Daughters Will Certainly Get Their Due Soon… In A Future Just On The Horizon!

My MIL must be pleased with the image her family is presenting in the minds of her relatives - her fair DIL, and her grandson standing by her side. I, the wheatish DIL with two daughters, don't count.

I just stood and watched as Prabha brought her teenage son in proudly, keeping a hand on his shoulder, guiding him to stand behind his father Nalin, the eldest son of the family who was performing the rituals of our much-loved father-in-law’s ‘barasi’. It was his first death anniversary. My husband, the second son, stood docilely behind his elder brother and, of course, no one asked for my daughters to come. Their presence wasn’t required – they were mere granddaughters, you know.

And Prabha had the trophy – a male to carry the name of the family. My MIL watched the pooja intently with teary eyes. She also kept her hand on the grandson’s shoulder – the physical chain established – content that everything was going on perfectly as it is traditionally meant to go.

My teenage daughter Rashi had been my right hand in organizing the whole function. This pooja havan on large scale, with thirteen brahmins to be fed, and nearly two hundred relatives to be served lunch – required preparations on a war footing if things were to go smoothly. Prabha and Nalin had arrived from Bombay the previous evening. So, for the last fortnight, my family had been doing the lion’s share of work. These star performers from Bombay as usual arrived, took center stage, enjoying all the ‘what-a-dutiful-son’ vibes, and will be gone tomorrow with excuses of ‘leave problem, you know’ that people in jobs face. What do we mere businesspeople know about such things? They came, they graced the occasion and they departed. That’s the definition of proper. They deserve a pat, you know, flight fares and all that! And I will be left to handle all the aftermath and the hard work required to get the home running back again on its well-oiled wheels.

My MIL must be pleased with the image her family is presenting in the minds of her relatives – her fair DIL, and her grandson standing by her side. Worth a five-star rating! I, the wheatish DIL with two daughters, cannot come near that charmed circle – being included was out of the question. That I had a Ph.D. which I had painstakingly acquired while running the house, and bringing up my children – was no great thing! Prabha had produced a son in one go and I had not, there! Period. She was not even asked to go for a second child. I had been.

My MIL also has a daughter whom she loves very much because she came after two sons and, therefore, was most welcome. To be fair, my MIL had loved my first daughter also very much as she was the first grandchild in the family.

In psychology parlance, perhaps they will say I have developed some kind of dissociative disorder. You see, I am touching the feet of the relatives, making all the welcoming noises, attending to them, serving food to them but a movie of the last fifteen years is running in my mind silently —

I am pregnant for the second time; I am very happy. Our family is about to be completed. Being an only child, I wanted my daughter to have a sibling. We were all happy, especially my mother because she couldn’t have more children after my birth. Mummy wanted me to have a son as I already had a daughter. One day out of the blue she said, “Disha, why don’t you get tested? Is it a boy or a girl?”

I laughed and said, “Mom patience. We will know in time.”

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“No, no! Get tested.”


“Your MIL and I were talking. With god’s grace (folds her hand) we will get a boy.”

“Ok, then wait for your god’s grace,” I again laughed.

“He is most kind! But get tested,” she insisted.

I was surprised by her insistence. Something struck me and I asked, “Whose idea is this test? Yours or my MIL’s? I know you are not so bright as to get it on your own,” I persisted. To allay her suspicions, I added a mischievous note to my probing, “My MIL- she is smart! She is a good manager and you – you are a simpleton!” I laughed sounding carefree.

“Yes, yes, she is, and it was hers! God bless her! She suggested that we get the baby tested and if it’s a girl then why to put Disha through all the jhanjhat – she is finishing her thesis. As it is she has a lot on her plate – teaching in the college and all that.”

“Hmm, really!”

“Yes beta, she knows you are working hard, dealing with a lot. She is worried about you.”

“Yes, mama!” I agreed with her because it is her policy to see only the best in others. But I knew the Machiavellian manipulations of my MIL’s mindset. Mind you, she is a good woman if you do not go against her wishes. She had adroitly found a mouthpiece for herself. My mother had absorbed the idea and enthusiastically propagated it, hammering me all the time, “It’s for your own good. You look tired. We are all worried about you. Okay, you stop studying; delay your Ph.D.”

“You know mama, I won’t do that. I won’t do that! I cannot leave it midway.”

“See, you are so stubborn. If it is a boy, then one can understand all the bother and difficulty.”

“Mama, aren’t you afraid? What you are suggesting is paap, is wrong. You worship Devi maa; keep fast in Navratri.”

“Yes. so does your MIL. She knows more than me. She goes to Spiritual Meets also. She is a member of that group. If she thinks it is right – it must be.”

“Mama, use your own brain, heart, conscience! You are such a kind person. How could you think of taking a life?”

“It’s not a life yet.”

“How can you say that? Mama, the egg is alive, the sperm is alive and because they are alive fertilization has taken place and the embryo is growing. Have you ever seen an inanimate thing grow?”

“No, I haven’t. But it’s not a life yet. And I am worried about my daughter, my child. If it’s a girl, you will be asked to go for a third child. They want a son.”

From then onwards mummy had one track only. She manoeuvred situations where my MIL and husband were together and complained to them that Disha was not listening to her. And my MIL graciously said, “Disha, listen to her. She is your mother. She is worried about her daughter – it’s natural for a mother to worry. As a mother don’t you worry about Rashi?”

So, she had taken the role of a mediator trying to solve the clash between a mother and a daughter, mind you, she was not enforcing her will overtly. (Covertly – a lot of important things are done covertly in life; we all know that). I knew who the real instigator was. My husband looked from one mother to the other and then at me – raising his hands in surrender.

They made me go through it – all my protests, my education wasted. For the record, my mother and my MIL are postgraduates too. And of course, my husband consoled me, “We are young. We will go for another child.”

“What if I again conceive a girl?”

“We will cross the bridge when we come to it.”

After two years again we tried for a baby. This time we announced that we got the test done and that I am carrying a boy. Those were the best months of my life. Hubby and I had decided not to go for the test but make the announcement for peace all around… to trust the unknown.

And I had my second daughter – my lovely Bela. We pretended to be shocked that the test results were wrong. Sometimes it happens. The results turn out to be wrong. The statistics show that it happens. My MIL knew she had been outwitted, and her son had supported me and gone against her wishes. She couldn’t bring all this in the open. We had presented her with a fait accompli. She didn’t want to spoil her terms with her son. She had to live with us. The eldest son lives in a metro in a small flat. She wanted to live in this big sprawling house of hers and she needed us to look after Papaji’s waning health. So, she donned a saccharine smile and accepted congratulations. But she never loved my second daughter. To be fair, she had loved my first one wholeheartedly. I left my job – it was a private college because I knew this time, I was not going to get any help from her.

My mother was on the ninth cloud that I had given a natural birth and didn’t need a caesarian. The prolonged labor had worried her, and she did not want me to try again! And she was smitten with the baby. She lives for her granddaughters.

Why am I being so foolish as to expect them to call my daughters to participate in this ritual? Change needs time to happen, to materialize. One day when I and my husband will pass away our daughters will perform all the rituals because by then society will have so many couples with only daughters that this will be the norm. It is written on the horizon.


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