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“Ashtaputra Saubhagyawati Bhava” is considered the highest blessing for a woman. What is with the Indian obsession for male children?
I was in a happy space that morning as the first kiss of Monsoon had come knocking right outside and the suddenly changing weather was an absolute delight. I was excited to meet my son who was returning from his summer break at Bangalore. My maid had landed early. Meeting her on a weekday is a rarity. I was preparing to leave for office, and for a few minutes, got catching up on a brief conversation about random stuff with her.
She was feeling a little unwell and we started to discuss her health. After discussing a variety of topics, our focus ultimately shifted to the number and gender of kids each one of us has. She claimed that I am luckier than her because I have a son. No matter how much I tried to convince her that I feel lucky – but not because I have a son but because of my daughter, she refused to buy my argument.
I tried to reason with her that in our culture daughters are treated as a blessing and that I prayed hard during my second pregnancy to be blessed with a daughter. She stared back at me, looking clueless. She countered with the fact that although she is a mother of two daughters, she now plans to conceive a third time over, in hope to give birth to a male child.
It sounded bizarre. However, I pushed with my best efforts to educate her that in today’s modern times daughters are no less than sons and she should focus instead on their righteous and safe upbringing. I explained to her the merits and demerits of a third pregnancy specially because of her ill health. How could she assure that her third born would be a boy?
At that point in time she looked at me helplessly, before retorting, “no matter how much I believe in my two little girls, my mother in law’s endless taunts are killing me!” Her elder sister too is married into the same family and now happens to be her sister in law (jethani) too. “She too is blessed with two girls, but unlike you and me, those little angles are not treated like blessings but a heavy burden!”
She mustered the courage to say that the fear/thought of her newly married youngest brother in law (read his wife) bearing a male heir was also causing her great heartache! Competition? I was awe struck and chose to lend a patient ear until she was done.
However, deep down I felt a strange pity for her. But at the same time I thought that she being an independent working woman should learn to take charge of her right to childbirth! My thoughts drifted to her earnings and I made a mental note of her expenses. How would she be able to manage three kids, their basic needs and education? Should she conceive just because her MIL wants to play with a grandson? Does only bearing a male child make you a complete woman or a devoted daughter in law? My head was spinning already when she bombarded me with yet another weird reason that was my brush with the harsh reality of their world – Girls are treated as trash in their culture and this regressive thought process is carried forward by none other than the family elders!
This was crazy! I was flooded with nostalgia and transported back into time where my mom and I would endless discuss girls, baby clothes and accessories for girl children. Oh! how we would stop at infant girls’ sections at malls, sigh and yearn for a girl child. The fact that I used to dress my little boy as a girl explains my yearning for a girl child. My prayers were finally answered with the birth of my doll a few years later.
Soniya, my housemaid belongs to a village in Haryana, a state that has been crippled with an extremely low female:male sex ratio for years. Perhaps this explains why the state is battling with such grave issues. The sad part is that her MIL being a woman herself treats her granddaughters with disdain because she believes girls are trash!
I wonder if she has ever thought that even if her family is blessed with several male children, she would still need a female womb to take her family lineage further? How then can such regressive and arrogant women make life a living hell for her daughters in law and granddaughters living with them?
The answers lie hidden deep within our own selves. It’s for us to unravel the mystery about this extremely regressive Indian culture and our ever lasting obsession with male children. The day we women develop (irrespective of caste, creed and region) a sense of security about our being and realize our prowess & strengths, that day would usher in a new dawn without barriers of superiority about being a boy over a girl!
Published here earlier.
Image source: shutterstock
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