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In a society that penalises its women if they give birth to girls and devalues its daughters, a choice to have an only girl child is revolutionary.
My house help Bimla has four daughters. It was taxing on her health to have so many children, but her husband forced her to keep trying for a son, until she could bear it no longer and secretly underwent sterilization.
The picture is no different in socio-economically higher echelons of society.
My co-passenger on the Metro, Deepika, fourth among seven sisters, divulges that her parents’ mission for a son would have continued but for the untimely demise of her industrialist father. Arushi, my college classmate whose father was a senior railway official, has three younger sisters: the outcome of her parents’ desire for a male heir. A dream that did not come true.
In the current Indian social milieu there exists a premium on the male child; pre-natal determination of sex and female foeticides are rampant. Quite naturally it’s heartening to meet couples who rock around clock with a single — and most importantly — a girl child!
Hyderabad based senior journalist Ashok Patnaik’s daughter Disha is 12. Says he “My wife and I always wanted a daughter. It was as if God was listening to our prayers and we were blessed with a daughter. She’s the best we could have asked for… Despite society’s condescending take on a girl child; both our families were equally ecstatic and always supported us.”
Wife Archana adds “It was our mutual decision to have one kid. We wanted to bring up our daughter in the best possible manner and give her everything we could. Initially some friends and relatives suggested why not go for another— a boy, but we resisted. My husband has always been supportive and loves our daughter to the moon and back. She’s the reason for our happiness.”
Ex airman-turned-bank employee Parimal Debnath and wife Minoti were ecstatic when they had a daughter five years after their marriage. No wonder they lovingly named her Roopkatha (fairytale). Says Minoti, “She is the very centre of our existence.”
Mercifully the duo never faced any social pressure from their families. Undue curiosity from folks around was firmly quashed. The sprightly girl confidently joins college tours and excursions sans family, since her parents have groomed her to be independent and take her own decisions.
Parimal says, “The idea of vansh parampara (perpetuating family lineage) is fat load of rubbish. I believe no family line can continue unless girls are born into it.” He adds “My daughter’s now an adult fully conscious of her rights and duties towards society. That’s all that matters.”
Saleena and Raghavendra Sharma became parents of girl child, four years into their wedlock. At the very outset they had decided that they would have a single issue. “You bring the kid up the way you wish to but it will be just one” he had told her.
Saleena candidly admits, life was no bed of roses. Delayed childbirth and on top of it a girl? Raghavendra’s paternal aunt (among others), would perpetually rave and rant: “My brother’s only son…if he has no son who will carry on our family’s lineage?” The duo faced agonizing moments owing to tremendous social pressure but refused to buckle down.
Today daughter Oorja, 22, is a medical student in Mumbai. Saleena feels in today’s scenario it is wiser for couples to make solid investments and acquire resource for their future lives rather than having many kids (read boys), and expect to be looked after by them.
Showbhik Chowdhury, Deputy Executive Producer at India Today is proud dad of Shayeri, all of 10. He had a consensus with his wife Tulip while planning a family.
Showbhik discloses, “For us gender didn’t matter at all. The priority was a normal and healthy child.” Any thought about a son – or lack of one- never crossed their minds.
There were also many pragmatic issues to be considered. Showbhik elaborates, “We didn’t want to divert our funds and resources towards upbringing of another child and compromise on her education. We hoped to lavish all our love, care, and attention on our only child.” Fortunately for them both their families were supportive of their decision, though Tulip confesses that her neighbours harangued her over having a single child instead of two.
As they begin to grow up, daughters often begin to be friends and caregivers for the parents.
Ashok reveals, “Before I leave for work Disha keeps everything – car keys, handkerchief and wallet – at one place so that I don’t miss any, which otherwise I often tend to forget. She unfailingly asks which belt or watch I would prefer. She knows my choices better than my wife.”
When she is home on vacation, Oorja takes utmost care of her parents’ health.
Showbhik has a teammate in Shayeri when it comes to reading, discussing politics and of course cooking!
Roopkatha shares great camaraderie with her parents. The trio gets along like a house on fire, their topics of conversation ranging from politics and current affairs, music and food to birds and bees, and value creation!
The underlying purpose of my post is to shake the ‘want a son’ freaks out of their stupor, and show them that life can be full of smiles, and sunshine even in the absence of ‘boy’ children.
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