No Baby, No Cry: What it Means to be Childfree by Choice


No Baby, No Cry: What it Means to be Childfree by Choice

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

The mother-in-law mutters a quick prayer. A promise of another 101 naryals if all goes well. The good husband paces up and down the hospital corridor, stealing nervous glances at the red bulb shining outside the operating theatre. Just when the suspense reaches a crescendo, the magnificently boring door finally opens and the doctor with the best dramatic flourish a one-day artiste can conjure gushes, “Congratulations. Ladka hua hai!” Suddenly, the air fills with cheer. Tears fill the eyes of the MIL.

I try my best to control my facial expressions, as I watch the drama unfolding on TV and in my living room. The reason why every MIL, mausi, chachi, dadi of middle-class India was crying tears of joy that day was not just because one of their fave TV bahus had become a maa. It was because not too many weeks ago, she had faced the ignominy of being declared “barren”. And they’d all been with her through her “dar dar ki thokre” kind of journey from one fertility clinic to the other, until miraculous reproductive technology with a generous dose of mataji ka ashirwad saved the day.

I know my face is resembling that of a cocker spaniel who just got fed dog food instead of chicken biryani, so I turn away but not before my MIL catches me… a wistful tell-all expression of abject longing on her face.