The Ministry of Ayush has been forced to issue a clarification after their shockingly bizarre tips for pregnant women went viral, causing outrage among gynaecologists and much hilarity on the internet. Some of their recommendations are to avoid non-vegetarian food and banish lustful thoughts, while actively nurturing their spiritual side. The hastily put together corrigendum says the booklet contains only general guidelines culled from years of practise in the fields of yoga and naturopathy. “This is what your mother or grandmother would tell you,” insisted Shaina NC of the BJP on Times Now. “There’s no diktat to follow it.”
Life in India is tough enough. At least we can count on the staggering intellectuals who have written this gem of a booklet to give us a few laughs. It’s not worth wasting newsprint rubbishing the Ayush Ministry’s laughably unscientific theories for pregnant women since you don’t need to be a doctor to gauge its ludicrousness. If anything, this advisory highlights the danger of spreading misinformation in a land still swayed by superstition, where the kaala teeka is taken seriously and where maternal mortality rates remain frighteningly high. However, there is one recommendation that the Ayush Ministry recommends that’s frustrating enough, echoed by professionals in prenatal influence, world over: be happy. Stay stress free. The myth of the perpetually glowing expectant mother is actively encouraged since real studies keep finding their way into the newspapers, on how depression can have long lasting effects on a child. Of course, it would be lovely if one could be boundlessly cheerful while battling nausea and fatigue but reality seldom plays out like that.
It seems patently unfair that expecting women have one more thing to worry about, that their ill temper and mood swings may affect their unborn fetuses. A pregnancy, even the best one, is more like a game of chance, like teen patti where anything can happen. Unless you are a complete dimwit, the question of being ecstatic and stress free, doesn’t arise. You will, in your head, at some level, prepare for the worst (bed rest, miscarriage). Or eventually face other wretched thoughts that can make you miserable during a wildly fluctuating hormonal phase (loss of income, genetic defects). The tedium of nine months and guiltily having to suppress these very natural feelings is nothing but denying the existence of anxiety, which never works. The best advise anyone can give at this point, is that millions of women have had exactly the same thoughts before, and this too shall pass — but not before making you a minimum of 12 kilos heavier. Who, in their right minds, will not feel depressed?
In the list of guidelines by Ayush, the one that stands out the most, is to read the “life history’s of great personalities”. One can only assume they mean biographies of people who have overcome unsurmountable odds, just so that pregnancy seems trivial in comparison. You can hang Van Gogh’s cheerful Sunflowers in your bedroom and force all the spiritual thoughts you like and still be plagued with awful scenarios. The chance at wonder, and joy comes with a whole lot of precariousness. Fortunately as every mother discovers, in life’s balance, it’s worth it.