The one sided ways of this world
Posted by Pepper on November 16, 2011
I heard of something that has been making my stomach churn. Somebody I know vaguely, just got an abortion done after finding out she was carrying a girl. I know, female infanticide is common and it happens everyday. Most of us just look at it as a “disturbing fact” and move on with our life. We believe it is not within out power to change a thing like that. But this time, the sex selective abortion was done by somebody I know. It is depressing me. The nauseating feeling refuses to leave.
Till date, a girl is considered to be a “burden” to her family. She is unwanted, while a boy is sought after and prayed for. There are reasons, of course. I know I sound really dumb, but truth be told, I was hardly aware of the issues that affect women in everyday life. I come from a family that has girls in abundance. My maternal grandmom had six daughters and no son. Each time she gave birth to a girl, she hoped her next child would be a boy. After six attempts, my grandparents decided to stop having more children and live without a son. This was in the 1940s and 50s. But as they grew, they realised what a boon their daughters were. They did for them, what most sons wouldn’t. It made my grandmom change her outlook. She would go about telling other parents they are blessed to have a daughter, and they are in fact, luckier than the ones who have only have sons. I really admire the way they brought up their daughters, at a time when they were looked down upon.
My dad, when he got married to my mom, told her he always dreamt of having two daughters. He comes from a family where girls are few and far in between. My paternal grandmom too, never having had a daughter, always wanted to have a grand daughter. So when I was born, I was truly celebrated. The celebrations continued when my sister was born. During my growing up years, me and my sister were cherished and spoilt. It never occurred to us that we were actually the lesser members of society. I think I was oblivious to the unfairness and gender biases that existed. Maybe I never paused to think, since I was so unaffected.
And then I got married. Mint’s family, like most Indian families bring up their sons and daughters in very different ways. Consequently, the men and women lead very different lives. The first thing that struck me was that they don’t eat together. The men eat first. The women stand beside them, serving them whenever their plates needs a refill. This was totally new to me. In my home, meal time is family time. We all eat together. I have sweet memories of family dinners, bonding over food and conversation. So it took me a while to accept this difference. Now, I know and understand that some women have this desire to serve their husbands hot chapatis and dosas, straight off the pan. This does not allow them to eat at the same time. Why the men have no such desire is something I am not getting into now. But I noticed, even if the meal consists of only rice, my mom in law will still stand beside my father in law while he eats, serve him and then eat her meal all alone in the end. When I say serve, I talk about taking a helping from the utensil that is lying on the dining table and putting it onto his plate. Surely, he can do that on his own. He doesn’t even have to get up! So why can’t they eat together?
Let me clarify my stand. There are days when I just feel like serving Mint. There are days when I give him a meal in hand. So I have nothing against this concept. But whenever I do it for him, he looks at me, gives me a grateful smile and says the warmest “Thank you”.It tells me that my actions are appreciated, and not taken for granted. This behaviour is not expected from me. Moreover, there are a lot of days when he gives me meals in hands too, and I say a thank you. It’s never one way.
Women took over the kitchen and ran the house at a time when going out and earning money was solely the man’s job. Slowly, women started entering the workforce, but the men never made it to the kitchen. My mother in law always gives me examples of other working women who manage to run the house efficiently, despite doing it single handedly. She wants me to be like them. She tells me it is possible if I orgainise myself, wake up earlier and work harder than I do. She is surrounded my women like them. Yes, it is possible for me to be like that. But heck, I don’t want to! Why should I? I refuse to take on all the load, because it is unfair. And even if it is a case of the woman running the house and the man earning, even then I would say this system is very unequal.
The other day, my inlaws, Mint and I reached somebody’s place after a long and tiring day. Let me emphasize on the fact that all of us were equally exhausted. But the moment we reached there, my mom in law sprang from her seat, walked to the kitchen and asked the woman there if she needed any help with the cooking. I realised, I was supposed to follow her and check with the women if they needed my help too. If I continued sitting there, I would be seen in poor light. The men of course, had the right to just sit and not move a finger.But I had to get up and go because I am a girl. Does this have anything to do with the fact that my father in law is the bread winner and my mom in law is the home maker? No! On that particular day, all of us were equally tired. Then why can’t the man offer some help too? If this is what is expected of women, why would anybody want to have a daughter?
My in laws were very hesitant to stay at Mint’s cousin’s place while we were in NY. They would have to stay there for 4 days. They kept asking us if they could shorten their stay there and come back, al though we weren’t around. Their hesitance puzzled me. I asked my MIL what was wrong in staying there for 4 days. They had just come back from NY themselves, and had stayed at somebody else’s place for 10 days. So why was the 4 day stay this time bothering them so much? My MIL told me they stayed there cos he was the son of the family, but now they had to stay with the daughter of the family. It riled me up so much. I just stared at her, unable to speak. So it is their birth right to go and live with a married son for as long as they want, but they feel awkward and bad living with a married daughter? If they believe they own their sons, but daughters belong to somebody else, why the bloody hell will anybody want to have a daughter?
That is one reason, I have been very against moving to Chennai. If at all we live in Mumbai, we will rent a place of our own. But if we live in Chennai, Mint’s parents will expect us to live with them. Why does the girl have to go embrace the guy’s family and walk away from her own? This whole concept of the girl living with the guy’s parents is just wrong. It tilts the system in the favour of the guy’s parents. The guy’s parents have somebody around them in their old age. They have somebody to be there and care for them. But the girl’s parents should grow old all alone and have no support in their old age? Why? I repeat, with a system like this, why the bloody hell will anybody want a daughter and not a son?
I worry about my parents a lot. I want to be there for them, if and when they need me. I will not let them be at a disadvantage just because they produced two girls and no boy. I say the same thing for Mint’s parents. We’ll be there for them if and when they need it. Until then, we will live by ourselves, not choose one set of parents to be with over the other.
My mom in law asked me when I was planning to change my last name before she was leaving. I meekly told her I can’t do it right now, because my passport and visas are all under the name I have always had so far. A part of me was silently screaming, “Tell her. Tell her you never plan to do it. Tell her to not question you or have such expectations from you. Tell her you won’t do it because you are not separating yourself from your own family and attaching yourself to hers.” I couldn’t get myself to say any of that. I did what I do best -kept quiet, evaded the topic and moved on. Really, why is the girl expected to take on a new identity that connects her with her husband, while the guy retains his? Has anybody ever expected a guy to add on his wife’s name to his?
I’ve been feeling angry, frustrated and dejected because of the one sided ways of this world. I have only spoken about issues that have affected me. I haven’t even taken the bigger issues into account. Issues like dowry. Until a guy continues to have the upper hand, until the world continues to favour a man, a girl will never be equal. A girl will never be wanted. And until then, a lot of parents will choose to terminate the life of their unborn girl child, and pray to Gods they are blessed with a boy. I don’t know when this will end.