I am at a junction where it’s almost inevitable that I am facing multiple questions about my thoughts and future plans of having kids. Doesn’t matter if I say the same thing again and again, some people are unstoppable. They are very perplexed if I say “no I don’t have any plans and I might not want to have kids ever in my life”. They try to convince me by saying “oh, now it’s fine, but you’ll be very lonely when you are old”, “you might regret later”, “Oh no, why?” “you are already old, don’t be stupid, do it before it’s too late”. Really? How do they know I’ll be very lonely, how do they know I’ll regret later? Am I in a rush to keep up with the social guidelines?
Did I grow up with the sole purpose to get married in my twenties, have kids in my thirties and then be a mother forever until I die? That’s the social norm and I better abide by it. I should not deprive my parents from having the joy of being grandparents. What about me? I might not be capable of bringing up a kid to be a good human being with good values and principles. What if I decide to take that responsibility and then fail miserably? Giving birth to a child is no big deal but caring for a child is not everybody’s task. I have heard a zillion times that “it will automatically happen, don’t worry, it happens to everybody”. No, it does not happen to everybody. I have seen many, many mothers and fathers failing miserably to raise a kid. I am not saying they did it intentionally but they had no clue what they were doing. They just had a kid or many because that’s what you are supposed to do. I don’t think I am ready yet. I might not feel like I am ready ever in my life or it might be just tomorrow. Who knows?
Our society sees married women without kids as incomplete, they look down upon them. They look at them with pity and if you are lucky enough, with sympathy if they know that you tried your best but couldn’t have a kid. As if they have wasted their womanhood. I see many of my friends, colleagues, relatives and neighbors being lost in the ocean of motherhood, completely losing their identity as a person. They look like they waited all their life to be mothers and only mothers. I know I’ll be showered with criticism for not being sensible enough to understand the greatness of motherhood because I am not a mother. That’s completely wrong. We deify mothers, we see them as super humans, we demand them to be more than just a woman. We expect them to absorb pain and suffering because they are the mothers. The women also take pride in their godly role.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for mothers, all the great mothers (and also the not so great ones) who feed us, nurture us, take care of us. To me, my mother is also my lifeline, the very basis of my existence but in the process she forgot to have a life of her own. She gave all her life to be a good mother (and also a good wife). She is still not done. It’s a lifelong exam and you have to try your best to do your best. I am not that brave and not yet ready to start that journey and I will choose to be incomplete for now.
This daal is a humble everyday daal just like my mother. Nothing extraordinary but still special. It’s simple yet delicious. This is my mother’s recipe with a little bit of my tweaking, just like I am almost my mother’s replica with a bit of tweaking.
Red lentils/musur daal: ¾ cup
Water: around 2-3 cups (doesn’t really matter, you can always add or reduce the water)
Turmeric: ½ tsp.
Radhuni seeds/wild celery seeds**: a little more than ½ tsp.
Dry red chili whole: 2-3 nos.
Mustard oil/olive oil: 2tsp.+ 2tsp.
Shallots (small)/small onions: 10-12 nos., peeled. (I usually use small onions)
Or, Regular red onions: half of a small onion, thinly sliced or finely chopped.
Salt to taste
- In a deep bottom medium pot bring the water to a boil.
- Wash the red lentils and add it to the boiling water. Let it come to a boil again. Once it starts boiling, bring the flame to medium (the water should still be in a rolling boil).
- Periodically remove the white scums (foamy substance).
- Once there is no more scum on the top, add the turmeric powder and mix with a spoon.
- Let the lentils get almost cooked and then whisk it with a hand whisk. Do not whisk it vigorously and you don’t need any fancy electrical whisk too.
- Add salt and let it boil for few more minutes.
- While the daal is boiling, heat up two teaspoons of oil in a frying pan. Add the shallots or the small onions and bring the flame to medium. Shallow fry them until there are multiple brown spots on them. Slow and shallow frying will make them sweet and a bit smoky in taste.
- Add the onions to the almost cooked boiling daal and gently boil it for another five minutes or until the daal is completely cooked and reaches your desired consistency. You can add more hot water here if the daal looks very thick or boil it vigorously if it looks very thin.
- In another small deep ladle or pot add the rest of the two teaspoons of oil and slowly heat it up. Don’t let it burn.
- Once the oil is hot, bring the flame to medium low and add the radhuni seeds. Let them sizzle, it will take around a minute (slowly sizzling the seeds will flavor the oil).
- Add the dry red chilies and let them come to a shade darker.
- Pour the seasoning into the daal and immediately cover the pot with a lid and turn off the gas/flame.
- Keep it covered for 5 minutes and then serve it with plain white rice and lime wedges (not lemon). You can eat it as a soup too.
*Instead of adding slow roasted onions, you can deep fry the thinly sliced onions, crumble them and add them add the end.
* You can skip the slow roasting part and add the radhuni seeds, followed by the red chilies and then finely chopped regular red onions and slowly fry them until a little brown. Make sure that the spices do not get burnt. You can skip the onions altogether but that will steal the taste.
** Radhuni is a very special spice mainly used by the Bengali community in India. It is called wild celery seeds in English but do not confuse it with celery seeds. If you do not have access (which is very likely) to radhuni, grab a Bengali friend to provide you some or use anise seeds instead. I have never used anise seeds for this soup but they are the closest in terms of taste.
Being a married woman myself and in late twenties, whenever i attend a function or get together, i always face this problem, wherein an aunt or some random relative coming and asking me when am i going to have a baby and so many quotable lines by them, which is irritating to the core. You have very well written about the plight of such married woman.
Thank you for writing this! It is so deeply honest, deeply true… I hope one day to have children but I know that if I don’t then all I will get is blame for ‘waiting too long’ … But my life will be ‘complete’ whether I have children or not. I’ve already succeeded so much at so many things; I don’t think anyone can tell me that my achievements don’t matter because I haven’t procreated.
I always feel that having a baby should be the couple’s choice completely. I have a son and have seen that your life totally changes when you have a baby. I love my baby and am willing to make those sacrifices happily. Until and unless you are completely ready to have a baby, don’t have one. Just because everyone else is having a baby does not imply that you should have one too. I now hear why am I not having a second baby when everyone around me have had another one. I think people forget the costs involved. And people, be it your family or strangers just need a reason to talk and gossip.
Oh, that dreaded question! I faced that for about 10 years. Being a mother isn’t just a biological process – it is about commitment, love, joy and so much more. Becoming a mother has its anxieties and dilemmas. It is nowhere close to the calm and poised image shown on television ads or movies. For some women, the ultimate goal may not be to become a mother.
Did I ever think I would love being a mom? Not even in a day-dream. Was I afraid of the lifetime commitment of motherhood? Absolutely. Did I stress about slowing down a fast paced career? Extremely.
Just because I love my transformation of being a mother does not give me the permission to preach to others with no kids to become mothers. A woman is not at all incomplete if she doesn’t experience motherhood.
You are on your own a complete woman. You do not have bear children or be a good wife to be a complete woman. Your identity as a individual human who has the sensibility, self respect and independent thinking make you complete.
I just bought another Bengali cookbook! It doesn’t have pictures but the recipes are traditional (Ms. Chaudharany’s Pumkin Fritters). But you have the recipes and the pictures as well!
Radhuni is such a wonderful spice – how it transforms shukto!
Thank you for your delightful recipes. I enjoy reading your personal reflections and history of the foods.
So, about being a mother. Yes, it is your choice alone, but let me describe my personal experience. I have three children. Probably I had them because I thought it was the thing to do. They are far apart in age, so I have been a mother (with a child to care for) for many years. I did not do many things, such as travel, that I might otherwise have done. I am well educated and with many interests, but probably did not “fulfill my potential” in terms of one of those other societal demands – success in the workplace.
All that said, I cannot quantify or come close to describing the unlimited love and devotion I feel for my children. Nothing else in my life comes near to the depth of my feelings for them. I cannot imagine not having them in my life. Sometimes I think it is selfish of me to have had children because they have brought me so much joy and revealed part of me that I would never otherwise have known.
Good luck to you in your decision!
Just want to chime in and say that the love, devotion, and revelations da is describing aren’t at all exclusive (or even inherit) to being a mom. I’ve seen both sides of the coin and experiencing those things outside of the realm of motherhood is truly just as sweet. 🙂
Children or no children, follow your own path and don’t let the insecurity/insensitivity/ignorance of others weigh you down. You’re not incomplete, you’re just a bit ahead of the curve… but things are slowly getting better.
I think we all have just one life to lead and it should be our choice the way we want to spend it. Am sure in a few years people will stop asking and leave you alone….btw daal looks awesome.
That is a dreaded question for all married women. I probably got pushed into motherhood by this societal pressure as well. Doesn’t mean that I regret it- just that the choice I made was influenced. I have several friends who “chose” not to have kids. I don’t see anything wrong with their decision. They are still not ready. And it’s their own choice. I’m glad to see you standing your ground. Listen to your inner self. Motherhood is all about celebrating you…and you can’t do it if you are not willing or ready yet.