Editor’s Note: The FII #MoodOfTheMonth for September 2021 is Parenthood. We invite submissions on the many layers of parenting, having parents, and navigating the social norms of parenting throughout the month. If you would like to contribute, please email your articles to [email protected]
If one delved into Indian English literature, one would probably come across Bhisham Sahnithe famous news of – Pali. In the context of the partition of India, Pali tells the story of a young boy (the main character) who is accidentally separated from his family as they leave the then newly formed Pakistan and head to India.
Stranded and scared, Pali desperately tries to find his parents at the train station and hopes to regain the safety of his family. He is soon found by a man who sells porcelain for a living. The man takes pity on the boy and brings him back to his wife. The nice couple then decides to adopt her and raise her as their own. While this story touches on the many political aspects of the score like religion, love, loss, and family, it also explores the emotion of belonging in adopted children.
In India, there is a taboo around the concept of adoption. First, our society attaches immense importance to the idea that a woman conceives and gives birth to a child. From time immemorial, women have been constantly conditioned to believe that one of the most important goals of their being is to give birth to a child.
Women are taught that failure to comply with this expectation will put a stain on their “femininity“because motherhood is positioned as the ultimate role that”complete“a woman. The inability to bear a child is considered a ‘curse‘and often makes the lady socially ostracized, as well as stigmatized’not very conducive‘. Reinforcing this idea puts enormous pressure on women who have difficulty conceiving.
Moreover, couples facing such problems consider the adoption of a child as their last resort. A to study shows that couples who are unable to conceive prefer to remain childless rather than adopt. Moreover, the narrow and exclusive notion of “Khoon Khoon hota hai(Blood is thicker than water) is another problematic thought that further stigmatizes adoption among childless couples.
We put so much emphasis on ‘biological parents‘that now it has become the’Ordinary‘, alienating couples who wish to adopt because of medical complications, as well as those who do so simply by will. To maintain the ‘purity‘lineage, families focus on childbirth and believe that adopting a child will mar their lineage. They constantly ‘educate” others on the benefits of having their ‘ownchild and promulgate this notion.
Therefore, adoption is not even considered an option. However, many families have adopted children but struggle under the psychological stress of navigating a society that constantly questions their choices.
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At Bhisham Sahni’s Pali, we see how Pali is found by his birth parents after many years and brought back home to India. But what people don’t seem to understand is that now he’s a different person. Those who adopted it gave it a new name and were brought up in a different religion.
His habits and manners are all different, due to the difference in the environment that has fed him so far. Additionally, although he remembers his birth parents, he feels closer to his adoptive parents and respects the care and love they have given him. Take him home and expect him to melt into a new life again, confuses him and puts him in a stinging identity crisis. He doesn’t know where he really belongs in his new displaced situation.
There is a keen analogy between Pali’s predicament and the concept of ‘membership‘in adopted children. In our day-to-day life, we often come across the importance we attach to a biological child. Conversations about how the child looks and acts like their parents are often a conversation starter and a meeting point in social gatherings.
So a heteronormative, ‘blood family‘is positioned as the stallion of a perfect household. Those who fail ‘perfection‘are often excluded and referred to as different. Therefore, many families who adopt children tend to hide this fact because they think it will shame them and traumatize the child.
Because of the spread of such notions, adopted children often face an identity crisis. They are desperately trying to find a place to which they belong. In addition, parents who have adopted a child tend to believe that they have flaws because they have not given birth. We need to understand that these types of socio-cultural norms alienate and isolate people. The very concept of a standardized, ‘perfect family‘is wrong.
As they say, “Art imitates life and life imitates art”, These concepts are also standardized and validated through several television shows, films and books. In popular culture, we see the importance that is given to the biological child in relation to the adoptee. Movies and shows once again emphasize biological parenting by claiming that while adopting a child is a noble act, having a child is the real gift.
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All of these beliefs and perceptions are things that families who have adopted children must constantly contend with. But it is paramount to recognize that these choices are entirely personal, and no one is allowed to dictate what type of family is a “true” Where “real“family. A family is made up of similarities and differences. It is made up of arguments and agreements.
A real family does not necessarily mean a blood family. It’s time to stop discriminating between different types of families and let go of our conservative ideas about how families should exist. We need to introduce different types of families into the discourse, so that we can learn, understand and avoid alienating individuals and their private choices as to the fluidity of their own families. Now is the time to reinvent the concept of family itself, the way we have been conditioned to perceive it.
Featured Image Source: Ritika Banerjee for Feminism in India