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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org(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.