Monday, July 16, 2007

Carry on the name

Last Saturday I got into an argument with my mother about the necessity
of having a son to "carry on the name of his father". It's a common
concept in India. It's not hard to find a family, families actually, (no
need to search even) where you see a long string of girl children
followed by a son or sometimes no son, just a long line of girls
signifying the parents' futile attempts to get an "heir".

This must be thing that I loathe most. I can understand the desire of a
couple to have variety in their offspring - to try for a son when they
have a girl and trying for a girl when they have a son. But to have 5,
6, 7 girls just so you could have a son, that's inhuman in my mind!
Inhuman and absolutely stupid!

First, the fact is not secret, the girls, as they grow up, will
understand why there are 7 sisters in the family. This will kill their
self-esteem and you can't seriously expect them to be ambitious, strong
and shining lights in the world when you make them realize that they are
second-class citizens right from childhood. Doesn't matter if the
parents finally got a son or not, the girls are still made to feel
unwanted and unwelcome. (The fact that they do somtimes go against the
odds and break the barriers is no credit to the parents. You did your
best to squash them. If they overcame it, it's not you, it's them!)

Then, if they do have a younger brother, he's the youngest and usually
favourite of his sisters, by being the youngest and the only brother.
Then he would grow up spoiled rotten and a brat to boot. Hardly the one
who would 'carry the name', not respectfully at least. I have seen
examples. More than one. Sometimes the name is carried in the "Father's
name" column on police charge sheets.

A man who grows up protected, coddled, spoiled and bossed by 6 sisters,
is hardly expected to stand on his own two feet and build up and empire.
A topic worth researching for sure.

The second part of this idea is the need for carrying the name. What
have you done that you deserve your name to be carried? Posterity should
know you and remember you merely because you lived, married, bred like
rabbits and left a son or sons behind you? Are you worth the ink to mark
your place in history?

Thomas Edison left a mark on history that is still fresh and alive. I
don't know if he had any children. Same for Benjamin Franklin. Or
Rudyard Kipling, P. G. Wodehouse, Alexander Graham Bell, Leonardo da
Vinci, Bertrand Russel, Sigmund Freud and so many others. Each
unforgettable and well-respected name. By what? Their sons? No! Their
daughters? No! Their work and their contribution to the world! That's
their real worth!

On the other hand, any highschool kid in India can tell you the names of
Indira Gandhi's parents. And do you think Marie Curie's parents were
proud of her or not? What about Florence Nightingale, Sarojini Naidu,
Mother Theresa, Joan of Arc, Rani Laxmibai and countless other women who
changed the world with their honest effort and left a mark on history
that the tide of time could not erase? When you say, "I want a son to
carry on my name" - with one sweeping statement you are discounting the
work of each one of these numerous women without whom the world would
not be the same!

We have come a long way in our civilization, we have taken giant leaps
in technology, economy, education, agriculture...you name it, we have
done it! Must we live by the 200 year old values when it comes to
family?

Reproduction is part of man's survival instincts but not his best
characteristic. Breeding a son. Think about it, you are doing something
even a rabbit can do! And that's what you are proud of?

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