Growing Up Illegitimate: A Life In The Shadow Of Stigma

A woman finds closure by writing about her secret—being born out of wedlock

A woman finds closure by writing about her secret—being born out of wedlock

Times change and attitudes change, but does the impact of social stigmas on one’s life change as well? I ask this because I am what society calls ‘illegitimate’, a term that brands an individual with the shame of being born out of wedlock, casting a shadow on their identity. Was this my fault? I don’t think it was. But I know that if people found out about this, they would look down on me, and my parents. It makes me wonder—how many people who knew us during the ’70s, ’80s or even the ’90s would have associated themselves with, or acknowledged, our family if they knew this fact?

I was born in 1967 to parents who loved me. How do I know they loved me? Well, if they didn’t, they would have taken the easy way out. They would have aborted me and lived an easy life, free of stigma. But they didn’t. Instead, they decided to try and face society the best way they could and let me come into this world. For this I shall be ever grateful, because today, I have a wonderful husband and two amazing children simply because … they let me live.

I discovered my illegitimacy almost four decades ago, when my mother decided that I should know the truth. I think I was around 13 at the time. I am not sure what I felt when she first broke the news to me. I don’t think I fully realized what it meant. Realistically, I know that it is foolish to blame myself because I didn’t do anything to be born this way, nor did I ask for things to turn out as they did. I cannot help but think about how much the shame of being discovered haunted me for so many years. After all, I was born in India, a country where illegitimacy is considered taboo. At least it was in the 1960s when I was born.

Growing up, my father was very strict, not only with me, but with my mother too. At the time, I thought that he was just being overprotective. He never liked us socializing with the neighbours or me spending time...

Read more!