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Society’s reservations about a girl child surface at unexpected times, in unexpected ways. Even if you think you are past it all.
Once I was visiting a relative at a hospital who had just had her first child, a baby girl. She and her husband were thrilled to welcome their bundle of joy, but while I was there, an aunty came and said, ‘Ladka ho jata to tension free ho jate‘. (You would have become relaxed, if it were a boy.)
A few years later, when I was pregnant with my twins, at a family get together one of my relatives very candidly asked my husband, ‘Aman ji, agar aapki do betiyaan ho gayi to?’ (Aman ji, what if you have two daughters?)
The whole context of asking such a question, specially emphasising the words two and daughters irked me.
But to my surprise, my husband very promptly replied, ‘I’ll give a bigger party!’
Before I decided to pen down my thoughts on this, I was in two minds as I knew, since I have a boy and a girl each, people would think it is easy to preach this feminist stuff.
But as Desmond Tutu once said, ‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.’ Also, the subject of having a female child and specially a second girl is very close to my heart, as I am the second daughter of my parents and I have faced it in person how a second daughter, however dear to her parents, is such a predicament for society. It was one of the reasons why I was a tomboy, an angry child, and a difficult teenager. I was fighting a personal battle of female emancipation in my own way. And I believe these small acts of rebellion at every second house is the reason why such a significant change has been brought in the status of females in last decade itself.
The resistance from the patriarchy was so much that I had decided pretty early on in life that I may not marry but I will definitely raise a girl child. Fortunately, I have been blessed with a darling daughter and she is the spice of my life, already .
When I fell in love with my husband (who practices gender equality day in and day out), I finally broke through those shackles which had made me an angry adolescent. In a few years I started taking feminism lightly, because somehow when you get liberated yourself, you think the community has changed. At times, the society modifies itself while talking to a liberal woman.
The illusion was short-lived. When I was expecting and saw other pregnant women around me, society’s real opinion resurfaced. Their hesitations regarding a female child became apparent (specially two girls). That made me realise that even though I had managed to attain an equal status, it doesn’t mean the cause is over. It is still a very weakly supported cause and by questioning women and feminism we are not helping others facing this oppression.
The excuses even educated people give about why they want a son are funny yet saddening.
‘I have a business, we need an heir.’
‘She only has girls/sisters in her family. They would have rejoiced more if it were a boy.’
‘Society is so unsafe for women, that ‘s why we want a boy.’
‘They already have a daughter; a son would have completed their family.’
‘Ladka ho jata, to achha hota!’ and other nonsensical and lame arguments which do not even deserve a rebut.
Even I was not exempted from these rubbish statements. A lady visiting me in the hospital when my twins were born, very joyfully came and exclaimed, ‘Agar Mansi ke do ladke ho jate, to nazar lag jati!’ (If Mansi would have had twin boys, she would have become a prey to the evil eyes.)
Indirectly, she was rejoicing the birth of my daughter, as that meant that my situation was not near perfection according to her. Such is the mentality of women around us, who think having a daughter is an eyesore which distorts the perfect family picture .
These incidents have made me more determined to voice an opinion and not allow anything around me that perpetuates such orthodox and repulsive attitude.
To conclude I would like to quote Elizabeth Gilbert: ‘Whatever you allow, will continue.’
Published here earlier.