‘Respect for Tusshar Kapoor for becoming a single dad at 40 using IVF and surrogacy. Hope it inspires us to see parenthood as an informed life choice and not necessarily related to marriage and women alone. And also assisted fertility techniques as medical tools that are available for single people who dream of having their own kids and not only childless couples. Here’s raising a toast to Tusshar and his one week old Laksshya!’ was my status message last week on a social networking site, saluting the courageous decision of the Bollywood actor who had somehow never impressed me with his acting, but had suddenly demonstrated an extraordinary determination to become a single dad, using modern fertility techniques. What took me by storm was however, the comments on the same status, one of them reading, ‘don’t quite understand the psyche of ultramodern men and women. And when the baby, assuming he will be like any other normal kid, will start looking for a mother for almost everything, what will Tusshar have to say? Single mothers can still cater to the most needs of children, single fathers, most single dads certainly can’t. I don’t understand what stopped him from getting married and if he’s not the type he ought to have kept a child away from his life, for the child’s sake. The kid will have to lead a life of loneliness, unacceptability and susceptible to depression, so strange that this weird act of his is being lauded. No adult has the right to willfully spoil the life of a child for satisfying his or her own emotional needs. Single parenting due to death or separation are unfortunate events and cannot be compared with those by choice. Such aberrations need to be curbed, if required by the law.’
While the comment reeked of a strange and shocking reverse sexism, I thought to myself if being a father was ever going to gain the same respectability and reverence in India – a country known for venerating the Mother Goddess and attaching a top heavy sentimentality to one’s mothers, despite alarming statistics of sexual violence and dowry death, where mothers were stereotyped regularly in popular culture as the eternally sacrificial, tear jerking, fasting, praying and devoted family creature – while the father was more easily a dark character who drank or gambled or kept another woman – a mother’s greatness clearly overshadowing a father’s humble spot designated by fixed gender roles as either the financial provider, the strict disciplinarian or the irresponsible deserter. Why was single parenting, and parenting as a whole synonymous with women and motherhood typically linked to marriage – why couldn’t a man, unmarried and not sure if he would ever, take a decision to use his sperm and purchase a donor egg and through IVF, opt for the surrogacy way? What made his choice purely emotional and thus selfish? Was biology the sole preserve of only one sex – and by constantly harping on the greatness and good fortune of being a mother were we not restricting our own gender roles to a suffocating, single square hole – that in a way was inversely dependent on male validation and societal approval? If the line, ‘mere paas Ma hain,’ wasn’t slightly caricatured and imposed this obliging duty of the mother to always place her needs, second. What about women who desert their kids, cheat on their spouses, don’t want to share custody – what kind of mother’s will we call them?
And is it fair to judge Tusshar Kapoor because he chose to continue with his own genes, rather than chose adoption that may have been the noble thing to do – but just many women in India are made to offer their wombs and bodies as guinea pigs for medical experimentation, just because their in-laws or spouses can’t digest the thought of an orphan child – his/her pedigree. How abysmally low are the adoption figures in a country teeming with infertility clinics at almost every street corner and neighborhood – holding out the promise of your own child. I don’t frankly get what the fuss is, if Tusshar is a celebrity, since so was Aamir Khan whose wife Kiran also used a surrogate, as supposedly also did SRK, with his third child. Grapevine also suggesting that he bought a donor egg. And in which rule book or legal code does it say that surrogacy is for married couples, only. If a man’s sperm is integral for a child to be created – why can’t the man himself want an equal share of parenting – or the whole share, in this case?
The meanness and narrow mindedness I sensed towards Tusshar Kapoor to me was only suggestive of how normative and patriarchal we are actually towards the concept of birthing in India – probably also explaining the deep homophobia and our current legal status quo on Section 377 that still criminalizes lesbians, bisexuals and gays. Anything out of the box is forbidden here – rights to pleasure and parenting thus sexually coded and colored by our centuries old, narrow cultural conditioning that attaches the synonym of mother to help explain her completeness as a gender binary, and never a state of existence by itself!
Images by Yogen Shah