When a man and woman come together and copulate, a seed is sown and it will come to fruition after about nine months and a new being comes into existence. Some may say miracles happened in the past but they do not happen anymore today. But for me, every birth is a miracle and every child a gift from God. Some may categorize some children as unplanned or unwanted, but I believe no child is unplanned or unwanted for God. Some may even say that a child was a mistake or a surprise, but for God no child is a mistake or a surprise. This is why God told the prophet Jeremiah, “before you were formed in your mother’s womb I knew you”. God probably desired and designed man to have children so that man could also experience and realize the heart of God because in most cases, the feelings that a man would have for his child is the same feeling which God has for man (God’s child). And one of the first and most noteworthy commands which the Creator gave man was to procreate, multiply and fill the earth. And probably, God knew that man being selfish in nature would normally not want to have children unless he is somehow compelled. I guess this is the reason why God designed the procreation of our offspring through the sexual union of a man and a woman.
In our fathers’ and grandfathers’ generation, it was normal for a married couple to have 6-7 children. In those times, some families even had 10 or more children. But nowadays, we hardly come across any Naga couple having even 4 children. Most Naga couples today are limiting their families to just two children (preferably a boy and a girl). Moreover, in the bygone generations, child bearing did not seem to be such a problem as most of the women gave birth successfully at home without much hassle even in the absence of modern medical benefits and facilities. But today, child bearing does not appear to be so easy even with all the advanced medical knowledge and facilities available to us. I guess we can attribute this to the fact that most Naga women are getting married very late compared to the women in the bygone eras.
Now, observing this present trend in our society, I present some of my thoughts and apprehensions. God told us to multiply and fill the earth. But when a couple opts to have only two children, they are actually not multiplying but just rearing up two more persons to replace them (the father and the mother).
The Nagas are a small people inhabiting the long stretch of lands between India, Burma and China here in South East Asia. But we are surrounded on all sides by some of the most populous and gigantic nations of the world. Now these neighbors of us (whether the Chinese or the Muslims from Bangladesh) do not believe in restricting the number of their children. Rather they believe and take pride in having many children as they consider it to be a blessing of the Almighty. The result is that most of their children would not get their share of the ancestral land and would be compelled to migrate to other areas in search of jobs and livelihood. This is one of the reasons why these people are coming to our lands in large numbers. And here we are living in minority and instead of thinking of increasing our numbers, we think that we are doing a great job by limiting our families to just two children.
By the time a woman turns 18, she is physically matured and is ripe to bear children. But today most Naga women are getting married after 30 and choosing to have not more than 2 children. On the contrary a Muslim woman would get married by the time she is 17 or 18 and by the time she turns 30 she will be having 6-7 children. Now this scenario does not need further explanation. This is one reason why we are slowly putting ourselves in such a precarious and dangerous position. We are in minority but decreasing in numbers instead of increasing whereas they are in majority but increasing instead of decreasing. Does that not scare you?
Let us also recall the case of China, the most populous nation in the world. Even though China is populous and overcrowded, we never hear the Chinese government or its people trying to limit the growth of its population. I guess this is because the Chinese people consider a large population as an advantage and an asset rather than a burden or a liability. And we can somehow say that the future of the Chinese people is till safe and sound because it has a large population inhabiting the length and breadth of its land. Can we say the same thing about us, the Nagas? I don’t think so.
Let us also recall that when a river or sea becomes full and overflows, the first areas that are destroyed and washed away are the banks of the river and the sea. And we the Nagas are a minority people living in the banks of the population sea of India, Bangladesh and China. And with every passing day these population seas are closing in on us.
Now, the Nagas are very good at copying others. And in some developed western countries, couples are preferring to have lesser children. Even India, with a view to limit its population, is advocating for population control and advising couples to have not more than 2 children. So, probably some Nagas think that it is not wise or practical to have many children and that having lesser children is a sign of advancement and smartness. But let us recall that our situation is different from theirs. Just because others are limiting their offspring does not mean that we should also do the same without first considering our ground realities.
Modern women including Naga women have become very health and beauty conscious and many do not want to bear children and become mothers at an early age because they think it would affect their health and beauty. It may be true because their bodies will undergo transformation after childbirth. But if a woman is to refuse or delay marriage and childbirth over this health and beauty issue, she is being very selfish, she is not in touch with reality and she may be inadvertently putting herself and her people, her race and their future at a disadvantage. This is so because beauty and health will fade away and moreover, in spite of all the progress and advancement we have achieved and no matter how much modern and sophisticated we have become, child-bearing is still one of the greatest and most noble assignments of women entrusted by the Creator Himself. This is so because children can only come through the union of men and women and cannot be created through machines or technology. In the olden times, a woman with no issues was looked down upon and even today, if a person were to die without leaving behind any children, his life and story is incomplete in many ways.
It is agreed that marriage is not just a baby-making institution because there are many dimensions to it. There is also no denying that the health of the mother is of prime importance for the whole family. Moreover, the virtues and qualities we instill in our children are even more important than the quantity. And so, the more the children, the greater will be the role, the responsibility and the burden of the parents. Moreover we Nagas have always had a soft corner and a desire for government jobs and we consider other jobs as secondary and inferior. And now that government jobs have become saturated, many feel that there may not be much job opportunities for their children. But here we need to realize that God is our source and provider and not the government. And God has multiple ways to meet our needs. It is also regrettable that many are unable to get married at an early age and are somehow compelled to marry late due to various obligations.
It may be or may not be because of these factors but today, most Nagas seem to be thinking that it is impractical, old-fashioned and outdated to have many children and they think that they are being very smart and advanced by limiting their families to just two children. But let us remember that by doing so we may be putting ourselves and our posterity at a great disadvantage in the long run. Of course we are well aware of the difficulties of having to rear many children and we also cannot force couples to have a big family. We are also aware that some are not so fortunate to have as many children as they want due to medical and other related reasons. But for people who are willing and medically eligible, full encouragement, support and even govt. incentives should be rendered to them.
If somebody feels that having a big family is a burden and a liability and therefore opting for a smaller family is smart and advantageous, I totally agree and I don’t debate it. But the seasons of life are not static and times may come when we feel that our small population is no longer an asset and an advantage but a liability and a disadvantage. And, God forbid, when such a time comes, we may look left, right and behind and find that there is no one beside and behind us. And then we would be dangerously exposed and feel like sheep and carcasses surrounded by wolves and vultures. And then we may be filled with regret, remorse and even guilt over the realization that things could have been very different but by then it may be too late and too far-gone…