On The Other Side Of Silence: Being An Unwanted Girl Child

I was an unwanted girl child. I was born on the corridors of a government hospital after my mother writhed in pain all alone, on a cold January night. Except for the kind doctor who delivered me, no one was there to comfort my mother as she got ready to give birth to her third child: a girl.  My father slapped my elder sister in anger after the news of the arrival of another girl reached home. He and my grandmother wanted another son as was the norm. The society wasn’t happy with just one son. They wanted more.

My brother aged ten, came to the hospital next morning with clothes and food for my mother. He was angry with my mother as he wanted a brother as well but as soon as he saw me, his eyes gleamed with happiness, he held myself in his arms and said that I am too adorable to be thrown into garbage, something he might have heard elder people say.

The patriarchal head of the family, my father didn’t touch me for six months after my birth, but came around slowly and started liking me. He said I am too happy a child to be ignored. I was indeed a happy toddler; I didn’t know the unruly ways of the world I was born into. My mother did everything to give me more than she could afford. She sewed designer clothes for me out of old sarees, knitted fancy sweaters with her own hands. When I refused to eat normal food, she cooked special gajar-ka-halwa (a sweet dish made of carrots) for me every day. When her husband or mother-in-law taunted her for spoiling a girl, she ignored the remarks and spoilt me more, with dreams and desires of changing the world.

I hated my father for a long time but I have forgiven him for many things in the last few years. I now understand that even men are victims of patriarchy and my father might have been  a better person had he known love . He lost his father when he was thirteen, and was weighed down by the responsibilities of a widowed mother and two unmarried sisters. He had to take a loan of three hundred rupees because he didn’t even have enough money to cremate his dead father. He lived in poverty with no support and the only word he grew up with was “responsibility” for being the “man” of the family. I know, I can’t excuse the misdoings of my father just because he was poor or unloved but I believe forgiveness is more important for my own peace of mind than carrying around the weight of hatred.

I wrote “To Be A Woman” in a fit of rage a few days ago. I was angry because I found myself helpless, unable to help these women who were related to me. I was angry because right from childhood I was exposed to this cycle of misogyny and discrimination and in spite of being all grown up and educated I wasn’t able to break this cycle of abuse, not even for women who were suffering in front of my eyes. And in the recent days as the news of rapes of small children, of women, of religious fundamentalists who supported rapists became common, I was aghast, to think that we live in a world that hates its women. What else could be a reason for the amount of hatred women receive in the form of physical, mental, emotional attacks?

The government in a knee-jerk reaction amended the rules overnight and brought in harsher penalties for crimes against children and women. But do you really think that rape is a criminal problem and giving death sentences to rapists is going to deter them. Even if it does, what is the guarantee that these laws will be executed properly? There are well enough sanctions against rape of a minor but when a 16 year old girl in Unnao was raped by a lawmaker she wasn’t even let to file an FIR till her father was murdered and the case was taken up by the media. Even after the accused MLA was booked under POCSO (which has stringent provisions to arrest the accused as soon as a case is filed) he wasn’t arrested till the High Court interfered in the matter.

To be honest, all kinds of attacks against women feel like more of a societal problem. What with a man killing his pregnant wife for not being able to make round chapatis or a man throwing acid on three girls for rejecting his proposals for marriage?  What about a father killing his daughter in the name of honour? Or for an uncle to rape his 4 month old niece as an act of revenge?

I was reading this report where a rapist felt remorse for his act as the girl he raped was no longer a virgin and therefore will find no one to marry her. He was “kind” enough to offer that he would marry the girl he raped, once he finishes his sentence. The man wasn’t feeling remorse for raping the child but for taking away her virginity and making her “unsuitable for marriage”? I don’t know what type of death/life-imprisonment sentence would change his thinking? And of the millions of people, men and women both who always think of girls as liabilities and not humans.

I needed to add my own story in this post because every time I hear of women being abused, of girls being killed, or female foetuses being aborted I am reminded of my own past. I am alive today because my mother went against her own family, even though she had no moral or financial support. She delivered me alone, brought me home, educated me, and made me able enough to see big dreams. In the process she even managed to change my father’s thinking who now holds me dear and encourages me to follow my dreams.

Discrimination against women thrives because we all believe that it isn’t occurring to us. We sit at our homes, read news in the morning and forget all about it till lunch. We force gender identities on our children. We buy pink for our daughters and blue for our sons. We gift barbies to girls and giant trucks to boys. We ask our girls to be back at home before dark but we never ask our sons where they were all night long. We blame the clothes of a victim and carry out rallies in support of rapists. We enjoy movies that glorify stalking and objectify a woman’s body for publicity.

I have been guilty of doing a few of these things too. But this is what needs to change.

Men aren’t born violent biologically. They are conditioned by family, schools, peers, and media to be hyper masculine and exercise their power on women, the “weaker”sex. Even women are made to believe to be subservient in front of men and to control their own daughters and daughters-in-law. The society needs to bring a drastic change in its attitude towards women. Gender sensitization classes at all levels of education system is required along with self defense classes for women. The whole value system needs to be overhauled for the rise of a new generation free of gender biases. A lot needs to be done and it needs to be done now for it would require generations to change the culture that has been prevalent for hundreds of years.

And the first step in this direction is to break your silence. If you are a woman who is tired of being subjected to discrimination or a man who is crushing under the weight of patriarchy, and if you are able enough to fight, you have to find your strength and begin now to change your surroundings, your family, and yourself. Start now, before it is too late.

I am alive today because my mother found the strength to fight for me. Be the strength for someone who needs you. Be the light to guide the world. And in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, be the change you wish to see in the world.

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On the Other End of Silence is a new category on my blog that focuses on gender issues where I am inviting posts from everyone who is willing to contribute. If you have something to say, whether personal or fictional, positive or negative, a rant or a suggestion, you could mail me your entries at pseudomonazz@gmail.com(Contact). There are no rejections, and no prizes, no rules and no word-limits, just a platform to voice your opinions.

Disclaimer: The above post is my own story. And yes, I don’t think all men are trash.

 

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Existential Crisis

Do good things ever happen to good people?

Or has the world turned upside down?

There is no meaning in kindness or love

And everyone is lost in this big bad town.

Everything is paid for in dollars

but there is no value in modesty.

This little girl with big dreams

has died a million times,

and now just wants to be free.

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The Missed Appointment

So yes, we could kiss. I could kiss you and you could kiss me. There is no science, plane ticket or clock stopping us. But if we kiss, it’ll end the world. And I have ended the world before. No one survived.

Least of all me.

(Iain S. Thomas)

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I’ve been sharing a lot of work by Iain S. Thomas lately. That is because he’s my favourite poet of all times. His work speaks to me on so many levels. He makes me feel like I lost a friend even before I met him. He makes me fall in love with love, even though it is painful. Wherever I find a picture in my gallery that somehow suits a poem or a quote written by him, I post it down here to show my admiration for this great man.

Dreams…

For several years there has been a pattern in the kind of dreams I see while sleeping. Ever since I joined college, I had this recurring dream where I had been running away from something or someone. Some days I would be in a forest and a wild beast would follow me and I would run away from it. Some days there would be a disaster at my hometown like a fire or an earthquake or a war and I would try to save myself by running away. Some nights I would be running away from a man who is out to kill me. And some days I would just be running away from some unknown, invisible dark power. And almost always I was all alone in these dreams. Initially I used to be worried about these dreams and explore several dream interpretation websites. But after a while I was so accustomed to these dreams that I stopped looking for them.

Cut to the last one year or so, my dreams have slightly taken a U-turn. Now, I don’t see myself running away from something but towards it and failing to do so. I often see myself trying to go to my hometown, but there would be so many obstacles in the way like barbed wires, unbelievably narrowed roads, flooded areas and so on. And now, I even see other people with me. But these obstacles are only there for me and not for these other people. They go on normally while I face so many constraints for going to the same place.  Just the other night I saw this dream where I was going to my hometown and I had to go on a helicopter. So everyone got into it, while I couldn’t get a seat and was asked to stand in the place where all the luggage is kept. After a while, the helicopter stops at a place and I step down to look around. Suddenly, the helicopter takes off again leaving me at a dark and strange street. I try to ask the people on the streets for my way home but no one seems to help me. After walking for a while, I can actually see my home away in a far off mountain but I have no idea how to go there. And just like that, I wake up.

And this is just one sample of what I see almost on a daily basis. May be I am reading too much into it, but these dreams are so constant and  vivid in my memories, that I end up thinking about them.

I guess my sub-conscious mind is playing some dirty tricks on me.

Anyway, do you have any recurring dream you would like to share with me? Is it normal for people to see the same kind of dreams for years altogether?

Buddha’s Teaching

Some stories remain with us for a long time. This one is from a history book I happen to read for an exam and this is what I often quote to people or remind myself at times of anger or displeasure-

One day Buddha and his disciples were passing through a village. An ignorant and rude man came up to him and started abusing him. The Buddha listened to him silently and after the man was done abusing he asked the young man, ” Tell me my son, if you give a present to someone and he doesn’t accept it, to whom does the present belong?”

The man replied, ” It belongs to me as I am the one who bought it”

The Buddha then said, ” Dear son, I do not accept your abuse. You are angry with me and have bestowed me with curses, but if I do not accept your anger, then the anger falls back onto you just as the gift returns to its owner.” 

The story might be a modified version of what happened back then but every time I read this, it gives me the strength to ignore the insults, the anger, the hurt directed towards me by anyone. I know, it is very tough to apply such teachings in real life but life is nothing but a game of trial and error. Moreover, in the last few years I have really tried to control my anger. I was a very short tempered girl once, ready to explode and force my wrath over someone in a matter of seconds  (my mother and best friend were the worst causalities). Now, I try not to hurt people. I do fail, many times but trust me, I have improved quite a lot.

( P.S. My boyfriend would laugh out loud after reading this because he is still subjected to my cruelty on a daily basis.)