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In a letter that she has written to a daughter she would love to adopt some day, Kasturi Patra tells her to be herself, not trying to ‘please others’ as a girl is expected to. “Don’t let anyone tell you what to do,” she says.
The Indian girl child is told often enough that she doesn’t deserve better. That she’s nothing more than a womb. That she can’t possibly ask for more. Yet, women refuse to give up on the dream of equality, of seizing their place in the sun. Starting 6th October 2018, as part of the conversations we have at Women’s Web for the International Day of the Girl Child on 11th October, we present a special series in which a few of our best authors write about #GirlPower. Some write from their own experience as girls, some about the significant girls in their lives, and some even to future daughters – a rich tapestry of emotions that is woven with love, bravery, inspiration, hope, fear, pain, and so much more.
“You cannot please everyone,” says Kasturi Patra in a sparkling letter to a daughter that she hopes she will adopt some day. She says that when anyone tells you how to be or what you can’t do as a girl, “you can tell them you are a human being and you can do anything that a boy can. There’s no separate code of conduct for girls.”
I have a dream of adopting you someday. So, consider this a letter that you might read years from now.
I picture you climbing a tree, or feeding your pet, or reading a book when I come over and ask you to read this letter. You’d shake your head and frown. ‘Uff Ma, can’t you see I’m busy?’ And I’d smile and say, ‘You’re always busy, little one, but this is important.’ And then you’ll shake your head as if you are my mother and not the other way around. Then, you’ll sit next to me on the window ledge that overlooks our garden and you’ll start reading it while I detangle your tresses with my fingers.
So, what is it that I want to tell you? Some things I wish I was told when I was your age.
Amy Poehler said, “It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to be sorry for.”
I’m still doing that unlearning thing, but I don’t want you to go through the same, alright? Hence, my first advice to you is: Stop being sorry for being you!
You cannot please everyone. Keep this is mind, darling. There might be people who think you’re too loud for a girl, or you eat too much for a girl, or that you’re too rude for a girl.
There’ll be others who might think that you aren’t pretty enough, or thin enough, or fair enough.
Some might ask you why you love to climb trees instead of playing with dolls, others might tell you what professions suit a girl or what’s the right age to get married…blah blah blah.
When people act this way, just forget that I asked you not to swear. After you’re done swearing, you can tell them you are a human being and you can do anything that a boy can. There’s no separate code of conduct for girls.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot opt for a certain job, or you cannot wear specific clothes, or you cannot do something because you’re a girl.
Remember these words by Chimamanda Adichie,
“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man. Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same?”
So, whether you decide to marry or not, or you decide to have children or not, whether you choose to be with a boy or a girl, these are yours and yours only to decide. Just choose a partner who is kind and wise and someone who makes you laugh and is your friend before anything else. Trust me, at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.
Also, you don’t have to be nice to others even when they’re being jerks. If someone or something is making you uncomfortable, you can walk away from the situation. If you don’t want to go to a party, or be with your friends, or date a boy, at any point in time, you’re not comfortable doing something, you have the right to say ‘No’ and walk out. And make sure that no is heard. Don’t be with people who don’t understand the concept of consent.
Believe in the power of sisterhood. Help other women whenever you can, instead of believing the rumour that women tear each other down. That’s just patriarchy trying to stop us from uniting because together we’re a force to reckon with.
Make friends that matter. Friends who will have your back and who will care for you irrespective of your life situations. Be there for your friends.
When I was a little girl, my mother used to treat me very differently from my brother. I wasn’t allowed to go outside by myself, I was only allowed to learn music when I actually wanted to dance and swim. I was supposed to wear clothes approved by my mother. My brother, on the other hand, got all the freedom he wanted. I felt it was unfair. So, I used to hide things from my mother. I don’t want a similar relationship between the two of us.
May you always find the confidence to confide in me. I promise I’ll try my best to guide you rather than smother your wishes and trample upon those with my diktats. You are free to choose your passions and you’re free to choose your friends. You’re absolutely free to choose the kind of woman you want to become.
I just want you to know that I’ll love you no matter what and you’ll always have me as a guide and a friend.
Now, you can go back to your cat.
Read all the #GirlPower posts in this series here.
Image source: Shutterstock
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I read like a maniac, like my life depends on it. I also write and
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