No second chances for an Indian daughter.

Nirupama Pathak 23, a Delhi based journalist was found dead in her parents’ home in Koderma, Jharkhand.

Her mother said she was electrocuted while cleaning the ceiling fan. Later she said Nirupama hung herself from the fan and left a suicide note (no rope found say police). The police was not informed until 18 hours after the death.

According to the medical report, Nirupama could have been smothered with a pillow and she was 10-12 weeks pregnant (Her fiance says he wasn’t aware).

The police thinks this could be a case of Honor Killing.

Knowing how Indians view premarital pregnancy as a blow to their culture, nothing can be ruled out.

Suicide is seen as the appropriate, unwritten penalty for a premarital pregnancy in our society.

It is possible that the Nirupama took her own life if her fiance refused to marry her.

Our society does not acknowledge a heart break as traumatic because heart breaks are a result of premarital relationships and we do not believe in premarital relationships.

Did Nirupama need emotional support?

Maybe an abortion, some time, some counseling,  a hope for a second chance in life and a much needed hug could have saved her life?

It is possible that the mother tried to show a suicide as an electrocution. Suicide by an unmarried girl is seen with suspicion.

1. An unmarried young woman can kill herself for not doing well in exams. Such suicides are not dishonorable and are excused with sympathy for the parents.

2. A married young woman can hang herself. Most unfortunate but perfectly honorable. Better than walking out of a bad marriage anyway.

3. An unmarried young woman might commit suicide for any reason, but the parent’s peer group would wonder if it has ‘something to do with a boy’. A man in a girl’s life is considered most dishonorable.

Good Indian Girls are not supposed to interact with men and here she interacted enough to fall in love, maybe sleep with and maybe get pregnant. The parents’ peer group would find the time to analyze how they ‘never suspected’ or ‘always suspected‘ that she was ‘that‘ kind of girl.

Most Indians are conditioned to be intimidated by malicious  gossip. So if she did commit suicide, even in their grief Nirupama’s parents could want it to look like an electrocution.

While some suicides are dishonorable, premarital pregnancies and inter caste marriages are even more dishonorable. So it is possible that they drove her to kill herself.

And if she was too reluctant to kill herself, it is also possible that her mother did smother her with a pillow hoping to pass off her death as suicide.

Nirupama Pathak’s parents had options.

1. If the couple wanted to get married – they could give them their blessings.

In a country where thousands of girls are killed in, being forced to go back or are dying-everyday in bad marriages – how could the parents not be delighted to see their daughter find happiness and love?

Indian parents have amazing confidence (often sadly misplaced) in their own abilities in finding perfect matches for their adult children.

Did they fear her choice was wrong? She was 23. They should have respected her decision. The Supreme Court does.

2. What if her fiance was not willing to marry her?

Many would see that as the worst possible calamity to fall on an Indian daughter’s parents. A Bollywood father would  hang himself from a ceiling fan or throw the girl out. Where do Indian family values go when a daughter needs them?

Read more about our attitudes when it comes to daughters, on Kislay’s blog. [click here].

They could have advised her to have an abortion. If they were afraid of the doctor ‘talking about it’, they could have come to Delhi where Nirupama worked.

3. What if the girl did not want marriage or abortion?

She would have been well within her rights to choose that.

If they couldn’t handle that, they could have told her to live her life her way and cut off all ties with her. That’s an honorable, face-saving thing to do in our society. Their all important peer group (biradari/samaaj/community) would have respected them for it.

Where then did death, suicide or killing come into this?

Do parents who can’t make the best of an unfortunate situation and at least stand by an unhappy child – still believe that they deserve to have children?

Important Note: Anyone heard of Priyabhanshu Ranjan?

When life ends at twelve.

(Yemen) …”a 12-year-old girl died in childbirth after an agonizing 3-day labor.  …young Fawziya was pulled out of school and married to a man twice her age.

She isn’t the only one.

The issue of Yemeni child brides came to the forefront last year, with 8-year-old Nujood Ali who “was pulled out of school and married to a man who beat and raped her within weeks of the ceremony.

To escape, Nujood hailed a taxi — the first time in her life — to get across town to the central courthouse where she sat on a bench and demanded to see a judge.”  [Full story]

Yemen is full of child brides. Roughly half of Yemeni girls are married before 18, some as young as eight. Child marriage, common in South Asia, sub- Saharan Africa and Middle-Eastern countries such as Yemen, is dangerous for brides and their children…”

India is not too different. I have met a few, all unhappy.  One of my maids once confessed that she had a daughter who she had left in her village near Ferozpur. She was devoted to her son, dropped him to a ‘private school’ everyday and bought Bournvita for him. Didn’t she worry about how her other child was doing?

She said her husband hated the girl and she felt the child was safer with her maternal grandmother. When I conveyed my disapproval, she confessed that the daughter was from an earlier marriage to an older man, and although her husband had promised to take care of her, he treated her cruelly.

When she was 12 her family had married her to a 40-year old widower. He raped her and beat her. She escaped and came back to her village. She told her family she would hang herself if they tried to send her back. She was pregnant with that daughter at the time. She never went back and was married again when she was older.

Her daughter was more like a sister to her, she thought of her grandmother as her mother.

Not all girls escape or die, many stay married and live to have many children (healthy or unhealthy) over whom they have no rights. Women in such marriages are another generation, and much younger, and since our society associates wisdom with age, the husband’s word is the last word in all important matters. Dead or alive, they have no life.

Girls these days….

1.Guilt

Niece 8, asking, ‘You never, ever get angry with your kids?

2. Pride (mixed with the realization that somebody needs a shaking.)

Daughter says, ‘I can’t feel strongly about feminism ma, I haven’t seen any of this discrimination you talk about …’

3. Helplessness

A friend’s daughter, “Whatever they say aunty, we may be good at studies, equally independent – everything, …but for our parents we are still girls… we can never be equal to boys…”

(Just like that in the middle of a random conversation about something unrelated)

1. To the niece.

IHM: “err umm I don’t like to, but sometimes I do… err umm…”

Accusing, stern eyes, “What can make you angry with them?

IHM: Err… (really lost) … err sometimes they get late for school, if I don’t pretend to be angry they’ll miss their bus, then we have to drop them…and then on top of that she says, I should let her drive!”

“Maybe it’s a trick so that you let her drive! You should let her drive.”

IHM: “But she needs a license M!”

Serious, considering eyes: But what’s there to be angry in this? You can explain this nicely also?

IHM: I should you know, normally I do… only rarely sometimes if I am angry, or tired …

Serious, grandmotherly eyes: You should sleep in time.


2. To the brat (daughter): A long lecture, and a reading list.


3. To the friends’ daughter: (very casually) Yeah I know…we went through a lot of this too, but ended it with our generation, mothers have more power than they realise, nice weather, no?? We can change the thinking of a generation… you will be in a position to put an end to such discrimination in your immediate family, don’t let this continue… Cute hair clips! …Biases can actually even strengthen us…

If only I didn’t know and like her mother, I could have said so much more.

But now I do talk to her mother about a whole lot of things including how my mother sometimes confused me, with talk of independence within limits, equality but not too much equality, ….about how girls need even more support… about how a girl’s tattoo, and noodle straps, don’t necessarily clash with her dreams of a happy, bright, independent future, where marriage is just one of the nice things, (not the reason for her existence).

I wonder how else could I handled it, specially the last one…

And the winner is ….

I would like to thank Hitchwriter for taking out the time from his busy schedule, to choose the winners for this contest. This is what our honorable Judge HITCHWRITER had to say (after finishing the mutton biryani)
Well so far… of what I have read…. If I had to pick one winner… I wouldn’t be able to pick from Solilo and Surbhi…. So they are the joint winners….
but….
there are a few who are quite close….
Kayfitnesmantra
Varunavi
Kislay
Rakesh
Rest all need not be disappointed… you are in my league… coz I didnt have a clue either !!!!
Actually its not our fault at all !! its IHM’s fault we werent able to tell !!!!
he he he….
Congrats to Surbhi… !!!! kudos !!!! well hate to say this but to Solilo toooo !!!!!
both are crowned as Sheikh Chillies… !!!! (those who guessed this are sheikhchillies, lol)
Hitchwriter… Bhagooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
(inspired by Solilo) he he he… what goes around comes around… !!!
SO THE 55 WORDS FICTION AWARD GOES TO SOLILO & SURBHI

THE FIRST PART OF THE 55WORD FICTION

SHE WAITED TO BE ALONE

They were waiting in the loft.

They must be hungry. Their cries echoed in her ears. The eldest will keep the little one quiet she thought as she packed her precious son off to school.

How much she had given up to have him.

The three in the loft could have been here with them…


THE SECOND PART OF THE 55 WORD FICTION

She planned well. On the delivery date, she hid her first born, Ladli, in the loft. Nobody knew.

She couldn’t bear her crying. She fed her, bathed her…loved her.

Later Bojha and Unchahi joined Ladli. They still cried a lot…

The first time she had heard the cry was five days after the first abortion.


NOTE:

Ladli –  Name for a daughter, means ‘The pampered and loved one’ – or a Brat :)

Unchahi- Name for daughters in Haryana and Punjab, translates to ‘unwanted’

Bojha again a name for daughters, translates to ‘Burden’.

These names are actually used in Haryana and Punjab.

Can an Indian daughter say, “Mere paas maa hai!”?

When my daughter was born, I saw an unbelievable side of educated, middle class Indians. Right there in the delivery room, moments after I heard her first, lusty, cry, I found sympathy flowing my way, “Never mind, this is your first baby, you can try again!” When I realised what they meant, I was seriously outraged!  I had always thought such things happened to our illiterate, economically backward, domestic helpers (and I had always supported them, by talking to their families.)

Can you imagine how this could affect the psyche of a new mother and her self righteous, traditional, and all powerful, ‘in laws’? Here I have just come out of labour, still marveling at the miracle of birth, feeling like this was the proudest moment of my life, and  just relieved that labour was over! I had just thanked all present! And they are saying, “Better luck next time.”!

I knew my mother was hoping for a grandson, but knowing me she said nothing. She knew what I’d say, “Caught you! I always knew!! You only love your son, you did not want us!?” Don’t all Indian daughters want to ask this question? It’s true. She does love him more, but as we grew she learnt to not show it too openly. I think she also realised how nice it was to have us, the daughters. She is too God fearing not to feel guilty. She knows it’s wrong of her to love us less. Do all mothers know this? Can they pray in a temple, perform hawans, make pilgrimages to Vaishnodevi, Shirdi and Tirupathi and still go ahead and kill an unborn daughter? Do such people believe they have their religion and their God’s sanction to commit something so heinous? I will not kill or even hurt a baby rat, a kitten or a puppy or a piglet…..But they think they can kill their little girl and there will be no retribution? Hindus will not kill a cow. They will not kill a cat. But they will kill a baby girl. If my mother had a choice, while I was still a foetus in her womb, would she have …Maybe not me, being her first pregnancy, but my sister? She would have considered the option, I don’t doubt that. Our Indian values are very practical. Maya before mamta. They want a hundred sons, and not a single daughter.

These days when I see families with young daughters, I look at the parents with respect. I know they had a choice. When I see families with too many young boys, too much of age difference between the boys or only boys in the family, I am very suspicious. I wonder if I am speaking to a baby-girl killer. Such are our times!

When my daughter was five months old, in 1991, I was watching a TV show called PUKAR, a series of stories about women who fought against oppressive social customs. It should be shown again. There was this story of a Rajput woman who was expected to kill her own daughter – a third daughter. I had my baby girl in my lap as I watched this mother being compelled to kill her new born daughter. She was writhing in labor, when her mother in law warned her that the baby had better be a boy this time. Once the girl is born, the mother tries to buy time. She had persuaded them to let her first two daughters live, but this time no excuses were going to be tolerated.

I watched as the day of the killing came closer.

They take the mother and new born daughter to a Kali Temple. She lays the baby on a stone in the temple. And surrounding her are the brave Rajput men, goading her husband, considered a ‘joru ka ghulam’ for having two living daughters in a village where girls were either drowned or fed poisonous sap from aankra plant.  Women watched her, terrified, remembering and reliving their own traumas.

And then she is given the sword by her best friend, who assures her that she had sharpened it so the death would be quick, and wouldn’t hurt the baby too much. This woman takes the sword in her trembling hands, she looks at everybody and lifts up the glittering sword and looks at all the faces, “I am a brave Rajputani and I will not hesitate to use this sword”.  She brings it down swiftly beside her sleeping child, “At anybody who dares to try to hurt my daughter.”

I bursts into tears of relief and delight, my sister came running (I was at her place) – “What happened!!? Must be postpartum blues, can make you over sensitive… It’s perfectly normal.” And she saw me smiling. That little baby-girl in that remote village in those dark times, could definitely say, “Mere paas ma hai!” [Translated : I have my mother by my side.]


(I have been thinking of what to write for Unchahi… and these are just some rambling thoughts.)