Looking forward to the annual budget? Here’s our wishlist for Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman!
Yes, Yes – Happy Daughter’s Day. But it is such a paradox. We celebrate this one day, but do we really celebrate our daughters otherwise?
This may sound like a cliche. But it’s not. You may think it’s not relevant in present times, but it is. Because this is not about our nannis or daddis but it’s about our generation and coming generations.
Even in this millennial age we still hear the blessing ‘suputra praptirastu’. May you have sons. Right? Why have we never heard ‘suputrika praptirastu’? Why? Have we ever thought?
Yes, it’s 2020. We often hear or watch the success stories of women who are progressing in various fields. They are flying jets, running organisations, heading institutions and doing many more things. So then we find people saying “Times have changed. Women are given equal status. Daughters are treated equally with sons. They are being educated. So stop crying foul.”
So everything seems to be fine, at least superficially, right? But in reality, the situation is not a bed of roses. Is the so called progressive society ready to welcome the daughters happily? Or do they have any apprehensions in welcoming their own daughters?
Let’s have a close look at the whole scenario.
Purane jamane ka baat nahi hai yeh… This is not some story of the past.
Yes, many will say I am talking about the issues of previous generations. But, no. It’s not about the older generations.
We have heard the stories of our grannies or their mothers wanting and praying for a male child desperately. That those times were different. Women didn’t have financial freedom. They lived as dependents. Most of them didn’t have education. They were troubled by in-laws. There was the dowry system. Keeping all these things in mind, women feared to give birth to a girl child. They thought themselves lucky when they gave birth to male children. They thought their life’s purpose was served.
Yes, there was nothing to celebrate in a woman’s life in those days. (Wait, patience… I’ll talk about present day, later.) Her birth itself brought sadness. Later she was sent to her in-laws’ house in a hurry. That was a moment of celebration of course, followed by her slavery.
Then the wait started for the arrival of the Mahatma, the son.
If she gave birth to a daughter she was looked down upon. And her troubles continued. If she gave birth to a son, a heir to the vamsa, then she was celebrated as the mother of a son. Her status was uplifted. Not that all the sons were Sravana Kumaras who took care of parents, but sons were sons. They were wanted. For all these cultural and sociological reasons our grannies and their ancestors craved for sons and only sons. And cried their hearts out when daughters were born. They cried out of fear. Fear of ill treatment of them and their daughters. They cried because they were insecure. They cried because they were dependent and not educated.
We can understand all that. We can empathise with them. What about present day mothers? Present day mothers and would be mothers who are well educated, independent career women? No such luck.
You don’t believe me. Right? Let me share a personal anecdote.
A few years ago, I joined a school as a teacher after a break. The principal there was a young and dynamic lady. She was younger to me, and a post graduate. She was an efficient administrator.
On the personal front, her husband was a software engineer. She lost her parents and her in-laws supported her a lot as they were her mama and maami. She had a 5 year old daughter and she was expecting her second child.
As far as I understood, she seemed very progressive and modern woman. Months passed. She worked till the delivery date. Very determined woman. Finally, the delivery date came and she delivered a baby girl. We all went to her house to congratulate her.
We were not prepared for the jolt we got.
All of us went there jovially to wish her during recess as she stayed just beside the school. The maid opened the door, invited us in, and informed her about our arrival. Then came the lady. We were aghast to see her. Her eyes were swollen and red showing that she was weeping continuously.
She welcomed us reluctantly and asked us to sit. She muttered “I don’t understand why God had punished me like this. You know, I never failed in any thing except in this.”
At first I didn’t understand what she meant. When I congratulated her, she remarked very rudely, “Aruna, don’t be so proud that you have two sons. You will definitely have granddaughters only.”
I was shocked at her outburst but replied her that I was not proud for having sons, and I would welcome granddaughters happily. To which she replied cynically, “It’s easy to say. You will understand the difficulty when you have a daughter and bring her up.”
I wanted to say something but my friends stopped me from doing so, and in order to avoid further argument we took leave of her and left.
This was really a jolt to me and I started thinking seriously. This is not the case of an uneducated or poor woman. She is an educated, well to do, modern and independent woman. What was her problem? Why does she want a son so desperately? From then on, I started observing women around me more seriously. The facts that I found really shocked me.
Yes, I’m not talking about the ill fated, uneducated, under privileged poor women who might not know better. I’m talking about the highly educated middle class, upper middle class women, most of who are financially independent. They are ready to fight for their rights with husbands and in-laws. Most of them married persons of their choice. They are not submissive, meek women. But all this independent, progressive thinking, and strong personality traits seemed to be elusive when the choice of a child came. Almost all of them wanted sons, and advanced medical technology came to their rescue.
Not all are like that. But in a majority cases, in urban educated families, it’s the same case. And when a girl is born by accident, the mothers tend to behave like my learned friend.
Is inclusive society, still a distant dream?
Yes, we’re a society where the birth of a healthy girl is not welcome, where people are obsessed with male children. How can we expect a society like this to be inclusive? People are still praying for male children and running around doctors to terminate female foetuses. It’s true. Why is it difficult to bring up a girl child? Why do we still consider a boy a boon and a girl a bane? What happened to all our education? Why are we so obsessed with the concept of a heir? Are we acting as gate keepers of patriarchy?
I remember the story of Nick Vujicic which I have taught 10th grade children as a teacher.
Nick was born as a torso without limbs. His parents accepted him for how he was, brought him up, and made him independent. Now, he is a motivational speaker. People appreciate Nick for his courage and determination, but I appreciate his parents more. Can we imagine such parents in India?
Yes, we have learnt all the wrong things in our society. We should start unlearning these. When our learning does not help us to progress we should unlearn all that we have learnt and embrace new thinking. We should start introspecting.
What are our fears? What are our insecurities in bringing up girls? Why are we so desperate for boys? I don’t ask you to ‘hate’ boys or terminate male foetuses. But when we decide to give birth we should accept and welcome the child irrespective of gender.
We talk so much about an inclusive society but any change should start from home, I believe. In a society, where a daughter is not welcomed as a human being (why does she have to become Maa Laxmi to justify her life?), and without tears (definitely not tears of of happiness), a happy daughter’s day is a paradox. Long way to go, society.
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Home maker at present. Worked as English teacher. My short stories and poems are published
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