Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Pandas are Dying

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When I went for my first ultrasound, I had to sign a declaration that I had no interest in knowing the gender of my child. The softboard in the waiting room had clippings on female feticide and the PNDT Act. Newspaper reports on doctors who'd been arrested. Positive images of girl children proving their use. Of course I knew this was what it would be like. I'd written papers about it back then.

But back then, I hadn't seen the heartbeat of my child. I did not know when I was typing out my furious arguments what it felt like to have a life grow inside me. I did not know what it was to consider a form who is only 5.2 mm to be a person I could talk to. Someone with a personality. Someone who hates apples and becomes happy when I eat curd. But I do now. And those news reports that used to anger me back then....they terrify me now.

What must it take for a mother to willfully harm her child because she's a girl? What must it take for a husband to convince his wife that killing their baby made economic sense? What must it take for a family to view this as a practical decision? What must it take for a doctor to execute a murder so effortlessly? And for a nation to rest in apathy as every year, its girls continue to disappear? These questions terrify me because I don't want to imagine any more what those answers could be.

In the middle of the World Cup euphoria, there came the Census reports. India now has a child sex ratio of 914:1000, the worst since Independence. This means that despite the economic prosperity, despite the rise in literacy, and despite the Saina Nehwals and Indra Nooyis, the girl child has no place in a nation that has brutally cast her aside from its dreams.

It hurts.

Because progress is supposed to mean that the generation that comes next will have it easier than we did. That the struggles and prejudices I endured will be resolved in my era. That my daughter will have the choices and opportunities that I did not have.

But it is not to be.

Even in the way in which the news is reported about the child sex ratio, we're only interested in noting that decades from now, there might only be one woman for every five men. This will mean that brides will be in high demand then.

I ask you- what about the writers, scientists, doctors, lawyers, sportswomen, business women, musicians and several million other women that this country has lost out on? Who never made it because they never saw the world? Do women contribute in no other way to this nation other than by being brides? Do we serve no purpose other than reproduction?

As long as marriage is seen as the 'happy' ending in a woman's life, you can be assured that more girls will die. From the time she's born, a girl's parents start planning for this momentous occasion in her life. They may not deny her food, good clothes, or education, but they will still teach her to centre her life around this event. They will buy gold. They will enter into financial plans that will give them returns around the time their daughter is of 'marriageable' age. They will develop worry lines as prospective grooms seem hard to come by. They will lament over 'unreasonable' dowry demands. They will spend a vulgar amount of money on her wedding and take pride in the fact that they did not spare a single expense. They have done their duty. Their daughter is married. Settled. At last. It's a happy ending.

And then of course, if things go wrong, one can always compromise.

As long as we write our plots this way, our daughters will continue to die.

What do we do about this other than cry that society is so evil? Take a stance.

If you are an unmarried man, don't look the other way when the bride's family is burdened with taking care of the wedding expenses. Don't hide under the excuse that the elders decided all this. The elders didn't decide when you should have your first beer or your first smoke. Have the balls to take a stance.


If you are a married man, don't be lazy and incompetent at housework because it's convenient. Marriage is not a slave trade. If you know that what you're doing is wrong, be willing to change instead of reclining on a chair and making sexist jokes. Love is a verb. If you do care about your wife, act.

If you are a father, don't turn a deaf ear to your daughter's idealism. If she does not want marriage or if she wants a wedding with twenty people in it, have the courage to listen to her self-esteem speak.

If you are a woman, it's never too late to start believing that marriage is a minor event in an epic. It's never too late to believe in yourself. Or your daughters. The world is a very large place. Have the courage to embrace it.

I read these lines somewhere:

Don't take your daughter to the goldsmith to make her new chains. Take her to the ironsmith to melt the ones that she wears.

Till we do this, we will continue to die out. Just like the pandas.


37 comments:

munimma said...

Got to share this. Very well written. Nicely (and strongly) put. If this is what motherhood brings out in you (congrats, by the way), go forth and multiply ;-)

PS: who is killing the pandas?

Anonymous said...

very true, I have 3 sisters and am at times sad to see how my dad has in the past treated me more preferentially then my sisters. I dont let him do that anymore, but am sad when I see my sisters married happy with kids, scared to ask them if they are really happy.... 'cause there are not options plenty.

I love my sisters and will not let Womanity die.. on a lighter note, they are too beautiful a sight to miss around. (Please dont hunt me down and kill me) lol

Good write up... and congrats on being a mother. Its precious things that we men can never experience.

vishesh said...

Start airing serials that talk about successful women and cut out the MIL-DIL crap and stop portraying women as dependent on men. That can be one.

And as a guy, I don't expect anyone to pay me to marry someone I love. I decided that long ago- guess I can't even remember when.

Society is evil and we make up the society.

Anonymous said...

I think it will take a lot of time for women, however well-educated they are to look at marriage as less than an epic event. All our movies, tele serials, newspapers alongwith Tara, Usha and Meena in the neighbourhood are telling us in different ways that we are never complete without it!

CW said...

This made me cry.

Your placard-bearing fan.

Pavithra said...

Neatly written post, my dear. And congrats on the baby. :)

R's Mom said...

Intresting take GB....I loved the sentence in which you mention that marriage is not the ultimate goal in life its just one of the events in life...in India we often bring up our girls teaching them that marriage is the ultimate for them..its ingrained in our minds, our society..sad but true..lovely post :)

Srinivas said...

I typed a LONG comment. It disappeared! YIKES!

So let me do this again.

Firstly, you're cent percent right when you say that the yawning gaps in the sex ratio even when considered are considered in terms of the bridal equation. I am ashamed but need to admit that till half a decade ago I used to have a similar outlook too (albeit in jest, it feels terrible now). These days, though, I tell women friends who want to be single, at least during the prime of their twenties, to go tell their parents about it. I am even seeing myself overcompensate: four girls I know who are between ages 20 and 21 are getting married in the next three months. And although I cannot possibly have altered decisions, I have asked them if it is their choice - completely. In most cases, the issue turns on the age of the bridegroom. Sigh! Miles to go in that department.

That personal detour aside, I agree with what you have said. It is in fact a revelation to me, a shocking one at that, that the sex ratio now is the worst in years. It IS terrifying!

And they say emotion and truth generally do not sit side by side. In these lines, I thought they did:

"But back then, I hadn't seen the heartbeat of my child. I did not know when I was typing out my furious arguments what it felt like to have a life grow inside me. I did not know what it was to consider a form who is only 5.2 mm to be a person I could talk to. Someone with a personality. Someone who hates apples and becomes happy when I eat curd. But I do now."

Telling post, GB!

Srinivas said...

@Vishesh: I completely agree with the last line in your comment. "Society is evil and we make up the society."

Have been yelling that to those prepared to listen, and those unprepared, for years :)

anna's mom said...

First time reader. Just had to comment. I have tears in my eyes as I am typing this. My daughter is 11 months old. And the sick feeling I get in my stomach when I think of what has happened to all these other baby girls will never go away.

The Visitor said...

I am with you ...

Ramya said...

Beautifully written. And so true. And everytime somebody I know has a baby girl I rejoice that much more that atleast another life has been given a chance.

Madhu said...

Beautiful post.I have similar thoughts but you gave voice to those.On a side note, how to turn daughters to write like you? :)

Zarine Mohideen said...

Wonderful post GB and I totally agree with you. If the society has to change then we need to change as well. The statistics were shocking.

Unfortunately, the World Cup euphoria took over the news channels when the census came out. 'Cause otherwise it would have been a field day for the news channels.

smartassbride said...

I've started telling myself that when(not if) I have my baby girl, I won't say/joke about "I want grand children", "saving for your marriage". Nope, not even in jest.

writerzblock said...

Beautifully written.. very strong emotions there.. I would just consider women like you and me as 'fortunate' for having been born in a family that has loved and treasured us!!! Now having said that, I also believe that women who choose to abort their baby 'girl' do it because they probably believe they are trying to 'save' the baby from a terrible future. Isn't that a possibility? In their own naive or insensitive (even!) way, they are protecting the little one from a life of hatred, abuse and inferior treatment. Agreed, they should give the baby a chance. But if they know the baby is going to be shunned by the own family, and they are themselves not financially independent, then I guess they choose the easy way out.

A said...

Nice post! I love that quote! where from?

Sathya said...

superb post..but hope such posts reach d creepy minds that want female children to b wiped out...

The Bride said...

Your book is not on Flipkart boo!

Anonymous said...

Very well written. I liked your message to MEN.

I have been following your blog for 2 years now and have never been disappointed :)

Congrats on the Baby by the way!

Saras said...

I dont know who you are or what you do, but i just came across your blog accidentally and i am just way too thankful for making me realize that marriage in just an event in my life. Im in my mid twenties and you should know how i feel. Anyway thanks to you so much. Good luck!

Arunima said...

very very good post.

Anonymous said...

Daughters are considered as liabilities in feudal societies and India, China and many other south Asian countries continue to remain feudal irrespective of the growth rate or literacy rate.Hence families can't wish away dowry.Dowry is expected even if the girl is earning well.It is not only the grooms or their relatives look the other way, the brides too demand a lavish wedding and dowry and of course those girls too wouldn't have asked for permission to go to a pub or to smoke.And how long these 'emancipated women' will continue to blame patriarchy? one can awaken a person who is really asleep, not the ones who feign it.
wedding is only a one day event, marriage is not.Good , healthy relationships enhance and enrich our lives.Their breakdowns mar our lives.Marriage or its breakdown shouldn't reduce us or destroy us.Education , financial independence and courage should help men and women to tide over such griefs.
For the first bond of society is marriage, it is up to us not to make it a bondage.we need to support marriage as an institution until something better comes along.
Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.
Babies are such a nice way to start people!They add to the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person.Take care!

Anonymous said...

On the ratio there is another perspective. Amongst my family and friends who have had babies in the last 5 years the ratio of male to females has been 8:2

I think its some sort of collective consciousness thing. Maybe since the female feotuses are terminated it has resulted in more male babies.

I know even as I say it, seems border line crazy but maybe not...

-GBF

Liju Kishore said...

Wonderfully written GB.im a regular reader of ur blog, but a first time "commentor". This time i just had to show my appreciation.Wish people change their attitude about the girl child.It's unblvble that even educated couples keep hoping n praying for a boy instead of a girl.Really proud of ur writing,double proud of the mallu tag too :-). I have shared this post of urs on my FB page.

Liju Kishore said...

Oh yeah...my heartiest congrats on the good news. Wish u n the lil one good health,happiness & prosperity to ur fmly.

indianhomemaker said...

Loved this post, specially the last lines!!

"What do we do about this other than cry that society is so evil? Take a stance.
If you are an unmarried man..." onwards - should be read by all.

Anybody worrying about 'brides for men', needs to know that it's the 'brides for men' idea that has lead to this ratio :(

Reflections said...

Just happened to be passing by.....a beautiful post, for some weird reason there were tears in my eyes by the time I reached the end of the post:-).

Congrats about ur baby!!! Take care!!!

Nuttie Natters said...

came here via IHM's. loved the post...and what i loved most is the advice to men. I hope that all of us who feel so strongly about gender equality manage to turn out confident young women and men!

Mampi said...

Beautiful.
Thanks to IHM for helping me reach you.
The best logic was the one where you said that we are more than mere vanishing partners to men.
Keep it up.

kirti said...

landed here from IHM's blog knowing for sure it had to be good . You really wrote with heart. congratulations on winning the award.

Ashwathy said...

Wow!! What a post!! I m speechless. Awesomely written. And I love the quote at the end :-)

starry eyed said...

I loved the quote about the chains...I'm still removing some of my imaginary chains...and finding out I'm not going to be raped or condemned without them. On the other hand, I feel way more powerful.

Kudos for a great post!

Indian Home Maker said...

Congratulations :) This post in one of the winners of 'Tejaswee Rao Blogging Awards - 2011' (TRBA 2011). We would like to create an ebook with all the winning entries in 47 categories on Feminism and Gender Issues in India (and one category on Animals Rights). Please do let us know if you are fine with your winning post/s being included in this ebook. ( Please click here to let us know).

starlitwishes said...

Found this through IHM's blog, and must say you blew my mind. I also wrote a paper on feticide a few years ago, and having not lived in India for over a decade was appalled at some of the things I came across while researching. I've never been able to understand how a mother-to-be can allow this to happen to a living, breathing child, HER flesh and blood.

The first Satyameva Jayate episode brought things into perspective a bit, when I saw the state of the mothers who were forced to do this. I'm just glad that they were finally able to take a stand and leave their so-called husbands for the sake of the daughters that did survive.

Joseph said...

Wow!! What a post!! I m speechless. Awesomely written. And I love the quote at the end :-)

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