Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Narayan no?!

“Why Bete, why Laxmi? We wanted a Narayan no?!"

This was one side of the phone conversation when Aqseer’s father called home with news of her birth.

Two years later, it was Asawari, a Laxmi again. One of his juniors at work caught hold of the second time father’s hand and pumped it sympathetically, “Not to worry sir, I am sure it will be a boy next time.”

Not India, nor Egypt, neither Europe. This resigned emotion at a female’s arrival in the world is endemic. It is not that the daughters are thereafter not brought up with love and care, they are. But it is the wary and second best welcome that lays the seed of a lifetime of bewildered and resentful hurt.

I was the first child and born dark, this is another big emotional non-starter for a new babe in our country. When my sister arrived a year and a half later, my grandmother who had come to help with Mom’s confinement took ill with the event and ended up on the adjacent hospital bed. My own Nani whose only child was my mother, spent her years on earth living down this debilitating truth, as though she had measured short at a critical level.

In many traditional Indian homes, a son’s arrival is announced with the stringing of a festive vandanvar over the front door. In Punjab, the third gender comes out in full force to sing and dance in ceremonies surrounding the birth of a boy. First Lohri, in the event of the birth of a male child always assumes a larger significance, the feasting and merry making is just that shade vehement. It is as though the family has risen in status, the woman has paid back with what she was brought into the family to do. I remember being unfavourably compared to the family help once, nothing wrong with that except that I had been found wanting, she had given her husband three sons and here I was, nursing my second girl infant.

This is a recurrent chapter in my life’s theme song. I wrote about it on: http://confessionsofanambitiousmother.blogspot.com/2011/06/life-less-equal.html

It has come floating up again courtesy the scotch hands of perfectly aware and educated adults who do not make the effort to look more closely at what is being addressed:
In the average public reaction to Slutwalk Bangalore, you see the same devaluation of the female. It is common knowledge that a high mortality rate persists at every age level up to 35 years for women even now.  As to the child sex ration, less said the better. No one contests anymore the existence of a differential in health care, education and nutritional status of girls. Couple all this with foeticide and you have mapped a woman’s total, negative social worth.

But I have faith in today’s generation. They are a bit weird at times; they are wired and worldly but there is an evolutionary quality in their confidence and readiness to align with the larger picture. If they have decided to walk the Slutwalk, I believe they have reason to do so. In this giddy grand prix age of speed and sound, bluster is needed to call attention to issues. I want them to believe they can change the world.

One look at the page http://www.facebook.com/slutwalkblore will make clear all the thinking and cerebral chewing they are doing constantly including all the agonizing they did over the name!  One parallel that springs to mind as to their choice of protest is the very poignant and heart rending “Mothers of Manipur” case and their nude protest against AFSPA, a kind of reverse psychology.

Whether it is Tahrir square in Egypt or Brigade Road in Bangalore, the world has become one for our young, it is only a matter of degree. 

I think this is a great time to be a young woman. And her friend!

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