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I am a mother of a daughter, and the world around makes me fear for her safety. Isn't it unfair that I have to curb her freedom to keep her safe?
I am a mother of a daughter, and the world around makes me fear for her safety. Isn’t it unfair that I have to curb her freedom to keep her safe?
It was the same nightmare … again.
I clutched the tiny hand of my daughter, sleeping next to me, and mumbled a silent prayer. It has become a frequent pattern since I became the mother of a daughter. And I am not the only one gripped with this lunatic misery. There are many more, just like me, living in this constant fear, waking up in the middle of the night with an uneasiness down their gut.
Often I stop watching the television and throw away the newspaper. But whatever I do, I still cannot take it out of my head—those screaming ‘breaking news’. “Five-year-old brutally raped; New-born raped and murdered; 80-year old gang-raped; Bride burnt alive for dowry; Woman attacked by acid, and so on.”
Everyday newspapers bleed and Televisions howl – one rape every 10 minutes in India; statistics hammer down the ugly truth. I live this nightmare again and again, feeling the pain of the families of those poor girls, feeling their loss, sharing their fear, dreading and praying to god to protect me from this misfortune … Because I am the mother of a daughter.
She—my daughter— is a lovely child, a mischievous smile plays on her rosy lips and her twinkling eyes reflect a fearless laughter. Like a bird she flies around hiding here and there. I dread this brave innocence of hers and thus, I cook up stories of some invisible monster who will grab her if she is out of my sight. I watch her innocent smile vanish and a shadow of terror fill in her beautiful eyes, and I sigh … Because I am the mother of a daughter.
The headlines scream again and I scream at her for taking candy from that old man in the bus. I scream at her for waving to the lift-man and taking a joyride with the neighbourhood uncle. With one excuse or another, I check upon her when she is with someone, be it a neighbour, a classmate, a teacher or a cousin. I trust no one … Because I am the mother of a daughter.
I daydream the nightmares in crowded and lonely places. The other day I grabbed her arm so tightly that my fingers left a red mark on her tender wrist and she yelped in pain. But I still didn’t let it go and almost dragged her along with me, like a handcuffed criminal … Because I am the mother of a daughter.
They—the books—teach her to be pleasant and friendly with everyone, but I tell her to be rude and not to smile to the strangers. They teach her not to be afraid but I scare her with the stories of imaginary ghosts who will snatch her if she doesn’t listen to me. They teach her to greet everyone and share her things but I tell her never ever to accept even a candy from anyone. They teach her to speak truth but I tell her to lie if someone asks her anything personal. I unwind the stories she learns and the fairytales she watches, and recompose them with a different moral … Because I am the mother of a daughter.
She wanted to be a dancer but I stopped her from the dancing classes because it was too far. She liked swimming for long hours but I told her to hurry back before it grows dark. She was fascinated by rock-climbing but I could not risk an injury. She loved football but that will tan her beautiful fair skin. I try to mould her in any way I can and teach her ‘virtues’ suitable for good girls … Because I am the mother of a daughter.
Author’s note: Any crime against a woman/girl produces a ripple-effect; it has many direct and indirect victims. Even though we speak of women emancipation, gender-equality, and gender sensitization, the ghastly nature of crime and the statistics force us to snatch the innocence from our daughters and take away that Right of a carefree childhood. What bigger injustice than this can be there that we start ‘punishing’ them from this very tender age for being a potential victim, for being a source of our ‘fears’?
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Published here earlier.
Image source: shutterstock
Vartika Sharma Lekhak is a writer based in India. She is the author of the short-story collection – Bra Strap and two anthologies – When Women Speak Up, and The Take Off.
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Chetan Bhagat had no business slut shaming Uorfi Javed or any other woman. If he wants to 'guide' young men in the 'right direction' then he should take accountability for his words.
Chetan Bhagat, one of India’s bestselling authors, thought it was an ingenious idea to slut-shame Uorfi Javed, an Indian actress and influencer, at the Sahitya Aaj Tak literature festival.
“Phone has been a great distraction for the youth, especially the boys, spending hours just watching Instagram Reels. Everyone knows who Uorfi Javed is. What will you do with her photos? Is it coming in your exams or you will go for a job interview and tell the interviewer that you know all her outfits? On one side, there is a youth who is protecting our nation at Kargil and on another side, we have another youth who is seeing Uorfi Javed’s photos hiding in their blankets.”
Uorfi Javed responded with a video on her Instagram stories calling out Bhagat’s bluff. She shared the screenshots of his previous chat conversations with Ira Trivedi, author and yoga instructor, which came to light during the #MeToo movement.
While boys are taught to naturally own the space they enter, girls are taught to give up, to accommodate, to adjust since "it is their primary responsibility to keep families and relations together."
Yesterday, I was watching these 4 young girls around 16 – 17 years old play badminton. They were having fun, goofing around with all 4 of them equally involved in the game.
In some time two of their male friends joined them, and as part of round robin, the 2 boys replaced two of the girls. All good.
As the play continued, I started noticing a change in the way the game was being played. The shuttle was played most of the times between the two boys and there was a sense of competition and aggression brought in. The other 2 girls playing soon starting losing interest in the game as they hardly got any game time. Even if the shuttle came towards them, the boy in their team would move and play that shot. They soon moved to the sidelines as the boys continued to play.
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