Of Trapped Moms & Off-The-Hook Dads


By Pauline M

Last week a leading Shillong newspaper had two articles on its front page that dealt with the subject of single mothers. Indirectly, yet noticeable enough.

One read "Government succour for single mothers" and was about the Government amending the guidelines of the Chief Minister's Scheme for Social Assistance and sought to bring  'single-mothers'  of the State under its purview.

The other story was titled, "Harsh time for those selling warm clothes" and the "those" referred to here were mostly single mothers, it mentioned.

It can't be missed, both articles indicate that there are a substantial number of single mothers in the State. And while it is honourable of the government to do something good for them and of the media to highlight their plight, it remains unfortunate that nothing is being done to address the root cause of the problem.

Our society and many others from the Northeast accept single mothers as part of tradition, almost. Couples 'setlle', have children and then the father takes off for greener pastures. Many-a-times the mother moves on too and finds someone else. But it isn't surprising if that man again moves on after having a few children with her. It's always the dads that get off-the-hook and the mothers who are left fending for herself and the children.

As a society, it is wonderful that single mothers are not ostracized. That their children not raised to feel inadequate.

But given that traditions are being questioned, I wonder why this issue isn't being raised?

Khasi men are becoming vocal about their position in the matrilineal scheme of things. Groups of protestors are joining hands and clusters like the Syngkhong Rympei Thymmai have been formed with the aim of converting the matrilineal tradition prevalent among the Khasis to a patrilineal one. Well, hurray for them!

But what about men then taking their marital and parenting role more seriously? Why is nothing being said about men who leave their wife and kids to fend for themselves? What about mandatory payment of alimony and maintenance support? Why is there no initiative to ensure that couples register their marriage which warrants a woman her rights? Why is no "rangbah shnong" demanding for men to upkeep their families or reprimanding those who don't?

A young girl of 24, working in our house as helper, recently asked us to assist her to open a bank account. We gladly obliged. But her reason for wanting to do so was pitiable. She explained to me that she was at a marriageable age and wanted to start saving. Not for her wedding or setting up her house but for "if and when" her husband leaves her and her future children, she would be well-prepared. A brave decision. But tragic really.

It reflects our acceptance of this arrangement.

We can mask and pretend that our society is "broad minded" but in reality it is a sham. It is often been debated that the matrilineal system does not really result in women being more powerful or even at par with men. This is a classic example of how true that is. Look around you and count – there are definitely more dads off-the-hook and therefore, an equal number of trapped moms.

Carrie Bradshaw said "When I first moved to New York. I'd buy Vogue instead of dinner. I felt it fed me more".

Pauline M buys dinner. 

An IIM Alumni who spent years in the corporate world living the jet set life, Pauline returned to her home town Shillong to think, to feel, to catch her breath. And of course, relish her dinner.

(Featured Image: via Firstpost)