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Four years ago.
I call my mother a few days before Navratri.
Amma: uff, I am having trouble finding a girl
RM: What? Girl?
Amma: A girl child, a kanya ponnu to give the clothes for Navami pooja. You know RM, with this girl-boy ratio going so haywire, eventually we are going to have no girls left in this world and everyone will be searching frantically for that one girl who is left and she will become like a Goddess or something.
I laugh at my mom’s imagination.
Three years ago.
I am getting ready to pick up R from the daycare after a day of work-from-home, the door bell rings. A lady and her husband are outside.
Lady: Hi, is there a little girl in this house?
RM: Errr…no..I mean, yes but she is not here now
Lady (a bit disappointed): Oh okay, can you please give her this? (She hands me a dabba of prasad, and some coins in it and a big water bottle.)
RM: Errr..who are you?
Man: We live on the 10th floor of your building. We were searching for a baby girl to give the asthami prasad and yours is the only one we were told about, so we came to give it.
RM: oh okay, come in, come in, and so on…
Two years ago.
I get a call on the intercom.
Voice: Madam, Do you have a girl child in the house?
RM: Who is this please?
Voice: I am calling from **** flat; actually we were searching for a girl child for the asthami pooja of navratri and unfortunately there are none in the vicinity we know. Then the watchman said that you have a daughter who is about 3 years old. Can you send her and we can do her pooja?
One year ago.
Office friend: You know RM, my mother in Meerut is having so much trouble trying to find a small girl for the asthami pooja. Everyone seems to have only boys.
The door bell rings and RD opens it. A lady says that someone told her that there is a girl child in our house and she has been searching all through 3 buildings to find one to give the asthami prasad.
I get reminded of my mother’s words four years ago.
Is it true? Are kanya ponnus* really getting difficult to find? Or is it just that I am experiencing this because I have a 5 year old at home? I do feel if the female infanticide continues at this rate and Khap panchayats continue to flourish, what else should we expect?
Will my mother’s sinister words come true, in the future?
*kanya ponnu – A girl who has not yet attained puberty. In the south of India, such a girl is given clothes, prasad, etc since she is considered to be a Goddess.
Similarly in the north of India, a girl who has not yet attained puberty is treated as a Goddess on the Asthami day where people actually do her pooja by falling at her feet and giving her prasad and clothes and stuff since she is considered a Goddess incarnate.
Today’s changemaker that we’d like to highlight is Population First, a non-profit that works on the issue of population in India, from the perspective of women’s rights and access to information about reproductive health as well as contraception. Rather than looking at it as a question of numbers to be “controlled”, Population First focuses on working with local communities and using tools including mass media, to improve the very poor awareness on ground about fertility, spacing and women’s autonomy over their bodies.
The Laadli campaign by Population First focuses on sex selective abortions that are rampant in India despite being illegal. You can follow them on Facebook too.
Pic credit: Doubleray (Used under a Creative Commons license)
R’s Mom is a working mother in Mumbai trying to balance work, home and
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