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Mimi the mommy: the image of the mother who smiles through sacrifices is reaching its expiry date

Mummying is an individual journey each person undertakes for herself.

July 31, 2021 / 09:30 AM IST

Perfect moms populate fairy tales. Women whose pregnancy is a breeze, the baby is born bonny. They sing lullabies and gently rock the cradle, anxiously watching out for the wicked witch who snatches kids. In legend and lore, in nursery rhymes and newspaper ads, mommies are a species apart. Magicians who conjure warm meals and wise sayings, who sacrifice and smile through tears. This image of motherhood is reaching its expiry date, and rightly. Real mummying is confusing, a never-ending series of chores and an eternal guilt trip that make the concerned mother passionately rue her fertility.

Single moms, surrogacy, female foeticide, rape survivors who fall pregnant, DNA tests that disprove fatherhood, men who opt for childcare, and medical warnings about in vitro birth defects – these have all changed the settings. Healthy foetuses are terminated at any point; a mother must be ready to be a mother. To go ahead with a pregnancy despite medical advice to the contrary – ‘the baby won't be okay’ – is never easy. When physical anomalies are detected, they may spell short lifespans for the baby if born, as also pain and pills, not to mention major surgeries. With a heavy heart, parents take a decision: yes/no. The greyer area of brain defects is a maze most would-be parents find as difficult to navigate. Whatever the final choice, it is made at gut level. Intellectual, social and moralistic leanings may take a backseat. One is aware the warnings could be wrong. Despite all medical backing, the baby may be what they call normal. There is no right or wrong, just intuition. Nobody sues the medical fraternity if the baby is normal - after ticking off every milestone for years - for the heartache caused. Who will only say, oops, but it all turned out well, didn't it?

So Mimi, an aspiring actress in Rajasthan, agrees to carry someone’s baby in a new film by the same name. Not her egg, no intercourse, only her womb rented out to a desperate couple. When the couple flees upon hearing about foetal imperfections, Mimi decides to go ahead. Is it her baby? We don’t know if legally, biologically or even conscience-wise it is hers. But in all emotional worlds, it is. From nausea, prenatal check-ups and pregnancy cravings to labour pains and breast-feeding, she is the mother.

Feminists may be offended by her implied misgivings, about putting her Bollywood dreams away, but the fact remains that she was completely open to having the baby even when dumped with it and told it may not be ‘normal’. The only one to talk about sacrifices vis-a-vis careers and loss of face in society is her friend, the cabbie, played by actor extraordinaire Pankaj Tripathi, who brings a believable paternal air to the role. Mimi herself is mum on the subject of exhaustion, weight gain, ill-repute or a lack of employment.

The matter of maters, even when retrieved from syrupy sentimentality, is still an individual journey each person undertakes for herself. If one can opt for an MTP, one can also have the baby despite all odds. Why mom-shame?
Shinie Antony is a writer and editor based in Bangalore. Her books include The Girl Who Couldn't Love, Barefoot and Pregnant, Planet Polygamous, and the anthologies Why We Don’t Talk, An Unsuitable Woman, Boo. Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Asia Prize for her story A Dog’s Death in 2003, she is the co-founder of the Bangalore Literature Festival and director of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival.
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