We were sitting and staring at my big belly, watching the baby movements and in the process hoping to see a hand here or a foot there go swoosh under the extended skin. The doctor had promised us that the 9th month will be full of fascinating science as has never been experienced by us before – neither individually and nor as a couple together. Indeed! We screamed in unison as we saw tiny little fingers brush against the inside of my humungous uterus, as if trying to tickle me.
“What are you hoping the baby to be?” I asked him in glee.
“I want a boy!” came his confident, almost pre-conceived response. Instantly, I asked a horrified ‘why’ which in turn made him sit-up, straighten up and stutter. He was beginning to say something about how it did not matter whichever came his way, but that he wanted a son for silly reasons like ganging-up against me, playing PS2 freely and for enjoying some man-to-man bonding and company in a house when the hen was pecking all too often, lately! But before he knew it, I had surrounded him like a storm-on-a-mission, with my hormonal guttural going on and on about issues and ideas that ranged from feminist to activist to who-admits-that-these-days to how-regressive-are-you to what-not. I did not wonder then what was so odd about a to-be father wanting a son. I realized only later it was a hope no one honestly gave voice to any more, for fear of a response exactly as my husband had to witness. Without admitting as much, I smelled I was not entirely right, and called it a night.
A boy it was, indeed! We were all happy, and my husband very happy. This was more than 2 years back. The parenting journey began – both offline as well as online. I introduced myself to various parenting groups and subscribed to reputed parenting journals as “guides” in times of need, or otherwise. And then I gradually came to realize how hardly anyone seemed to be discussing issues related to boys and how all the girls were having the cake and eating it too. Ribbons and frills ruled the roost and checkered shirts and shorts were never on discount. Mothers of girls were going ‘We are blessed by Laxmi’ whereas those of boys stood quietly, almost guiltily, behind. I saw how every expectant pair of parent said they wanted a girl as if under a pressure to and how every grandmother kept repeating to herself like a prayer ‘these days there is no difference between a girl and a boy’. Seriously! Boys were conspicuous by their absence. No one seemed to want them, or give donations to those in need for raising a boy child, or even admit they were happy to have had a son. I quietly felt sorry for delivering a speech to my husband that night as I saw the unfairness in the situation. In this lop-sided idea of progress, and something that surely could not help in gender equality - by putting the spot-light on one and relegating the other to the background.
And then one day, this video happened to my life. I say the video happened because I consider it an event - I had never seen nor heard before commentary as convincing and as moving to my very being as this one. It made me see how I was living in a world so far removed from next-door reality. So far removed, that it made me re-examine all the ‘What about it’s a boy?’ thoughts that were creating a little storm in my mind.
This is the video of film maker Evan Grae Davis on ‘gendercide’. It is a part of the list of videos on FTideaCaravan to spread the belief that powerful ideas today are the true investments for a better tomorrow:
The video left me with the following thoughts and lessons, to mull over and pass on. To do my tiny bit in a section of the world that needed as many hands and minds as could come forward. If not to erase history but to prevent it from repeating itself - history that is made up of such heart-wrenching statistics as this video brings to light.
What I gathered is this -
1. A woman killed her 8 girls with her own hands. Did she do it because she wanted a boy, or because she did not want her 8 girls to live the life that she had suffered? Is that where the remorselessness stemmed from, for murder of one’s own children? Hoping to prevent a fate for them similar to one’s own? If we look close, this woman was nothing but a product of the environment she had lived in, as were her actions. Just like you and I have been born into certain backgrounds and contexts which are as much a part of our evolution as the genes inside. We all are products of circumstances and situations which govern, and sometimes dictate, our future actions. And the extent to which our surroundings influence us can be something as gruesome as leading us to murder and something as tragic as murdering our own children.
2. If our environment does shape us, the next step is to become “culture-changers”. We need to question traditions and age-old social beliefs that we are born into and made to live out all through our lives. We need to reject, reject, reject what we see as wrong sans any fear of social ostracism or familial condemnation. We need to have a voice, even at the risk of being pronounced a pariah. Someone has to. Someone has to expose the tokenism in the form of worshipping ‘Mother’ India and ‘Goddess’ Durga and instead think of the little girl who was killed even before she was born, and even as bells in Kali temples rang with a spirit of worship. Someone needs to look beyond the "givens"!
3. However, before looking for the messiah ‘someone’ in the ‘we’, we need to find the ‘I’. Share responsibility at a personal level and not delegate it, or hope someone else will pick up the cudgels for us in time, and the number of murders will magically decrease. Those adverts in the newspapers I saw, agreed with even, but only considered as promoting the girl child and ignoring the boys were speaking to me, trying to tell me something, shed a clue for me to pick up, a hand to hold and pull out of the muck. I needed to think outside my comfort zone, outside my home – away from my husband my boy my life. I needed to understand the faces behind the statistics of abortions, mortality rate, dowry deaths and child bride kidnappings. I needed to be shaken to realize these are little girls and innocent women we are talking about. It was 'I' all along, which I failed to see.
4. And as I believe in standing up for what I know as right, I need to spread the belief too. As I examine my situation in life with guilt and with shame think of how little I have done, I need to spread the idea for change to my Tomorrow, in the hope that he will do better. Pass on the real spelling of responsibility so that it can be assumed by not just me, but everyone who I can spread it to. I need to make my boy understand the concept of gender, with respect for the other. In the process, I need to make sure I do not put any one gender above the other, for that would defeat the idea of equality altogether, wouldn't it? The point is not to create points of difference, but points of sameness. A whole new way of thinking needs to be devised, and we cannot do that successfully if we do not involve the Tomorrows sitting in our laps – both boys as well as girls.
‘Gendercide’ needs to stop.
We need to think away from the immediate and beyond the known. Only then does reality show you all it’s facets - the good, the bad and the very ugly. And only when we see the picture in its entirety will we realize where we can lend a hand and help, even if in the minutest of ways. We need girls. And then we need to give them a voice. Not just a voice of their own but the collective voice of us all – for something that we have always considered a gift from God – Life.
The crying faces of those women from China being forced to abort their babies by the Abortion Police will haunt me for a long time to come. And they should! Because I stand guilty. If it was not for this video, I would have kept thinking – What about “It’s a boy!” ?
[This post on indiblogger.in is written for Franklin Templeton Investments who partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.]