Neel, my friend recently asked a question on Face book. “Must married couples bear children?” He questioned.
I was intrigued as I had written a paper long ago on progression of human thought and included the very question in my argument. Nevertheless, I wanted to see what others had to say. I read the comments. I chuckled at some. And my pompous inner self said, “That’s not even the surface these guys have scratched. Go deeper people. Tease out ALL the variables that are even remotely responsible for the situation, before you conclude.”
And my rational side screamed, “Yeah, Ms. ‘Know it all,’ if you think you bloody well know the reasons, why don’t you tell me what they are?”
Before I present my POV, let me give you a quick sociology 101 session.
Indian Society like any other is a dynamic entity and is ever changing as people and their mindsets are constantly undergoing change (For good or bad is a question for a later time). And, any society can be broken down into smaller units or clusters of communities which further can be split into groups of families, living in a geographical area. In other words people are society and the mindsets are the alike, either in a small community, a city or a country. This is called the ‘Atma’ of the country – Some basic rules and regulations, norms and mores that societies run by. Traditionally, the job of regulation (a code of conduct) was laid by religion and it was called Sanatana Dharma – A way of life (Hinduism is a western construct non- existent until 700 – 900 years ago).
Also, with the turn of every decade or so, we see stark change in the mindsets of people. This is achieved when the gap between needs of society and the established and rooted social norms and mores (culture lag) is reduced that the issue under resistance thus far miraculously turns its charms transforming itself into a norm. For example, love marriages. About a decade or so ago, it was resisted vehemently by all families alike from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and every state in between. Today, it is more a norm won’t you say (at least it is not opposed as it was 10 years ago)?
Tease out the reasons and you’ll find interesting insights. (That’s for another day) Also, history gives us the reasons/rationale for the why of many questions.
That said, coming back to Neel’s question, we need to go back to the time just before independence and follow the events until just a couple of decades after and tease out all the variables to come to an understanding of the dynamics that play out before we conclude.
So, pre and post independence. That’s where it all began (IMHO).
Politically some decisions were made. Z amindari system was abolished (Madras, Bombay and Hyderabad were the first). Land ceiling act was invoked. Sati was abolished. Women were given the right to divorce with Sharada Act in place in 53. With western educated Congress, the sector of agriculture took a back seat in our five year plans. No policies in place to reduce the population.
The lack of stress on agriculture sector brought farmers under a lot of pressure. Along with this, it seized to be a lucrative activity. This led to migration to the cities in truck loads. (As the number of mouths to feed remained the same while the piece of land reduced from generation to generation). The psychological factors that led to this move were lazy people and the free mouths that were being fed until then without a complaint turned into a burden to carry and the family were forced to work in the same land with no effect. Also the lack of infrastructure in the villages such as schools and hospitals added to the lure and glitter of the towns and cities. (it was a sort of a rejection of a socialistic frame of mind to an overwhelming acceptance of a capitalistic mindset, where achieved status took center stage diminishing the shadows of ascribed status of birth and religion. When collective good of a community is ignored, we tend to concentrate on satiating ones immediate needs of greed and this is a slippery slope with nothing to hold on to.
Furthermore, the joint family system that functioned as a safety net for the weak links in the family (widows, old and disabled) became vulnerable and neglected with migrations.
The joint families ceased to exist by the late 60s. Agriculture turned into an orphan sector until much later with Dr. Kurien coming up with the concept of White Revolution with his ‘billion liter idea.’
With nuclear families becoming the norm by the time, the dynamics of family structure took a major hit. Division of labor was a mess with women subjugated to the chores at home while men were employed outside (Do you remember reading mother cooks food for the family and father earns money for the family in our social studies text books?). Also up until that point women were not allowed to get education to be gainfully employed. If they were educated, it was only to the level of being able to write a letter to ones husband. The relations were strained as power relations crept into the family structures. One that brings money into the family has more power right? And the economic pressures and the hope of leading a luxurious life forced women to educate their kids both male and female and women were slowly allowed to pick up jobs and with this another layer of individualism crept in.
When both men and women are bread winners of a family, who has the upper hand? Also, when a woman does not depend on a man for her basic needs such as food clothing, shelter and protection, the value of patriarchal norms kind of get smudged and eventually vanish.
Fast forward to a few decades and the migrations from the cities were out of the country. Again ship loads of people left. This completely dismantled the social structures of family with old folks living here while the younger ones live outside somewhere. We are at this stage of society right now. Where I and my needs are and will be a priority and only once I am happy with everything and everyone around me I’ll think of others. With this kind of rationale, greed filled individualistic take on situations lead to individualized decisions. And today, children are seen as a liability unlike the farmers before independence that saw them as an asset.
This spiraled further into an abyss with liberalization of Mr. PV Narsimharao and Indians being able to connect with the world at a touch of a button. The idea of not having kids has already been sown. What do we need? We need more people that are doing the same who can add merit to our decision and the result is right before us…
If you have noticed, economics plays a role in everything and this issue is no exception adding to the failure of joint family system.