Of Murdered Babies and Vengeful Mothers

Why I chose this topic is a no-brainer. India was scandalized by the high profile case of Sheena Bora and the accused being her supposed mother Indrani Mukherjee. A lot has been written about the case in media and every minute new details surface. I must applaud the media for their 24X7 coverage of the case and for giving the Indian audience a spicy saga to relish.

What this case instantly reminded me of was Medea and it is not surprising because Medea is and will always be on top of the list of mothers who murdered their babies. Euripides’ Medea not just defied Aristotle’s classic definition of tragedy, it unearthed an ugly truth of the society that no one wishes to talk about.

In almost every society all over the world, the role of a mother is clung naturally to a woman. It’s a given fact that a woman will become a mother and will love her children. This is the reason why female celebrities are constantly asked about when they will marry and once married, when they will have children. It’s like an obsession, a married woman has to have children. Anyways coming back to Medea, Medea is a character from Greek literature who murdered her sons to avenge the betrayal of her husband.

One may feel abhorrence, scandalized and disgusted with Medea but when you read the play their is an odd feeling of justification for Medea that creeps on the reader. You seem to feel horrified and yet don’t blame Medea. What could be the possible reason? Is it because our primitive impulses allow such acts as natural or sub-consciously we are aware of such acts being carried out in our society?

During my post-graduation I did a paper on Macbeth and it’s screen adaptations. One of the prominent adaptations of the play is by Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, Throne of Blood. In the film it is suggested that the Lady Macbeth or Lady Washizu is pregnant but gives birth to a stillborn child. While watching the film one gets the feeling that Lady Washizu has been punished for her treacherous deeds. In a way she is responsible for the death of her child. Lady Washizu goes mad and probably dies off-stage.

Dead children are a recurring motif in literature. Another one that comes to mind is The Rocking Horse Winner ,  a short story by D. H. Lawrence. In the story it is evident that the mother doesn’t love her children. She is constantly worried about more money. Her son begins to bet on horses and provide money to her mother but it oddly is never enough. The son Paul falls ill and dies but not before he predicts the winner of Derby leaving his mother eighty thousand pounds. The mother in this story is not able to connect to her children and is constantly on the lookout for  more money to substitute love with a comfortable life.

Isn’t it a running truth of our society that often women become mothers because that is the only way they can be? Motherhood has never been a choice for women but a necessity. No wonder there are mothers who don’t care for their child. I know people who are scandalized with women who don’t feel a natural inclination to care for their children. But in a way it isn’t their fault. If only society would let them have what they want without the unnecessary burden of motherhood hanging over their head. A woman should become a mother only if she wants to. Because no child in the world deserves to be unloved and discarded.

I don’t wish to comment upon this case because to be truthful I know nothing about it and one can never trust the truth constructed based on assumptions but my heart goes out to the children who lived in the shadow of lies being discarded by both their parents. That shouldn’t happen to any child. Every child deserves to be loved and which is why motherhood should be a choice. Ah! and one must not forget awareness which is necessary to avert teenage and unplanned pregnancies.

Motherhood should never be equated with womanhood and marriage. Back home we have Kunti who was forced to let her son die in battle by the hands of her other son because one of them was illegitimate. It’s not just about awareness, it’s also about re-evaluating our principles that often lead to a secret life and crimes that could be averted.

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