"Only one wedding invitation this year so far" my father complained. "Usually, every year we get so many wedding invitations that I would get concerned about being forced to skip some. And, only one this year. Every day I look at the mailbox hoping there would be an invitation" he added.
I wasn't sure if it was one of those conversations in which I merely had to listen. After all, it is not always that people look for responses to everything they say. Sometimes, they merely want to express a thought. An emotion. Nothing more to it.
It took me a long time to figure that out. Well, it was the daughter who explained that concept a few years ago when she was an undergraduate student. Whereas I thought that as the father I had to act on whatever she said, it turned out to be otherwise. Apparently, all I had to to was to listen. Life became easier after that!
Now, with father, hey, we are both men too. Men don't emote--we are doers. Or so, I thought. The nerd in me kicked in.
"I know what you mean. It is all the demographic changes. Over the years, our people in South India have been having fewer and fewer kids, and now it is showing up. Further, the kids are delaying getting married, and sometimes choose not to get married. Thus, unlike the old days, you no longer have a bunch of weddings every season. Invitations to weddings will be rare anymore."
And then for a good measure, I added, "the trend is that you can expect more second marriages anymore." I was referring to the post-divorce second marriage, of course, which is a case of hope triumphing over experience!
That killed the topic and father moved on to something else.
I am guessing that I was merely supposed to listen and say "aha."
It is not that I was citing incorrect data. When people--even those within India--think about population, they often work with images of the old India. The old India where men and women married when fertile and couples had anything between two and five children. But, those were old stories. In a matter of two generations, the story has been completely re-written.
Among us three siblings, my brother is the big family man with two children! One kid seems to be the new normal, and there are quite a few without kids. Without kids because they chose not to get married, or after marriage they don't have children for whatever reason.
Our minds haven't adjusted to this new reality and, thus, father hasn't revised his expectations for wedding invites.
The map below says it all--TFR is the average number of children that a woman has in her childbearing years.
Tamil Nadu, where my people hail from, has fertility rates that are lower than the rates here in the US. Americans, who are long used to images of too many babies in India, might find it a shocking revelation that we in the US have, on an average, more children than women do In Tamil Nadu, or in Kerala, or in Karnataka, or in .... These are not states with small populations either. As this Wikipedia entry helpfully points out, Kerala's population makes it a Canada-equivalent. Tamil Nadu is like Turkey. With its low fertility rate, Karnataka is really like Italy!
Thus, wedding invitations have become rare.
Weddings are, of course, not merely about weddings. They are occasions for reunions. Meeting with friends and families. I know that is what father is referring to. He misses those opportunities to say hello, and more, to people. He was expressing that emotion. I should have done what my daughter advised me a long time and merely said "aha." Well, stupid is as stupid does!