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In a battle between the rights of a daughter and the rights of a son, it is usually the son who wins. This daughter, though, rose above it all!
Hailing from a typical middle class family, as a daughter I had no big dreams of doing what I wanted to do.
The environment was such that I was stereotyped to be a regular ‘responsible’ daughter who would get some education and learn her household duties, ‘settling down‘ after the usual arranged marriage.
As a child, I often visited my grandmother, to her village a short distance away from the city where my family stayed. While there, I was an independent girl! I was allowed to play, talk whatever I wanted to, and willingly I would offer to help my aging grandmother by fetching water from nearby well, assisting her in washing clothes, etc… I used to love every bit of what I was allowed to do.
That was just a snap shot of how simple and fulfilling my childhood was, until I grew up to study harder than my elder brother. My parents never differentiated between us then, in the kind of early education they gave us in their limited salary.
I developed a sense of moving forward every time I did well in school. During my college days, I saw my brother fail miserably in his engineering and I followed his footsteps (which I regret). My big brother and I started bonding over each other’s failures. With great difficulty my brother and I passed out with a second class degree certificate in engineer.
It is at this point in time that I woke up – I wondered who would give me a job after my mediocre performance in my engineering. The same thought lingered in my brother’s mind as well. But wait, did I say I was the daughter of the house? Well, yes I had no back up plan to study further unlike my big brother.
In a few months’ time, while I looked around for a job with my mediocre grades, my brother was getting ready to do a MBA or something like that in a UK based university. I was hopeful about doing something similar, too, but when I looked to my parents, I was told “Sorry darling, you should search for a job, while we look around for a marriage proposal for you!” When I look back now, this was a blessing in disguise, but at that time I was only left jealous of my brother who I thought was lucky to be able to go to a foreign university.
My dad took a loan for the higher education of my brother, and I continued with my job hunt. I took many interviews and finally got a chance to prove myself. I sent an email my brother about my new found success and I think he was happy then. I was offered Rs 10,000 salary per month, and I thought I can move on. While I didn’t have anyone’s footsteps to follow now, I trusted hard work and continued to make a way into the corporate world.
Finally, my brother was done with his education and he passed his MBA or something like that in flying colors. My parents were so proud of him, dreaming of a secure future where they both would not have to work. My brother, however, came back and announced that he would start his new venture and he just needed the ‘financial support’ to fulfill his dreams.
I politely asked, “Annaiah, are you sure about starting up on your own?” He retorted, “You work like a slave for fifteen thousand bucks, who do you think you are to ask me?” as if I had said something stupid!
He tried to get work from some of his contacts in Bangalore. The loan taken to help him financially piled up on my father’s head, as my brother had now started to live like a millionaire. He had expensive drinks at a pub with his network of people who promised him with ‘fruitful’ or ‘gainful’ employment/business. When he didn’t earn anything, I started paying him for his expenses. Not just I, my dad and mother all started paying for him and his loan. I started paying for his hospital expenses as well. But, there was a point when I said no to handing him free money, and I was immediately treated like a piece of trash.
My brother started shaming me for my dark skin, how I remained unmarried because of it, and that no man would ever marry me as I was a ‘beast’ in his eyes. I often started fighting back but was emotionally too damaged to make him shut up.
When I decided to marry a colleague (who is now my husband), my brother did his best to torture me. And this time now he started taking pleasure by slut shaming me. Somehow my parents were never there for my rescue. To add more grief, my brother brought in the topic of caste to disrupt my plans to wed. He barged into my office premises to get me ‘fired’ from my job and he often looked into my eyes to say, “I will finish you, you black witch!”
His verbal abuse cracked all the moral limits and I had to call for police help. He was taken aback, as he did not think he was doing anything wrong – after all, he was the man, and I was a ‘mere girl’ for him, wasn’t I?
Now that I have married, despite all those threats, the abuse happens only when I visit my parents. He stays at my parents’ house as he feels he has the rights. Time and again, I get to hear a century old devil inside of my brother say, “you have no rights for this property, why do you come here?”
I don’t react, but I know my rights and as well as my responsibilities. I have pledged to myself that in spite of no support from my parents during my struggling days, I will continue to take care of them and keep them happy. As far as the brother is concerned, I know I will be a winner someday.
Image source: shutterstock
I am a mother of a beautiful daughter working as a software professional based in
It is unfortunate that you have experienced this. But your story is very commonplace in traditional patriarchal families and societies around the world. “Family horror stories” are never revealed for the sake of the “family honour”. If logic prevails we must ask the question-What honour is left of a family (parents or others) when an individual child or member is abused, tormented or lives a broken life because of a family’s choices or decisions? Is there no accountability or less of it towards a daughter because she may not speak up and expose the rot? Is the concept of traditional values of “family unity and strength” all an illusion and a farce that the patriarchy has set up ages ago and still upholds to conveniently continue a selfish, vain and pretentious custom. If one peels off the layers of patriarchy, the rot is very deep and often either swept under the carpet or cloaked in other nonsense-eg. practises like ‘raksha bandan’!! This is just the hard protective shell of indeed something very hollow and even sinister, inside!! You are not alone. Indian girls and women face systemic, continuous, widespread and obvious discrimination starting in the womb until death. Educated Indian women must not be afraid to go within and revisit their experiences and not be silent but make vocal their protest and reject the continuation of these pretentions for themselves and their daughters.
We see only what is before our eyes, I have learned that misery is also a form of life. There are entire nations, entire communities, entire tribes for whom misery is a given. We speak up only for ours. But if you thought of it, your brother must be a lot more miserable all his life because he was expected to do things he was not ready for. Misery in families that differentiate is divided proportionately.
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