‘Sirf 3 Behene Ho, Bhai Nahi Hai?!’ Breaking Stereotypes In A Sisterhood

"How many brothers and sisters do you have?" is a question we were often asked, and when I say we are 3 sisters and no brothers...!

As a child, growing up in different cities was a wonderful experience. Different cultures, languages, cuisines, festivals were all so great. But one thing was common!  Yes of course, the happy and unique memories.

But the ubiquitous question, “How many brothers and sisters do you have?” always surfaced, prompting my consistent response: “We are three sisters!” This declaration left every Sharmaji and pados wali aunty baffled. And a deep sigh and all sympathy for my parents accompany their response: “sirf teen behene ho, bhai nahi hai! (Only three sisters, no brother!) If I had, wouldn’t I admit to it, why would I lie or hide him?

Year: around 1990 to 2005

In the quaint neighbourhood where I spent my childhood, the echoes of “sirf teen behene, bhai nahi hai!” reverberated through the air like an unending refrain. Growing up with two sisters in a society fixated on the idea of a male heir, our family constantly found itself confronting societal norms and challenging age-old stereotypes. My parents never appear disturbed by the fact that they have three daughters and no sons. However, this fact that they never bothered, bothered society the most.

It wasn’t long before I realized that our household, with its trio of sisters, stood out in stark contrast to the traditional image of the quintessential Indian family eagerly awaiting the arrival of a male child. The notion of having only daughters, without a son, was met with raised eyebrows and whispered discussions amongst the neighbours. The gender obsession prevalent in our society was both baffling and disheartening.

As we navigated school, college, and various social events, we became adept at gracefully fielding questions about our lack of a brother. “Don’t you wish you had a brother?” was a common inquiry, often met with a resounding, “No, we have each other, and that’s more than enough!” Our sisterhood was our source of strength, a bond that provided us with a sense of security and companionship that surpassed the limitations of gender norms.

Year: 2017

Fast forward to the year 2017, where I find myself as a mother of a 5-year-old daughter. And yes! having a career too! Meeting new people still fascinates me. I met people who have so much to ask me. About my job, my daughter, how I manage work and professional life. Then there’s a recurring curiosity regarding when I plan to have a baby boy, especially since my daughter is now 5.  Elders still bless me for a male child, emphasizing the perceived importance.

Year: 2020

Reflecting on the evolving societal landscape, there’s a gradual shift in attitudes towards families without male children. The persistent emphasis on having only one child, however, remains a prevailing concern for numerous individuals. Still, in various social gatherings, the prevailing curiosity often centers around the prospect of ‘good news’, a term that, for women, frequently becomes synonymous with the act of conceiving.

However, this societal philosophy dictating the necessity of siblings seems to be particularly directed towards families with single female children. Within the subtle nuances of conversations, there is a discernible ‘male connotation’ that lingers in the unspoken words and expectations.

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Year: 2023

My daughter is now 11, and frequently encounters the same line of questioning that often revolves around societal expectations. However, in response, she nonchalantly shrugs off such inquiries and moves on. Witnessing her confident demeanor, I can’t help but smile, feeling a sense of pride as I observe another resilient and self-assured young lady in the making

Well, some things seem resistant to change. Words may have changed but the age-old gender biases continue to shape perception. The enduring expectations and assumptions about the significance of having a male heir persist, showcasing that, despite progress, certain stereotypes persist through the years.

Image source: Photo by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash

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About the Author

Richa Agrawal

A writer, a blogger, and a mother. I find immense joy in doing anything creative, be it writing, indulging in arts & crafts, or decorating my personal space. I am also captivated by the wonders read more...

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