Jan 4, 2006


A scene in 'Thavamai Thavamirundhu': Early in the movie, Rajkiran says that he wants his boys study in good school, so that they get to a good position in life and take care of their parents. That made me think again about the concept of parenthood. Though I am an optimist, I cant guarantee for sure the lifestyle and quality of the next generation. The things that genuinely worried me are global warming (there is a wonderful series being written by Krishna da Vinci in Kumudam Reporter), ozone-hole, fluctuating climate, increase in competition and decay of traditional values. There is absolutely no guarantee that they would 'enjoy' their life atleast as good as we did.

On the positive side, the standard of living is improving... we are living in the electronic age, the average lifetime is going up, etc. All that is fine, but having a child is like creating a new problem that doesnt exist at the first place and then trying to solve it. I am not against children.. I love them.. I love to play with them, but the above thoughts are with me for almost 20 years now. Why do a couple have child(ren)? To enjoy their company, educate them, be happy seeing them grow big and also, the hope that they would take care of the parents in the old age, right? Add to that the philosophy that the 'World has to go on'.. I would also eventually do it sometime, but I see a thing of selfishness, involving a third person in all these.

TT offers the picture of the reality; one creates children mostly from selfishness, but the attachment and love with them grow so much that after sometime when the parents realize that the children have grown their own self, they continue to support them and leave it to the mercy of the children to decide on their parents. The question that Rajkiran asks in the end 'Unakkum naan edhaavadhu kurai vachuttenaappa?'.. Ultimate question, which answers the 'selfish' doubts I raised. But, can everyone be like that?


NaiKutti said...

Thats an interesting question raju... I think it is selfishness as you said, but once you have a child it becomes the no. 1 priority and responsibilty to keep the child happy "always"... if thats thought too much of a burden, then better not to have a child...

and talking abt. furture generation life style, tha generation would say that ours was the best and things are becoming worse sooner :-)...

unknown said...

nice one...
dont say that is selfishness...can say expectation ....

RandomThoughts said...

A thought provoking topic Raju.

Attitude of parents is most important today. We bring in children to this world because we like having kids.

Expecting them to look after us, was so far an unwritten law. With old age homes increasing by the day,the law being followed needs questioning.

As parents if we cannot look after them well we shouldn't have kids in the first place.

SO i strongly believe that only if we are ready to look after our kids with no returns should we have them.Detachment seems to be the order of the day.Keep an open mind, do what you do for your kids because you like doing it! Set aside savings for yourself, do what best you can & then there shouldn't be any disappointment.


Yours Truly said...

Is it selfish? I don't think so. I feel it is just an emotional dependency most of the parents are looking for when they become old - both in the movie and in real life. At various stages, each one of us require a proud pat at the back, a shoulder to cry, a warm hug, a piece of mind, words of encouragement, etc etc. And we are in the "offering" side, in our parents' retired life.

The movie is an apt example of the two thirukkuRaLs and I know the route map from Rajkiran's house to printing press by-heart :)

Raju said...

Karhtik, mm... this question has been plaguing me for quite sometime.. Over 10 years ago, I described a child to parents as a "problem which doesnt exist to start with.. parents create the problem and spend their lifetime and their kid's to solve the problem"..

When you mention about 'ours' in the last sentence, you meant the parents, us, right? Yeah.. I am not predicting Doom's day but extreme weather is not a comforting thought when you think about the next generation. If you are in a developed nation, you can beat most of the problems by adopting to the environment (weather, educational system, and other unique disadvantages of the present-day third world) but elsewhere, it would be tough, IMHO.
Ammu, can there be an 'unselfish expectation'?
Rashmi, 'we like having kids' is OK.. the problem is, would the 'kid always like to have come to the world'? :-)

I agree with you on the changing times. IMHO, a person should look spend more time looking after his/her parents rather than on his child, who is not there at first place to start with. I too think that 'no expectations attached' is the best way to deal with, in order to prevent any major disappointment in the future.
Yours truly, I agree with you on why one needs a child. But, the point I am trying to put forward is, from the moment the child is born, till the stage he/she grows up to an adult when the parents age, there is a long process of growing up, right? As of now, I am impatient thinking about it..

The two thirukkurals you mentioned from TT, are they the 'Makan thandhaikkaatrum.. ' and 'Eendra pozhudhil...'? The route map you mentioned was portrayed beautifully..

tt_giant said...

I see your point Raju. We had no choice of coming to this world, and we don't have a choice when we depart (well, in normal cases). So, how can we be expected to act according to the choices of another person?. In fact, this is the central point of existentialism - which I am not a subscriber to.

The father in that movie expects the sons to reciprocate since HIS father/mother did the same to him, or, come to think about it, since HIS parents, DID NOT do certain things to him, which he would have liked to have, he wants his progeny to experience. The first case is implicit mechanism of the way in which parenting takes place, the second is a more selfless way of expressing his anguish, or in a way, getting back at his parents for NOT doing certain things to him.

Of course, all this shatters to smithereens if the child had been brought up as an orphan....

mitr_bayarea said...

Nice thought provoking blog on Thavamai. Although, Cheran's simple and reaslistic touch prevailed throughout the movie, it was extremely long and a bit boring at times.

Now,coming to my thoughts on selfish parenthood. Many of us hail from a culture that boasts of good values, respect for elders words and so on. There are sill many joint families in India where we can see 3-4 generations living together. So, especially for the Indian men taking care of their parents when they grow old is a huge unspoken responsibility. With changing times and a different set of core values coming from modern working women, we can the rise in see old age homes.

It is indeed hard for the current generation to bridge this gap and continue tradition.

Let us hope that for our children, we set a stage of no return expectations with a detached attachment, where we are still accessible to our kids if they need us and refrain from interfering in their lives as far as possible.

TamilPonnu said...

I agree with Mitr... and that's why we all need a good retirement plan.. I surely don't want to burden anyone nor expect anything from my children. I vote for independent living and let kids live their own life.

Balaji said...

interesting questions raju. i personally feel parenthood is very unselfish. in fact, its probably the most unselfish relationship in the world. personally, i did not have 2 kids thinking about whether they would take care of me when i become old.

as to the reasons for having kids, this is something i have asked myself several times. can't say i have a satisfactory answer. probably a combination of biological clock + tradition + pressure from elders :)

Raju said...

Deepak, how can we be expected to act according to the choices of another person Who is the 'another person' you are referring to? If that is the child, we dont need to act acc. to the choices of the child. We are not giving any choices to the child, illaiya? 'Existentialism'.. mm.. new word for me.. What is the gist of it?

Rajkiran's parents are not shown in TT.. so I would assume it is more of the second category and also the trend of the time.. He didnt want his children to do his tough printing job..
Mitr, I agree on the 'long' part but I didnt find it boring, probably since I was too engrossed in it..

If someone asks a newlywed couple 'why do you want to have a child?', what are the usual answers? a) It is a must everyone has child b) To have fun at home a child is cute until the child, esp. 'he' turns about 4 or 5...after that, it is like 'kurangu'.. interms of 'seshtai'.. c) to have someone take care of us when we get old better dump that option for good, bcos how the child is going to turn up is not in ur hands. d) Vamsavriddhi aamam, periya Maharajah paramparai.. vamsam valaranumaam . Any other answer? Again, I am not saying that there is anything wrong in having a child.. but to think about it, I get these funny qns.

One gets married to someone in order to be with the other person mostly; I have seen the whole scenario changes when a child is born.. mm.. let me see.

'Detached attachment'.. interesting phrase.. Similar to the American parenthood? I guess that is the best. :-)
Priya, good retirement plan.. mm.. Let us better be prepared..

My policy, in general, is to have 'least expectations' from everyone concerned, so that I can always be alert and independent.. Anything positive that happens is a bonus..

Raju said...

Balaji, saw ur comment after posting my long replies.. :-)

I agree that not thinking about children taking care of us later is unselfish parenthood.. but what about the part that concerns the glorious uncertainities of the child's future on which the parents dont have a positive control?

Glad to know of another person who asked such questions.. Ur reasons are all understandable, esp. the last one.. :-)

carkar said...

Very interesting question. I dont have kids yet but one thought that comes to my mind is that - I have learnt so many things in this life and I can pass on this knowledge to my kids. If not anything, this can give them a head start and they can probably be a better person and contribute more during their life.
Another thought that I have had is that every generation becomes better than the previous generation as they can use and build upon whatever the previous generation has done.
I also agree with Balaji about the biological push to have kids. The book "Selfish Gene" - by Richard Dawkins explains this in great detail.

Raju said...

carkar, mm... passing the experience is something most people are waiting to do.. An interesting parallel lies in academia, where the drive to become a faculty, get students and educate them is a major one for people to take up job as research supervisor. It is true that every generation becomes better than the previous one.

வேதா said...

having a child after marriage, is considered the very next development in a married life,in our country. its like u eat, u sleep, u work so have a child for vamsa vrithi. so for a long long loooooooooooong time, we have considered it as a spontaneous thing in a human's life. now has come the generation which think "WHY"?. now the answer differs person to person, to extend our generation, to take care of us in future, to bring love in life, to ????????? too many to's. there can be no answer to it. what if god thinks why should i continue creating life? what will happen to earth!! each and every human being continues to look himself or herself in their child and thats why they shower love on them. as many has suggested, we should practise," kadamayai sei palanai ethirparkadhe"

Raju said...

Veda, each and every human being continues to look himself or herself in their child .. mm.. that is something I was nodding my head in agreement.

I was watching the movie 'Miracle' recently, which was during a Hockey Olympic match b/w USA and the erstwhile Soviet Union during the peak of cold-war. A speech of the ex-US Pres. Jimmy Carter was telecast in radio and this thing attracted me (and made me write this post): After a long time, our citizens feel that the next 5 years would be worse than the previous 5 years . Such a reality sometime haunts me.. not for myself, but if u extrapolate the 5 to 50, then we would say that the past 50 years were better than the next 50.. The news from Rediff is that Delhi faced its coldest night for 70 years today and the schools are closed till Wednesday.. This kind of 'worst in so many years' is happening too frequently in so many disciplines in the recent past.. which is a bothering factor.

வேதா said...

// This kind of 'worst in so many years' is happening too frequently in so many disciplines in the recent past.. which is a bothering factor.//
we all know that this happens due to global warming, for which we are responsible. and so we should find a way to get rid of this bothering factor for atleast to a certain extent. this will happen only if each and every human being consider this as a burning factor and leave a good and healthy environment for our future generation

Raju said...

Veda, I touched upon the global warming on my post on Chennai's terrible rain. mm.. we are responsible for that and the changes that we have made to the earth have largely been irreversible.. Year by year, we are worsening things at a higher rate.. there is no recession at all.. That is indeed a bothering factor; i dont know how we can find a way to minimize that.
Totally agree on your last sentence.. it better happens soon for a decent living of the future...

Prabu Karthik said...


there is something called meaning of life..

life has no intrinsic meaning. we define our own meaning by adding activities burdens responsibities or (what u call problems which did not exist in the first place , i agree to that statement totally).

bcos the mind does not get emotional fulfillment by avoiding problems.

Even if children do not take care of the parents and even if the parents r aware of this, they wud still love to have children.

having children growing them was and is still the dafault purpose of life for major section of the population in india.

i think i understand your viewpoint.
yeah, purpose of life is again a very selfish thing. ellamey ingey selfish dhaan.

TT rombo bold aana attempt. cheran did not gloss over issues. kurai ellam irukku. but ipdi oru padam panna stuff and guts venum. adu rendum cheran kitte irukku

Raju said...

Prabu, about meaning of life and child as an 'added responsibility' which didnt exist to begin with: The better way to take care of both the things are to adopt an orphan. The parents didnt invite the orphan to the world, but having come and been abondoned, it becomes a responsibility. an orphan child is an 'existing problem or responsibility', but, who would only adopt an orphan, without thinking about their own child?

mm.. all your points are well-noted. I agree with you that 'ellamey ingey selfish dhaan'.

The 'purpose of life' is different in different parts of the world; thats what is the uniqueness of the problem.

Cheran, IMHO, took a big risk in taking TT. It could have back-fired, but I think his 'Autograph' success helped it see through.. Had it come before Autograph, I dont know what would have happened to its fate at the BO.. But I would have still liked it.

Me too said...

Like Veda said, for the most part, having kids was the sole purpose of marriage in the civilised world! It is only now that we think to plan whether at all to have or when or how many!!
In today's situation, after seeing numerous examples and incidents, I guess, our mentality to expect children to take care of us in our oldage have changed. It is the inbetween generation who were raised to expect that way but found a new/different outlook that are left suffering.

வேதா said...

@ raju,
// The better way to take care of both the things are to adopt an orphan//
What will happen when a whole generation take a decision like this. that would be great ,due to two reasons, one population growth controlled and secondly and most importantly, the orphan children will get their own family. but adopting a child without having a own child is practically very tough. even the announcement of this decision will create a chaos around the person and his family. anyway thats a personal issue.

Raju said...

Aparna, I agree with you.. The old-age homes are spreading now, which is the shock of this generation.. I guess, by the time our generation gets old, since most would know what to expect (and what not to expect), they would be prepared to face the old age.. and the old-age homes may not be necessary at all..
Veda, A whole generation need not take that.. we dont have that many orphans, do we? Even if those who are struggling to normally conceive children and try methods like test-tube baby, and other expensive measures decide to adopt orphans, that would be great. I understand about the 'own blood' attachment part but as long as there is a child which you know belongs and would belong only to you, why worry so much whether (s)he has your genes or not..

The thing is, we are in changing times.. We see lots of cultural changes in our society now... this has to be one among them....

வேதா said...

@ raju,
i mentioned the word "whole generation took the decision", bcos
if at all such a decision is made, not all of them would apply it actually, only few of them would really apply it practically. Advancement in science jus a boon to those without child. so adoption becomes a last option to those couples. they will their level best upto the end to get a child of their own blood, and only if it fails they adopt.

Raju said...

Veda, I agree with you. Adoption is usually the last choice, after all hopes are lost. I mentioned about that becos I am really worried about the population explosion which is continuing to take place. Those who have a single child most often tend to have the discussion about having another child, to help the first child with company, to inculcate sharing habits, etc. I wish we get a strict rule such as the one that exists in China. Mother earth doesnt have that many resources to cater the needs of everyone for long.

Aravind said...

To procreate is a natural tendency. It is as natural as the physical attraction one feels towards the opposite sex. Bringing in emotion and feelings are quite modern thoughts to justify these urges. We are bound to our biology and cant change that. Simply put, we did procreate when we were monkey and now and also in the future... :-)

Raju said...

Aravind, welcome here..

I agree it is a natural tendency.. The reason for my post was 'do we all still have to do it when the future of the world isnt so ros?'.

Me too said...

On a lighter note, since we keep telling our daughter that she can do some of the things when she grows big, she thinks that she is going to grow big and we are going to become small!! On the plus side, when I feed her or hold her, she would say she would do the same to me when she grows big and I become small and on the down side, when I yell at her, she says the same!!!

Raju said...

Aparna, thats so sweet.. LOLed at the 'unexpected twists' that the kids deliver at time.. :-)

On a serious note, soon she would know that you guys are not going to get smaller.. So, is it OK to make a child grow with some wrong assumptions, which you know well?

I might sound weird.. but I grew up with lots of so called 'self-inflicted myths' and the suggested ones. I know of some people nowadays who are soo particular about myths and lies when kids are concerned.

Me too said...

I am perplexed as to how to handle this one cos' she doesn't want to believe that that situation will not come!! We try to be as straight and honest as possible. Infact, I don't even tell her many of the stories we heard in our childhood days and put ideas in her head!

Raju said...

Aparna, mm.. I am glad to know about it. Dont worry.. in a year or so she would realize that truth.. :-)

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