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“If you educate your daughter, she can ensure your protection too.” “I will educate my daughter, who will educate the men – You?” she asked angrily.
“Madam ji, trust me it is best to kill the girl when she is born,” my house help concluded the conversation. Horrified I looked at her, frantically searching for the right answer. Sadly, there was none.
Our conversation started with the festival of raksha bandhan and how she was going to utilise the extra money that I gave her.
Trigger warning: This article contains some descriptions of violence against the girl child that could be triggering for some readers.
“I don’t get to keep any money, for my own, I have to fulfil the daily needs of my daughter,” she replied.
“Oh, what about your husband?”
“I am getting a divorce from him. Since her birth it has been 4 years, not a single day he has come to visit us.”
“I am sorry to hear about that, but why did you not try to mend things with him?” I enquired.
“Mend? Mend with whom? They have tortured me from the day one of my marriage! And didn’t even look at my daughter when she was born,” she went on for 20 more minutes as to how her husband was never home, took lots of dowry. How she was kept locked in a room, never given healthy food. “The same old social issues we read and hear of every day,” I thought.
Another story of marital disagreement, I concluded and tried to change the subject. “So now that it has been 4 years, are you seeing someone else? It’s high time you start a new life!”
Shyly she said, “Yes”.
“So that’s good news, it’s always best to go for love marriage…” as if I were an expert I bombarded her brains with the pros and cons. Happily, she said, “Yes, my boyfriend’s name is Sanju and we are planning to get married.”
“That’s awesome! So what are you waiting for?” I asked her.
“Already, I informed my husband about the divorce. Now I am waiting for my child to reach the age of 5. Then, I will put her in a hostel and start my new life,” she replied
“Wait. What?” I was shocked as I recollected the sweet smile of the girl who jumped around the house yesterday. “Are you mad? Keep her with you!” I shouted.
“Keep her with you,” she mocked me. “Nobody will give me space in their house, if I bring extra luggage.”
“What nonsense!” still unable to comprehend her reasons, I informed her of cases of child trafficking and rape. She seemed to be equally informed. We discussed at length the recent child rape in Jamshedpur, the Kathua case, the case of the Bihar girls hostel, Nirbhaya, all the front-page news.
“You know all this, still you are ready to send you daughter to a government hostel?” I asked sympathetically.
“Madam, I am 24. If I keep her I would never get married again, nobody in my caste would come forward. Also, keeping her is a headache; since I don’t stay with my husband, drunk men often lurk around my house calling us names.
“They think I don’t have any virtue left, since I am no longer a virgin. Occasionally, I have noticed them eyeing my daughter too! The moment she steps out of the house to go to kindergarten, I start worrying whether I would meet her in the evening or not. I fear what would I do if someone takes her or me?” she asked.
Then she continued, “After 4 years, I met a man who is ready to marry me but on condition that I put my daughter in hostel. Don’t I have the right to start my life afresh? This way I will have a safe home and my daughter would be at government care. Moreover, what is the point in investing in her upbringing, she will ultimately get married to some nonsense man.
“Don’t get me started on marriage cost and dowry. The way our society treats a daughter-in-law, it is almost sure someone will torture her there. God knows how her husband would turn out to be. If he turns out to be a nice man, either the strict biased rules of the society would eat her up or her in-laws will. This way, we both will constantly be at the receiving end. Yes, had my child been a boy, things would have been easier. He could have earned and protected me from a very early age. My husband and in-laws would also have been happy,” she finally stopped to breathe.
Illiteracy, low self-esteem, ignorant, selfish – I was struggling with the words inside my head but nothing seemed to serve the purpose. She had a point but for every problem there is a solution.
I lectured her about how she could educate her daughter and motivate her to get admission in a good college. Then, I gave numerous examples as to how a number of children from a poor background, manage to rise up to the top. “Our Prime Minister is a very good example”, I added.
Laughing she said, “Didi, a male prime minister. Had this been a girl selling tea, people would have kidnapped her, raped her and thrown her in a garbage truck.” She literally spat venom on my face.
Now a bit irritated I said, “See try to figure out a way to keep your daughter with you and re-marry. This is 2019! Lots of people are doing this, nothing to be ashamed of,” I finally managed to frame something to say.
She laughed again, “Such things are easy in a city, not in the village.”
Again, I repeated, “If you educate your daughter, she can ensure your protection too.”
“I will educate my daughter, who will educate the men – You?” She asked angrily
Well, she has a point, I thought. Despite coming from an educated background, I have often been at the receiving end.
My friend tried to rape me once. Molestation was a common thing – uncle, friend, colleagues no one missed a chance. A few years ago, my life had reached a point where I was seriously considering hiding behind the veil of lesbianism. I thought at least I will be surrounded by women and would finally get some relief. Yes, I know it was the stupidest plan one could think of.
Coming out of my thoughts I asked, “Ok, in general, what do you think is the solution?”
Well, with the heights of illiteracy that I have witnessed in most Indian villages, I thought it’s best to ask her the solution and figure out a way to educate more people.
“Madam Ji, it’s best to kill the girl when she is in the womb,” Mamta concluded. “Na rahega baas na bajega basuri” (Where there is no bamboo, there is no flute)
Picture credits: Pexels
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