Sakshi Nanda is a writer, with a past stint in the publishing industry. She says, “I love cooking ideas, and having them read even more!” She blogs at Between Write And Wrong.
Not all of us are conceived in the hope of a boy. But I was. Most certainly I was.
I felt it as I came into her room. The hushed sense of disappointment. I hear it now too, but in whispers. Makes me feel a little unwanted, and even after 19 years of my life. I’m not complaining, though. It’s just how things are, I have grown up to realise. When the first born is hoped to be a boy, and at least the second, the third girl is thrice removed from all things welcome – a reality we live in, I live in. Perhaps you too?
I sit and try to imagine.
I try to imagine the expression on my mother’s face when the nurse must have announced to her – It’s a girl. Or maybe – It’s another girl. ‘Another’ becomes ‘just another’after a row of 2 others. They say so, but I hope it’s not true.
My mother. Was she disappointed? Cried out of tiredness, maybe? For being made to try and have a son. Months of pregnancy, 3 times over and in our kind of life. One after the other, as if pushing to fill a vacuum around. And inside. Did she cry because she did not want me, or because her family did not want another of my kind? She cried whole-heartedly. Must have lamented the absence of a womb that could not produce a boy but only 3 burdens as they call us, with me being the last. The heaviest. The nail that sealed the box of hope, never to be opened.
But I want to know if in her heart of hearts she was happy. Happy to see a healthy baby girl staring at her dripping eyes. Her bones her blood her breath her life. Something is asking me to believe that she was. That those were tears of joy. A secret. A silent secret between her and me.
But I will never know. For she will never tell me. And I never asked. Even though she was always by my side.
Always by my side.
Brought me up fine, so don’t get me wrong. Third hand clothes are as full of love as new ones, if not more. By the time I was born, my parents were used to us … frocks in the house. And I grew up on my own – stumbling, copying my sisters and using their books in school. I was not denied anything, not at all. For whatever my needs demanded was already available. Because my 2 sisters came before me. My own. What new could I ask for? I was well-provided, already. Born into it. And I studied well. I’m sure my mother noticed.
I know she was proud of me. She just did not know how to show it, yes, that’s what it must have been.
Even though it felt like we were passing time in school, till bigger more important things consumed us. The eldest got married when she learnt to plait her hair neatly. She used to cry hiding behind the curtain even as my parents spoke of preparations for her marriage. All I could hear was numbers, with 3 being repeated often. She should have been happy. Very happy. She is going to look like a queen and become Mrs. Isn’t that going up in life? Why is she crying?
Maybe because she knew that after she left, the 3 would become 2, a lighter number, but an unbearable thought inside. Because she would now be 1. We were used to being 3, all along.
Inside my mother’s heart too, perhaps this thought.
That kind heart. She would give her an extra roti, I noticed. Mothers understand. And then tell her to wind up the kitchen as she went to lie down. Was it sobs I heard, inside? I don’t know. I didn’t ask. I never asked anything. Either too young or the third. For instance, when the second in line refused to marry for she wanted to become a teacher, I supported her. She slapped me across my face. My mother. Said what would I understand, the 3rd in line, what it is to have 3 daughters. I did not ask to be born, but yet again, I was reminded that I came into their lives. After all, I did come into their lives, didn’t I? That slap …
But my parents were stressed. What is there to forgive? The arrangements the settlement the final wedding day. I knew, inside, they loved me too. Equally. Maybe more even. Especially my mother. Here I was, her daughter her kind. Third one. So what? So what?
She had to love me. There can be no other way.
I’m pregnant. With my first child. The pains are coming on and the nurse keeps coming in to check on me. And so I wander.
I’m not as strong as my mother. I know she loved to have me around, but couldn’t say it. Show it all the time. Stand by me, or my sisters. I know. She had to take care of so much else. That bag of bones. Maybe my father too loved me, but surely my mother loved me a lot. Even though she cried when I was born. Tears of joy. I never asked. But what else could they be?
I’m not as strong as my mother.
Within. And without.
I want a girl. I only want a girl.
And I will show her my smile as soon as she comes into my arms.
No, I will not cry. I will dance.
Today’s changemaker of the day that we’d like to highlight is Adharshila, a Delhi based NGO with a focus on education – Adharshila focuses on vocational training for young women to prepare them for livelihoods and independent lives, as well as remedial training and other support such as computer classes, for children from underprivileged backgrounds.
Vocational training programs like these are critical for young women, many of whom do not have much formal education, to access the job market. Further, many are practically single mothers and head their households, with absentee or abusive husbands. Courses like these give them the confidence they need, besides the skills to support their families.
Pic credit: Crystal Artwork (Used under a Creative Commons license)