By: Raju Athokpam
Getting a baby to sleep is way to go, what will happen in case of ear piercing? Nahutpa, as it is called, is considered one of the most essential event in one’s life. In the event of death, some even went to the extend of performing different ritual depending on whether the decedent had done the nahutpa or not. Leaving aside the metaphysical sentiments, I see an unethical element. A child came alone to this world, with his mother as a medium. He is totally ignorant of life yet with full of life in stock. He is as much an individual as we all are. Later, he will decide what is right or wrong by himself and will be leading a complete life like anyone else.
Without his consent, it will be unfair to leave a mark on him that will remain throughout his life. When he is little grown up, the elders can ask him if he wants his ear get pierced. It is highly likely that he nods because everyone he see will have pierce ears. That will also solve the problem of inconsolable tension the child goes through, in the nahutpa process. If the child says “no” to the above question, it is still all fine. We should rather be happy that, an individual’s concern is heard and respected.
In regards to “identity” of the self w.r.t. our society or of holding the “collective conscience”, the child – which still awaites the development of his cognitive faculty like reasoning, knowledge etc. – should not be made the victim. Even the answer (incase a “yes”) to the question of nahutpa should be deliberated. The very act of piercing can be perfom anytime in his life, the psychology of himself feeling out of crowd or not, is upto him.
Jingle baby anklets, coming to this, what are the ideas behind wearing them on the babies? A tracking device? A decoration? An automatic rhythmic instrument to make the child happy? To the first question: Animals, when protection is needed, are tagged and they are traced. To the second question: Humans are not meant to be decorated. They wear clothes because it is considered to be proper and they make themselve beautiful/handsome by embrassing certain styles at their own will. Anklets, to be taken as part of apparel is purely subjective and should be left to the will of the individual (read child). Here, only the “will” is needed, not “right/wrong” – a dichonomy or even “good/bad” – a continum.
The arguments above doesn’t mean that we stop using baby anklets rather it is a message, highlighting some bad implication that we should better be conscious of. In order words, the tradition of wearing anklets on babies should be taken as a lenient folkways and not as a social mores.
Coming to the baby’s mother, I want to counter the tradition of do’s and don’t on her diet. The tradition seems to had codified even how much drop of water to be drank by her (surely my exaggeration). When the obstetrician advices that the mother can eat anything, what is the logic behind not believing the doctor’s words and enforcing the archiac not-to-eat unquestionable list? Innocently speaking, our skin do not get burnt when we sweat, even after eating enough oo-morok (a chilly). But let me be quick to add, the chilly has an effect on stool. On the same line of aurgument, any edible will usually be good to eat without affecting the Breast milk but some of them will undoubtedly affect it. Now am I contradrating myself by earlier denouncing the traditional not-to-eat list and simultaneously uphelding cause-effect logic on food?
My reason is this. To err is human and learning should be constant. The mother should be allowed the freedom to choose what she wants to eat. Only if it is not going well with the baby’s metabolism, she can trace what food was eaten and stop and expirement and so on and so forth. For example, a heavy coffee drinking may affect child’s sleep due to caffiene contains. The “end” we look is mother and baby’s wellbeing and all we need to decide is what “means” to undertake. The traditional means is worse than the one mentioned above and is twofoldly explained. First, by exercising freedom, the confidence level of the mother increases. It is vital of the baby’s overall progress in life. Second, every human is unique and a more unique will unequivocally be the relation of two humans. Therefore what suit well with a mother-baby couple may not necesarily be true for some another.
Culture is too intricate and it is continously being crafted since time immemorial. There are plethora of detail in our culture which are extremely beautiful and ingenious as well. But as it evolves, let the things you see as depreciating, undergo a rational enquiry. Afterall, social dynamics with a scientific temper is what we all are involved in.