Female infanticide and Feminism

“To all the women, whose life seems an utter mess,

Who see neither way out nor a cathedral to confess.

To whom survival is the immediate need,

Who no advice columns or feminism heed.

Listen to me, listen here,

I bring you nothing new, nothing that would cheer.

But don’t listen to all the crap they say,

Just stay the way you are…. you’ll be OK someday.”

The parents cried over the child, wept bitterly. “Somehow please save this child”, they pleaded.

The mother had just been discharged from the Intensive Care Unit. She had seen the edge of death and come back. She had also been told that she would not be able to have any more children.

“Is this your first child?” I asked.

“No”, she replied. Then she told me her story.

The first child was a boy, he had died at 4 ½ months, she was not sure how, but he always had some difficulty in breathing. The 2nd child was a girl, she was now studying in 9th standard. The 3rd, 4th and 6th ones were girls too, studying in 5th, 2nd standard and preschool. The 5th child was a boy, who did not cry when he was born and died within a week. The 7th child was the one lying unresponsive before me with little hope of being normal even if he survived. “We just wanted at least one boy child”, she cried.

Here was a family who struggled to eat a meal a day, who would never be able to educate their daughters beyond high school who so desperately desired a son.  Listening to the story made me very resentful and angry. I avoided the parents for a few days, that is how long I took to talk to them without conflicting emotions.

“Why did you want a son so badly”, I finally asked her. That is when I heard the rest of the story.

She said that she did not have anyone. Her father had left her mother because she didn’t have a son, to bring up 3 daughters alone. None of her sisters or she had even been to a school, they just couldn’t afford it. Finally she was married to her uncle, her mother’s brother at the age of 12. This saved the usual marriage expenses that the girl’s family were asked to meet. You can read about wedding expenses in India here (http://www.unmappedmag.com/issue-24/the-true-cost-of-an-indian-wedding/).

At 13 she had her 1st child. By then her mother was no more. So she did not have her mother’s emotional or physical support in bringing up her children. Both she and her husband were daily wage labourers, who were hired for unskilled work occasionally earning enough for a meal a day.maxresdefault

Why did they want a son? Oh everyone made fun of her. They made fun of their 4 daughters, they told her that she could not bear a son. She wanted to prove them wrong. Her sister in law had a son (and a daughter). When you had a son, you had more privileges, like a better place to sleep in the house and better food to eat. “It is not that I don’t love my daughters, I will make sure they study till high school, but a son would take care of us in old age, the daughters will get married and leave.”

*                                         *                                             *

There is a story in the recent news about girls who were abandoned by their parents at birth 18 year ago, who grew up in orphanages, who now are being taken back to their biological parents after DNA testing (http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/Ghost-of-female-infanticide-returns-to-haunt-Usilampatti/article16899855.ece).

They go back to families who are already making plans for their marriage and education. The media emphasis is on the positive response of the biological parents and their regret about the initial mistake. Why make them look so good for taking back daughters who belonged to them and should have been protected from harm and brought up by THEM. I wonder why no reporters asked the now young women how they feel about going back. About going back to a place where they were unwanted. About having no choice or options regarding the same.

What will happen to them tomorrow when they are no longer in the news? Will they be treated better in their homes than in the orphanage where they were neglected?

*                                         *                                             *

The mother, whose features I have often tried to imagine, having seen only her eyes, pulls the veil over her 3 year old daughter’s face, who does not resist at all. It is a hot day. She’s just a child.

“Why do you have to do it?” I ask, overcoming my usually hesitation in asking intruding questions.

“She will have to get used to it”, the mother replies.

A-Salon-for-Veiled-Women-in-Suresnes

She didn’t want my pitying looks, and maybe wanted to defend herself, so she added: “It makes little girls look very cute, don’t you think? I like putting it on her!”

“She looks lovely.” I said.

*                                         *                                             *

“When I grow big I want to be just like you” she says, hugging me and pressing her soft cheeks against mine. She is 4 years old.

“What do you want to become when you grow big?” I ask her.

“I want to be a Mummy!” She says clapping her little hands.

“I know” I prompt further, “See I am a Mummy AND a Baby Therapist, no? What do want to be? Mummy and …….”

“I want to be a Mummy!” she says firmly, putting her hands on her hips. “And I going to have 100 babies!”

Dear Lord, I prayed, whatever it is that her heart desires, protect her from hurt and harm.

*                                         *                                             *

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie an excellent writer, a beautiful human being and a hard core feminist writes ”To raise feminist daughters, mothers must take pleasure in their own achievements, follow both the challenges and delights of the work, and give themselves room to fail. Ultimately, they must be full people.”

“Motherhood is a glorious gift”, she writes, “But do not define yourself solely by motherhood.”

Dear Ms Adichie, Feminism is for those who love eloquent speeches and for those who have been taught to appreciate poetry.rose-fausto-empowering-women-economics

I don’t see a reason for not defining yourself primarily as a mother- isn’t that or doesn’t that become part of who you are? There is nothing inferior or shameful about that.

How long do we strive and to what end?

Its probably not even about striving.

It is probably finding yourself in a world which doesn’t care or see.

It’s standing against the odds and saying I matter… too.

It is resisting the urge to run and hide and wearing a mask instead.

I would like to tell all women-

YOU ARE WORTHY.

You are worthy of all you dream of. You do not have to prove your worth.

Your worth is not in the children you bear or your academic accomplishments.

Your worth is not in the name you add on to yours after marriage.

It is not in the things that you cannot do because the world won’t let you.

It is not in hiding your beauty, so others will not take advantage of it.

Your worth is in who you are as a woman, the obstacles you overcome.

The way you are capable of holding strong and moving on.

And when you realise your strength, you’re gonna be OK.

You’re gonna be OK.

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Simply being

The distinguished looking lady came to the out patient department of the hospital, entered my room and surprisingly sat down next to me. She seemed to be looking for someone, but was obviously in the wrong place. She had greeted me when she came in and asked if she could use the phone. Strangely I did not resent her intrusion. When she couldn’t contact the person, she sighed, talking to herself rather than me. She gave up after a while.

She suddenly stopped and looked at me and asked for my name.

I introduced myself and told her when I had met her last; she had come to see my boss.

She didn’t remember, but as she got up, she said, “You have a beautiful smile.”

She opened her arms for a hug. “Come here”, she said.  I fitted perfectly.

It was motherly, very womanly.

“It’s all worth it in the end”, she said.

“In the kingdom of heaven, even this counts.”

With that she was gone.

She left me thinking what it was that I had done.

And realize that it was not in doing… but in simply being.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

 

 

Photo credit: rightinfrontofme.wordpress.com

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The abandoned pups

One fine day 2 houses away, we hear a chorus of yelping and find 9 tiny adorable pups. None of the neighbours knew where they had come from or when. The pups only knew was that they were hungry, very hungry. So they yelped and yelped waiting for someone to feed them.

The owners of the house in front of which they had been abandoned, did not think it a joke. They complained about the noise and the litter, they also worried about the future- When all these pups grew up, what a noise they would make!

They were not cruel or mean. Our street already had about 3 stray dogs, they were women. So when their boyfriends came to mate them, they did make a lot of noise. When there was rivalry, or dispute about territory, this was worse. The men stayed in the parallel street, which had a whole gang of stray dogs, who were much more aggressive. We were happy with the women- they took care of our children and scared off unfamiliar people.

The first one who moved in was a female, who stranded in our shed on a very rainy day. She brought with her the only surviving child of that set. She stayed for a while, had babies again, which grew up, moved on. She stayed on till she died. Her children then moved into the neighbourhood and they all steadily increased in number. The neighbourhood had mixed feelings, but soon got used to them. They ate all the leftover food, and protected the street from unfamiliar people.

Coming back to the 9 babies, we knew that until their tummies were full, they would not stop whining. Someone got a bowl of milk, which was greedily emptied, with each competing with the other. This was amid warnings from the conservatives, if you feed them, they will not leave, etc.

It was lovely to see their personalities. A doormat, who let the others drink first and got almost nothing in the end. A playful one, who once tummy full pushed everyone else around. A naughty one, biting the kutty one’s ears. The curious one, who wanted to know where the milk had come from. The smart one, who approached the bowl from the other side for better access.

We said good night and went to sleep in our warm little houses, while the little ones cuddled together in a ball.

The next day evening when we came back from work, they were gone. We searched 2 streets to no avail. 2 days later, they were in the parallel street- in the male territory. We were worried and afraid, till we realised that one of our ladies who had just lost her entire litter had adopted them in a way, by not letting the men get near them. I wonder what sacrifices she had to make to do that. She did not for long- probably it was just too much to take on.

By then there were just 8 and one was sick making moaning sounds. Her brothers and sisters licked  her fur, as if trying to comfort her. The next day they were just 7. One got run over by a car, it was the main road after all, one fell into the open ditch at the road side. And then there were 3, we weren’t sure what happened to the others. They stuck together, slept curled up together, as if making up for the absent mother. They followed any human that passed by, till they got kicked or shooed away. The other day when we passed by, we saw there was just this one left.

 

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He did not seem curious, scared or hungry- he just stared. I wondered if he had post traumatic stress disorder. And if he lacked the warmth of a mother and if he would become a delinquent when he grew up. That is if he survived of course.

He had this horrible habit of lying right in the middle of the road as if he thought that  there was no fate other than what befell his siblings.

I wondered if he was depressed and trying to commit suicide.

Maybe it was stupid to think that.

“Survival of the fittest and the smartest and cruelest?”

Is there justice in the law of nature?

But I wonder, when God commanded us to take care of animals, what he expected of us.

I wonder, when we use animals for our purposes and kill them to suit our palate or convenience, if they cry out to our God.

I really look forward  to a world, where we will not have to watch  any animal suffer and die.

A world where justice prevails.

 

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the former things have passed away.” 5And the One seated on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Revelations 21: 4-5

 

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Colour me

Colour me black,

Taint my name,

Make me look like I’m  a quack.

 

Colour me red,

Lust over me,

Crush me out like a cigarette.

 

Colour me pink,

Call me cute,

Taste me like a strawberry drink.

 

Colour me yellow,

Call me a buddy,

Say it’s just friendship, sweet and mellow.

 

Colour me orange,

Call me prideful,

Firm in my attitude as rock embedded coral.

 

Colour me green,

Call me jealous,

Competing with the flowers and the trees.

 

Colour me purple,

Call me brave,

Because I live my life loud with a purpose.

 

Colour me silver,

Call me timid,

You think I resemble a chilver?

 

Remember yet as you colour me,

Your shade will not change,

The colour that I choose to be.

 

Picture credit:www.taringa.net

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Trail of love

Down the hill, ethereal, illusive, a half open gate.

Inviting, taunting, to tread that road again.

To innocent subtle intentions that had been, or hadn’t,

To uncover musty shrouds and skeletons hidden there.

 

To re enter the sanctuary of love, emptiness slaking,

Memories of a heart torn asunder, tormented crying.

Given to him had been whatever was worth taking,

Truth, acceptance, trust when she knew he was lying.

 

In a flash appeared through the mist, a ghost,

Harshness, fear, made the air grow colder.

He said- It is still you I love the most,

You will find peace, comfort only on my shoulder.

 

Enticed and captured was your soul with that kiss.

She searched for years to realize, she had only dreamt this.

 

Photo credit: rebloggy.com

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Only tasted

Hateful thoughts

Like fresh lemon drops

Soured the palate

Scandal.

 

Unfurling conspiracy

Like expensive wine

Treasured and proud

Secret meetings.

 

Murderous intentions

Like Roasted fish bone

Pierced the inside

Intravenous lines.

 

Loaded ammunition

Like bitter coffee

Burned all the way down

Poisonous drugs.

 

Silent murder

Like cranberry juice

Sweet sour revenge

Induced coma.

 

 

She never knew. Never saw. Never felt.

 

Written in response to the death of our Chief Minister and the subsequent political upheaval in Tamil Nadu, India.

 

 

 

Photo credit: http://www.ebsqart.com

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Pencil strike

If the pen is mightier than a sword,
A pencil is a kitchen knife.
And while the sword is used only in battle,
The knife is used in everyday life.

The one end piercing as a pin,broken-pencil-cliparts-1
The other unapologetically chewed,
When enlightening words pierce from within,
The Buddha it’s end bites.

It draws, writes, prints, strikes out,
Creates at times nothing but doodles.
The cyclones of confused thoughts,
Deranged, knotted, swirled like noodles.

It resides in my pocket, reliable as a body part.
It has its special place, right next to my heart.
In my hand a slave, of humble servitude.
Has yet to rebel against me, Oh darn, it broke.

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