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I am born. I hear cries of “it’s a girl, it’s a girl! Everyone is happy (I think…). I meet my mother. She looks at me with doleful eyes. Why the mixed emotions? Other people come to me and perform traditional and religious ceremonies. I am loaded with flowers, new clothes, gifts and shagun (money).
I am 3 years old. I wear frocks and play with Barbie. I dress her up, she is pretty. I want to be like her when I grow up. Papa says: I am like a doll.
I am 5 now. I go to school. Convent school. We learn, pray and learn. I want to play outside. But, it’s dark now, says Mamma. I play with Dhruv. He is my best friend. Papa tells me to call him “Bhaiyya”. But he is not my brother. I wonder…
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I enter my teens. The school uniform changes. We wear shalwar kameez now. But we did wear skirts before. Why the sudden change. It’s so hot. I wonder…
Today we learned something new at school. Periods. Mamma says: be careful, and don’t talk about it in front of Papa. I also have to wear a bra now. I don’t like it, it hurts me, it’s too tight.
Mamma says I am a big girl now. But they don’t let me go out on my own. I should sit with closed legs and behave properly. I also help in the kitchen now. I can make tea, Maggi and chappatis. Mamma took me to a beauty parlour. I didn’t like it, it was so painful. Why do I need this? Don’t I look okay already?
School trip going to Shimla. I want to go. Papa says no.
I score 85% in 10th boards. Papa is so proud and Mamma is crying with happiness. They tell everyone neighbours, relatives and friends. I get new clothes.
I want to study Political Science. Papa says, take Home Science, it’s best for you.
I go to College. Girl’s College. Again. Boys are bad. Obviously.
I study English Literature. I learn a lot of different things. Mamma doesn’t like some of them. She says it spoils the mind of an innocent, sweet girl like me.
College trip going out again. I plead. This time Mamma supports me. But Papa says, it’s dangerous for young girls to go out alone. I keep quiet.
I graduate with flying colours. Gold medal from the university. Mamma and Papa are very happy. I want to look for a job. I want to write. I want to study further. Abroad. No.
Papa asks what are your future plans? Marriage: Love or arranged? No option.
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A fair, homely, convent-educated, bright girl looks for a teetotaler boy from decent family with a handsome package.
But I don’t want to, do I? I wonder … Mamma said I will start a new life, I should be obedient and dutiful.
Study further: Yes or No.
Job: Yes or No.
Marriage: Yes or No.
I try to rebel. TRY. REBEL.
Pic credit: Martina (Used under a Creative Commons license)
I smash the patriarchy for a living! Founder & Editor-in-chief of Feminism in India.
More power to Girls like you!!!
Just as so many years ago, women like Joan of Arc, Jane Austin, Anandi Bai Joshi, Madam Curie rebelled and broke conventions, Girls like you will bring small changes in the so called traditional Indian society 🙂
And yes, wonderful article.
Thank you Shonali! Yes, small changes are indeed need of the hour! 🙂
Partly my story.
Japleen, this is a great post. I would apologize if I play the devil’s advocate here but I am biased towards my education. I understand that parents think of Home Science as a HOME course but I would share how its more than that. Being a home scientist is not about cooking and stitching and not a entry point to home sector. So the notion that home science vs any other course for girls is a little loose. Though I totally understand the point you are trying to raise, but it pains my heart to see parents thinking of Home Science as a entry point to being a good home maker. I am a home scientist, i talk more politics than kitchen! 🙂 Wonderful writeup! 🙂
Hi Suchi, thank you! 🙂 That’s exactly the point I wanted to raise. I know home science is much more than how to be a good home maker, but that’s how our parents/society sees it. And that is why I deliberately wrote home science though in the end I make my protagonist study English literature. For that matter even arts/humanities is looked down if one compares it to science/commerce. I’m a humanities student and proud of that. 🙂
Apart from literature, this is a lot of my story 😛
Hi Japleen. Loved this one. It is indeed the story which most educated indian girls will relate to. I feel it is very much mine too. But I am into Accounting, which was considered a nono when compared to science.
Hi, thank you Rama. Yes, I know many women would associate themselves with this article. Some of them are my personal experiences too and some what I have seen.
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