It all began when I was pregnant with KT. I must have been 20 weeks pregnant. That’s the stage when almost everyone across the world gets to know the gender of their baby – they begin planning, shopping and deciding on the baby’s name with a lot of excitement. However, that’s not the case in India. For a while it kind of annoyed and angered me, why modern India has not changed the law regarding gender disclosure. But eventually, as I witnessed some incidents and people, I was glad that that law still remains! Modern India isn’t modern after all!
I travelled to my hometown, Trichy, for my third trimester. My antenatal checkups were at the same hospital where I was born. Once while I was seated in queue for my check up, I happened to notice the conversation between two pregnant mothers also in queue.
Preggo mommy A, expecting her second baby was seated with her 3 year old daughter.
Preggo mommy B asks 3 year old girl, “Do you want a baby sister or brother!”
Little girl smiles and replies, “A sister!”
Shocked preggo mommy A, in a slightly angered tone, corrects the little girl saying, “Don’t say like that. Say you want only a brother. Only he will take care of you when you grow up!”
Puzzled little girl replies, “But amma, won’t daddy take care of me?”
I almost burst out in laughter at the little girl’s reply. However, I kept wondering what made that mother hate even the very thought of having a girl child the second time!
It was May 7th, 2010, early morning. I had just undergone my C-section. Although under anaesthesia, I could feel the doctors dig out my baby. Unable to control my curiosity even a second longer, I asked them if the baby was a girl or a boy. Their reply shocked me right on that operation table.
They said, “Sorry ma, we will first inform your husband and parents outside. You have to wait!”
WHAT??? You kidding me??? A mother who carried the child for nearly nine months in her womb doesn’t even have the joy of knowing the gender of her baby after its birth???
However minutes later, I overheard them filling their charts saying “F, 2:25 am!” I immediately knew it was a girl and I almost wanted to jump out of that table with joy!
Only later I came to know that the doctors refused to tell me the baby’s gender because it was a girl child. And the reason they do not disclose the baby’s gender if it’s a girl is – most mothers are under the pressure to give birth to a boy. When the find out it was a girl, some women faint on the delivery room. In order to avoid all that they doctors do not reveal if its a girl immediately!
Until that point of time I had only studied and read about girl child discrimination and female infanticide at school and media. But some of the incidents that followed alarmed me all the more!
One of my mom-in-law’s house helps walked home one day bearing the news that her daughter has given birth to a girl baby the third time. Even before we could congratulate her, tears began to roll down her eyes and she said something that tore my heart, “God has cursed us with three girl children!”
My sis-in-law and I waited for her to mellow down and tried our best explaining that a girl child is no less than a boy. Sadly, no amount of convincing helped. She walked back with the very same heavy heart she walked in!
After these incidents, I thought to myself, “Well, may be, this girl child discrimination is still prevalent among the illiterate and the downtrodden.” But then certain things that followed proved me wrong again!
At church one Sunday, Uncle X, a well educated businessman, congratulating Uncle Y, “FINALLY, you’ve become a grandfather!!!”
I, a little confused hearing it, asked Uncle X, “But uncle, Isn’t Uncle Y already a grandfather since he has a 6 yr old grand-daughter?”
Uncle X laughingly replies, “But only now Uncle Y had a grandson!”
I left the scene almost fuming, pitying the girls born in his home and the ones that will be married into his family!
At this juncture, I have to break a news so that I can continue with my latest experiences.
!!!WE ARE EXPECTING OUR SECOND BABY!!!
By God’s grace, this pregnancy has been incredibly smooth and I am almost in the final lap. I’ve got no words to describe how excited KT is about the ‘Tummy Baby”! Watching her excitement, has tripled Vj’s and my excitement! I will definitely keep you all posted when the little one arrives!
Nevertheless, I noticed something different that eventually has grown extremely annoying each time I am congratulated or greeted for my pregnancy!
Almost every other aunty I met, touches my tummy and says, “Next-tu paiyan-than!” (Meaning – It should only be a boy next!)
Some super-spiritual aunties took it to the next level by saying, “If we have faith and pray, it will definitely be a boy!”
Other statements I keep hearing,
“If its a boy next, then the family will be complete!” (So you mean a second girl baby will make it incomplete???)
“A boy is needed for the stability of the family!” (Oops! I believe it is God who stabilizes my family!)
“A girl will not belong to you after her marriage. Only a boy will take care of you!” (Firstly, Vj and I look to God for our resources and help, be it physical or material. Like Job in the Bible, we believe our latter days will be more blessed than our former days. Secondly, I am confident my children will find sensible spouses who will love us and care for us.)
The amusing part is when I reply to these dear aunties saying we are actually wishing for a girl baby! My! You gotta see how their faces turn pale in shock. They go, “Really? Are you serious?”
Please do not get me wrong. I have absolutely nothing against boys. They are just as precious. Just the fact that girls, especially children, are looked down upon grieves me terribly. What I have experienced is just nothing in comparison to what many of my friends and other women go through in our land.
One of my dear college friend, was under so much pressure during her first pregnancy to give birth to a boy child, she simply dreaded giving birth to a girl baby.
Another college friend shared with me, she doesn’t want a girl child for the only reason that she is scared her daughter will have to go through similar in-law-tortures like what she’s going through.
My ex-colleague once shared that her husband and mom-in-law wanted her to visit a village witch doctor who can predict the gender of the fetus by pouring some hot oil in her ears. And she was instructed that if the witch doctor predicts the child to be a girl, she’ll have to abort the baby. I do not know if she went to the witch doctor, but thankfully to her relief, she had a baby boy.
A friend of mine from Bihar shared that in remote parts of north India newborn girl babies are still thrown in the trash, abandoned in the trains and even murdered by the very hands of the mother or grandmother. This friend’s parents have adopted one such abandoned girl baby and have rescued numerous other babies who are now growing up in loving foster homes!
It is then I realized the reason why our country is obsessed with boys and girls discriminated is twofold. A vast majority esteem boys as prized possessions (In fact they really are, but so are even the girls!) and a superior sex. Others just dread having a girl child, not because they consider a girl is any less, but simply out of fear of how that poor girl may end up getting treated in our distorted society and system!
Although our nation has taken giant leaps towards women empowerment and equality of women, some of the bygone customs and traditions of our land passed on for centuries has corrupted the mindset of many not allowing them to change. The reason I am writing this post is not because I want it to cause a movement. That would be asking for the moon I know. However, the least I hope is that a few who read this will understand what I am trying to say and boldly take a stand in their circles to stand up for a girl child.
As a mother of a precious girl, it is daunting to think how my princess will tackle a male obsessed/dominated world. But then I guess, it is the duty of each mother to raise their daughters, not in fear, but with courage and confidence that someday soon our girls will not only stand up for themselves but will show our nation their worth in action!
In conclusion, I would like to share the last incident. If you have patiently read this post this far, I would request you to spare a few extra minutes of your time to read this as well. It’s an incident that inspires me, unlike the ones above!
Around the 1950s/60s, there was an Inspector of Police named Mr. Deva Asirvatham who worked in and around the small town of Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu. He was hardly 21 yrs old when his 17 yr old wife gave birth to a beautiful girl baby. Within a span of little more than a decade the small family of three grew into a family of 11 with 8 daughters and 1 son. In that day and age, I have no clue what kind of talks the poor couple had to put up with for giving birth to EIGHT girls. However it is said that each time the father brought home the news of a baby girl’s birth, his face beamed with pride and not even once did he regret having his daughters.
While his daughters grew, his job and his income didn’t grow in proportion. He could have easily opted for what many of his peers with just one or two daughters did – get the daughters married post SSLC (12th Standard). But this father was someone who knew that his girls were not mere baby-making machines. He knew his precious girls were worth much more and that they had the potential to accomplish greater things. With the little income he got and a lot of sacrifice from his end, he encouraged his daughters and educated all eight of them with Masters degree in various fields.
Today, Mr. Deva Asirvatham and his wife, Mrs. Cecily Asirvatham are no more. But their daughters are – each impacting their corner of the world and the society around them. I take immense pride in letting you know that they are none other than my grandparents and my mom, Mrs. Lily Pushpam, happens to be the eldest of the eight sisters and one brother!
Hats off to my granpa and granma who did not succumb to the pressures and traditions of their times. They rose above the norm. Without doubt there must have been a bunch of people who must have told them how foolish they were to invest in their daughters’ education and how some kgs of gold instead would do more good than a couple of degrees. I am so glad that they had a mind of their own and knew what was best for their daughters because that’s what made my mum who she is. It is who she is that constantly inspires me to become a better mother and a better woman!
I really hope Vijay and I would be such parents who would value our children for who they are, irrespective of their gender. We can’t describe what joy and pride KT brings us each passing day and how precious she is to us. Whether our next baby is going to be a girl or a boy makes no difference to us since we believe each child is a gift from above – equally prized, equally precious!