, or even crueler designs of their parents.
Parenthood is not about science. It is not an accidental fact. It is not a matter of enthusiastic sperm meeting a kind and receptive egg. It is much deeper than that. One does not become a father on the day of conception or on the day of the birth of the progeny. One becomes that much earlier than than, or the day when one listens to those urgent heartbeats for the first time, or the day you stand with pride on school function, or when an unnoticed tear drops from the corner of your eye when the kid leaves home. It hit at strange occasion in one's life. In all the process, we must be thankful to the child who is the catalyst to the sense of parenthood, as and when it chooses to embrace us. In the whole scheme of things, it is the child, who is voiceless, vote-less and power less, whose rights concerns me. The way a child is treated as a toy, as a fashion accessories that 'completes' a Karan Johar's or a Tushar Kapoor's life, is absolutely heart-breaking if one views the whole thing from the eyes of the child. Do we know that the child will be happy in a single parent's home? Single parenting is at times thrust on a child, when he has no choice. In evolved societies, there are special counselling for effected kids, landing out of misfortune into a single parent family on account of death or divorce. Why is the mind of child not considered, heart of child is not listened to when single parenting is thrust on the kid merely because the parent wants to enjoy his or her free will? Well, you have a right to have the choices of new age and generation and who am I to stop you. But then why seek age-old pleasures? And if you want to seek age-old pleasures, why with age-old orthodoxy? Why this obsession with DNA after all your sweet and sophisticated talk on the irrelevance of birth, family and caste in today's world? And this farcical argument Karan makes in a reverential interview by an interviewer, that he felt he was now ready for fatherhood because he has mentored people in his own organization. What kind of logic is that? So Mr. Johar has not decided to hire another employee in the newly created post of a Son (and one as a daughter). The PR machinery of the king of Bollywood, who yesterday advised a girl from small-town to stop playing victim-hood and get out of movie industry if she cannot handle it. None of the liberals, as was predictable, would rush to the rescue of Kangana Ranaut. Still Kangana can afford to hit back at Karan Johar's PR machinery with her own.
But the little boy and girl, thrust into a motherless family because of liberal choices their father made, cannot. Karan Johar's fatherhood will be front page news, while the fetuses of unborn girls of Maharashtra will be page 9 news, somewhere hidden in small corner. Why could he have not volunteered to adopt one of those girls? This foolishness with which we play with nature is wrong at so many levels. There is no moral argument for it. And personal liberty is not a moral argument in itself. Such an argument will only produce a despot. The children, those little people, harbingers of hope, they too have rights, voiceless they may be. Sushmita Sen is a single mother, but she adopted kids. She has given them a life which they otherwise might not have had; Karan Johar, in a hedonistic drive, has offered his kids a life which they never did sign for. If we disown our children in our selfish, individual quests as a society, we are killing our world, in ways harsher than global warming or any such fashionable thing.
Khalil Gibran famously disowned parents from whatever rights parents believed they had on their kids, when he wrote
Your children are not your children
They are the sons and daughters of life's longing for itself,
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, they belong not to you.
He calls the parents as bows and kids as arrows as he writes:
For even as He loves the arrow that flies
so he loves the bow also that is stable.
Least we can do is- be a stable bow, it is not a job for the frivolous. Dr. Irvin Yalom, American psychiatrist has a view which is closer to my own. He writes, in When Nietzsche Wept -
"It is wrong to bear children out of need, wrong to use a child to alleviate loneliness, wrong to provide purpose in life by reproducing another copy of oneself. It is wrong also to seek immortality by spewing one's germ into the future as though sperm contains your consciousness"
It is wrong. Parenting is does not make a man god, it merely gives one an opportunity to strive for divinity, to touch divinity. Parenthood is a conscious call to step into an arena where you will fight with yourself; bleed everyday and get better every day. It is not a fulfillment of selfish desires and ambitions. It is not about parents, it is all about the kids, because, they will define the kind of world we leave afterwards and also because, down at the bottom, those little people, chirpy even in the chilliest of the winter mornings like some miniature samurai walking awkwardly to their schools- they too, have rights. Choices are not always about us.