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.)

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

  1. just got here after replying to your comment.

    I can so identify with what you have said. I have seen it happen in my extended family where the boy is revered, as though he is a bloody treasure. Fortunately for me my parents don’t believe in it! I have a baby girl and they are the most thrilled!

    Indian’s are the most hypocritical lot… saving our animals and killing babies just cause they happen to be girls!

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  2. Kudos! One of the best posts from the Indian Home Maker. If only we had more mommies like you, the catastrophe that is waiting to strike India won’t even have existed!

    And what happened to the Rajput lady? Did she win against those monsters in human disguise?

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  3. Jyoti You have a daughter? How old is she?
    It’s all very complex. But I strongly believe in ‘The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world.” We can raise our children without any such prejudices. We have so much power and so much responsibility.
    I have nothing against saving animals, in fact I love animals…I became a vegetarian because I love animals.

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  4. krishna aradhi That Rajput woman and her family lived happily ever after. She raised her daughters into happy, bold, beautiful girls. Her husband who did not want his children killed anyway(what kind of father would), doted upon the youngest, who looked just like him. He named her after himself. They were the only girls in the village so they got a lot of attention, they learnt how to use a lathi for self protection …ha ha actually, that episode finished at that point where I ended my post, but we can use our imagination, once she had saved the infant’s life, the rest of the battle must have become easier for her🙂 Kudos to HER, not me:)

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  5. Trust me, it’s not only mothers who love their daughters.

    I have a daughter, an only child, and I have no intentions of providing her with the joys of having a sibling. Ever since we became aware of the stork’s imminent visit, I had always wanted a daughter and was blessed with one.

    Boys, intrinsically, are not really loving or caring, nor are they too lovable!

    To cite an example…
    A couple of days ago, my wife and daughter attended a birthday party in the evening, and returned home well fed. Yours truly, on the other hand, had not had much to eat all day. Well, we were all exhausted, so I went to bed hungry. My daughter remembered that I had not been at the party with her, and inquired about my dinner. When she discovered that I had not had any, she went sobbing to my wife and made her heat some food for me, which she (my daughter) fed me with her hands! An amazing display of love, from a 6-yr old!
    Would a son ever have done that? I wonder…

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    • If boys are not loving and caring, that’s because they were not raised to be loving and caring. People don’t think of how differently they treat their sons and daughters. If a boy cries, the mother will say something like “Don’t cry, your a big boy” or “Don’t be such a cry-baby.” If a girl cries she will be held in her mother’s arms and get comforted. The mother will show more patience to the girl than to the boy. I have seen this with my own eyes.

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  6. Amit You are a lucky dad:) And your daughter can proudly say, “My daddy is the best!” She is such an adorable child! Is she still upset with the thieves for not stealing her toys? But you can’t deny that children learn from their environment and she has obviously seen and received a lot of warmth and affection!
    I won’t say boys don’t show affection, but girls do have a special rapport with their dads. I can say that, because my dad was like a friend, philosopher and guide to me.
    My mother loves to say, “Gandhi had five sons, and Nehru had just one daughter. Who would you consider lucky?”
    India needs many, many more dads like you!

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  7. when i was preg, i had everybody frm my relatives to astrologers to palm readers predicting that I will have a boy

    Every time this happened I would send out a little prayer hoping I would have a girl. The nurses and the doc during my labor were thrilled, I had a girl. In fact on that day only girls were born, it was just a few days before diwali. And there was this happy festive air that the hospital had delivered girls!🙂

    Like my dad says, Girls are the best. One needs to be lucky to have a girl child,and not everybody has such good karma!

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  8. Okay, my mom has 4 girls and I know she was very sad when my youngest sister was born. My dad had no problems and loves us all the same.

    Now when I had my first dd, my mom wanted a grandson more than my mil.
    When I had my 2nd dd, she actually refused to believe me(I was in the US and she was in Singapore) and asked to speak to my dh.
    When I was pregnant with my 3rd child, she made all these promises(I forgot the hindi word for it) that she will do this special puja in the temple in Singapore,if I had a boy.
    She was so happy when I had my son.

    Then when I got pregnant for the
    4th time(we were using Durex condoms and I blame my dh for getting the cheap made in malaysia ones), everyone from my mom to my inlaws, wanted me to get an abortion. I was shocked, I told my mom if my 3rd child was a girl, you would have never told me to go for an abortion. She kept quiet.

    Well, I had another boy and people said I was lucky.What that fuck does that mean? If I had another girl, I was unlucky? Okay before I take up all your space, I will end my comment here.
    Okay

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  9. j I wish there were more parents like yours:) I know many women, from my generations, who did not want to have daughters at all. They don’t know what they are missing. Ideally if somebody does not like girls they don’t deserve to have any and better not have any.
    jyoti I call my daughter ‘my life’ too! Do give her a hug from me:)

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  10. I know I’m a lucky dad🙂

    I must admit, though, that I have a long way to go before I can make my daughter feel special – I do run out of patience rather quickly, and she’s usually at the receiving end of my wrath.

    I just want, at the end of the day, whenever she’s feeling low she can say, “Mere paas baap hai!”, to quote Philip.

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  11. umm dunno why my comment got deleted … but i said … a powerful write up!!!🙂 very well done. got me smiling at the end too.

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  12. great serial….made me all teary…wish all women would do the same…and be so strong…all these primitive traditions n people who support them wouldn’t stand a chance…

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  13. कुछ और समझ न आया….बस ये कुछ lines …just feel proud to be a daughter of wonderful parents…who gave me n my sis all their unconditional love….widout even making us realize that sumwhere ….in sum minds discrimation exists…feel blessed…..

    सूरज की रूह है बेटियाँ

    चांदनी का चेहरा है बेटियाँ

    जुगनू है , तितलिया है , कलेजा है बेटियाँ

    फुरसत मिले तो इनको पड़कर भी देखलो

    कुरान है , बाइबल है , गीता है बेटियाँ

    बेटे तो अपनी बीवियों को लेकर चल दिए

    बुडो की लठिया और कन्धा है बेटियाँ

    thogh i dont quite agree with the second last line..not all are same…

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  14. कुछ और समझ न आया….बस ये कुछ lines …just feel proud to be a daughter of two wonderful parents…who gave me n my sis all their unconditional love….widout even making us realize that sumwhere ….in sum minds discrimation exists…feel blessed…..
    सूरज की रूह है बेटियाँ
    चांदनी का चेहरा है बेटियाँ
    जुगनू है , तितलिया है , कलेजा है बेटियाँ
    फुरसत मिले तो इनको पड़कर भी देखलो
    कुरान है , बाइबल है , गीता है बेटियाँ
    बेटे तो अपनी बीवियों को लेकर चल दिए
    बुडो की लठिया और कन्धा है बेटियाँ

    thogh i dont quite agreee with teh second last line….not all are same…

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  15. sraikh – Once you had a boy, your job as a woman was accomplished! I was reading ‘The Laws Of Manu’ (manusmriti) yesterday, and it talks so much about how a woman is required to provide her husband with a son, that I wondered if, when they say son, maybe they mean a ‘child’. Like it is common to call a child, girl or boy, ‘beta’ or ‘puttar’. But reading further shattered all hopes. I am fuming over it, spent all of yesterday reading Laws of Manu, and realizing I have not been raised as a devout Hindu at all. Thank God:)

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  16. Amit: It’s so obvious that you love your daughter, we all have moments of doubt, I feel guilty about the time I spend on he Comp…The best thing we can do is create an environment where our children can tell us (loud and clear) if they are unhappy about something. This way she will tell you if you have any reason to feel guilty. I have been pronounced GUILTY. So I am not going to look at my Blog once the kids are home…my alone time will be my Blog Time! For a week or so;)

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  17. Roop Rai You have started something with Unchahi…little things which were no more than an hour of fuming and then back to “Well I am doing my bit, can’t change these people…”
    I can’t ignore those little things anymore Thanks for a much needed, much WANTED, Unchahi!

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  18. Bee – “wish all women would do the same…and be so strong…all these primitive traditions n people who support them wouldn’t stand a chance…” That’s ALL. That is ALL we need.
    I had also cried when she looked so boldly at all those baby-killers. I wish I could get that video from somewhere and everybody could see it.It was an inspiration.

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  19. Nikita: Lovely lines! I agree that the second last line is not true for everybody…both sons and daughters can be selfish or caring, and it isn’t fair to generalise.
    If more parents thought like yours do, there would be no need for this write up!

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  20. Wow….lovely post! I got goosebumps reading the story about the rajput lady.It really takes courage to stand up to an entire town!

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  21. homecooked I saw it seventeen years ago and still remember minute details. Loved everything about it…it made me feel anything is possible if we stand up for ourselves.

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  22. being a single kid in a famliy where having single girl children is almost a norm, for many years i beleived that this is what people normally were like.then life happened and i discovered a whole new side of the world. a side i dint like.
    i have known this particular ugly side of the world for a while now but it still distresses me.i dont think i can ever understand why people do the kind of of things they do.
    mandira
    churningthewordmill.wordpress.com

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  23. Mandira I feel exactly like you, just don’t understand the need for all this. In our everyday life does it really matter? I have brought up two kids and both, son and daughter, have been such delight to raise. We have just got used to thinking that boys are better to have…soon both will be going to study further…
    dipali – I think it will make an impact, I hope they show it again. Was too busy in those days to remember anything else about the serial…didn’t find it on You tube.

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  24. Such a powerful write-up. I wish every woman who had to get her kid aborted or kill, was that strong to turn around and face the society. Definitely the rate of female infanticide will go down.

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  25. Wow! such a wonderful post and you have also related that story so beautifully..

    If only we have strong mothers and fathers in every household……

    but Thank God that at least a few people are waking up..

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  26. a-kay Thanks:) I loved the way she picked the sword not to kill but to protect the baby!She was inspiring, if we show more such programmes I am sure many more women will feel brave enough to face such pressure from our Society.

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  27. happy kitten- Thanks:)I only wish I could find the video of that serial and put it on my blog. This kind of programmes can make many men and women proud to love and protect their baby girls. Yes, we really need such parents…urgently!

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  28. Yup, I too have experienced this. We found out in my 5th month of preg that we r having a girl. My mom literally refused to believe me, she asked me to ask the Doc to recheck and reconfirm almost 2-3 times. Also, I received a few sympathies from other relatives. Its seriously frustrating at how times have changed and yet not really !

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  29. Congratulations:)It is very annoying, but you should also know that you earn many an aware mothers’ respect when you have a daughter in these times! It takes courage to defy stupid social trends. My best wishes to all three of you:)

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  30. Great post . I can never experience what girls go through as I am a man , and I was the first one in my joint family . When my sister was born , the nurse in charge woefully informed my mother of her arrival , but shut her up by saying that a girl was what she wanted , which was absolutely true. I thank God for giving me parents who have never favoured me over my sister , in fact , many a times I have felt the opposite .🙂 It is the worst possible hypocrisy of the Hindu society to desire male children when we have scores of Hindu Goddesses who are worshipped with no less veneration . The source of all power , Shakti , is a woman . It is so pitifully ignorant of these morons, they are upsetting the balance of nature .

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  31. Kislay I wish there were more Indian families like yours. I am just not able to see why this desperation for boys, in this time and day!??

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  32. Wow.. i had my hands on my mouth wondering if that Rajput woman did really kill her baby.. so relieved she dint.. Kudos to her~~~

    My mom states this comment an aunt had made when i was born”M,Chamatha u had a girl baby”[M,good to see u had a girl baby]..

    A friend’s sis was pregnant 2nd time, she has a daughter… her MIL jotted down dates when they shd try to conceive so they will have a baby boy.. kept track of her DIL’s periods, and gave her dates,etc.. how wierd is that… but her luck, my friend’s sis did have a baby boy….

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  33. Aarti Loved that serial. Wish they showed more like that kind of serials today…
    Our craze for boys is too deep rooted, a lot needs to change before it will be replaced by a love for happy, healthy babies….but we are changing I think. We are getting better at least socially.

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  34. that brought tears of outrage.

    dont know what to say…apart from the fact that we are perhaps worse then animals…even they dont kill their babies atleast not by discriminating between genders.

    Perhaps being animals is better than the kind of humans we have become.

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  35. Pinku So true, animals are better parents than us! I cried too when I was watching it. We are so primitive and tribal in our attitude towards our girl children….still an evolving civilization, (no matter how much we brag about our culture and traditions- because ours is a boy centric culture which has a tradition of poisoning/aborting girls and burning women.

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  36. hi ,been reading your blogs thru Ritu . just joined wordpress .I loved your post ..I wish more mums n dads will write about the bliss of having a daughter ..during my second preg ..i was told I may hv a girl and my joy knew no bounds .started dreaming of our life together ,only to find a baby boy in my arms after delivery ..🙂.guess some moms have all the luck ..anyways three cheers for the girl child .keep touch .

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  37. @tikulicious Thank You🙂 How did I miss this beautiful comment! A belated, welcome to my blog🙂
    Yes daughters are fun but they maro all your nice clothes when they grow up!

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  38. Hi IHM, I just read your post – It is so sad that when a girl child is born people feel compelled to say ‘ better luck next time’! It is a very sad statement of our times. Thankfully for me, nobody in my immediate family voiced any such thought – everybody was happy enough that we had finally decided to have a baby🙂 But a lot of my friends have mentioned this. One of my friend was under a lot of pressure that she have a boy because her husband’s brother had girls too – so she was their only hope! And she too happened to have a girl, so there was a lot of pressure from her in-laws to try again! Luckily for her , her husband is very sensible.
    As Jyoti commented, ‘Indian’s are the most hypocritical lot… saving our animals and killing babies just cause they happen to be girls!’ So true…and so sad..

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  39. I hope your friend stays firm.
    Yes we are the biggest hypocrites in the world. And we kill our baby girls because we refuse to change long held biased beliefs and traditions. I also think our JOINT FAMILY system is also responsible for this. Nobody wants daughters because they will be sent away as ‘paraya dhan’ while sons will stay back and care for their parents. We say we have ‘sacrificed’ for our children, and then make them pay back by forcing them to stay in a system (joint families) which suits us even if makes daughters quite valueless and sons very profitable.

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  40. It is so sad.. But I do think that we in our generation can make a difference. I am NEVER going to call my child ‘Paraya Dhan’. She is everything to me – and will be as far as I am alive. And she will be part of my family always – irrespective of whether or not she is married – just as I am part of my parent’s families. I think if each one of us did our bit – things will have to change.. Joint Families might have made sense ages ago – but today – it does not make any sense.. Infact even for parents – I think they would be happier with their freedom. I have my parents as an example. They always insist that they want to be independant as far as possible – that way , they can lead a happy and cheerful life. My dad always says that the best thing is to be ‘inter-dependant’ knowing that we will always be there when need be – but not constantly in each other’s faces – and I find that so sensible

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  41. An overwhelming story for sure…and a good write- up. Made me think…Glad to have overcome those times, right? Hard to believe that the prejudice still exists in a subtle way.

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  42. I remember that episode way too well. remember the feeling of dread when the mother walks in to the temple with the baby, and then the joyous relief. It is actually true, that the attitude about male or female child has not co-relation with education at all.
    A beautiful post.

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  43. Growing up, the concept of prejudice on the basis of gender was completely alien to me.Then, one day when I was around 12 or so, I happened to overhear an aunt of mine telling my mum how happy my grandmother was when my brother was born. “It was due to God’s kindness that a boy was born”, in those exact terms. Needless to say I was shocked. While my dad doesn’t give a damn, my mum does tend to favor my brother on small issues. Lately, however, she’s better because I keep voicing my displeasure. However Grandma’s favorite is still my brother.
    This bias is deeply rooted in the Indian psyche and it will take time to erode it. However it’s great that people like you are speaking up against such ridiculous attitudes. Personally I do feel that the right kind of education will help a lot to destroy this attitude. In the meantime I’d just like to say thank you for speaking up!

    P.S.: Did you know that according to Manu, a girl should be one-third the age of the man at the time of marriage?!

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  44. unfortunately all too true for India… my family is a little different though I think… My father grew up with four sisters, and always takes the side of the daughters in the family…

    whether it’s my sister, my wife or my bhabi – Baba’s always taking their side… probably because others wouldnt.

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  45. With much sadness I can only agree with all that you said. I am the father of a 2 year old daughter. We live in the UK and we came to know in the 20th week that it is a girl. When I informed this to my father, his first reaction was “That is OK. Girls are just as good as boys”. I said to him that I dont care about the gender of the baby. He just kept telling me the same thing as if he was trying to console me. Then I realized that he was actually consoling himself. My sister has a 3 year old daughter and so both his grandkids are girls.
    Unfortunately I dont see the change in attitude happening any time soon.

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  46. @Goofy Mama I should have replied ages ago!!! I am really sorry, but let me say I am so glad that there is one more person who HAS seen that episode, wasn’t it brilliant, if I could only find a video from somewhere!

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  47. @naperville mom True, in some way we are moving ahead, but in some ways we seem to keep going back in time. Isn’t this so sad:(

    @Leslie I can understand how you must have felt! It is so difficult for a lot of Indians to even believe that we can be happy to have daughters! Shows how deep the conditioning is!

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  48. @Aditya That is so sweet .. your last line, “Baba’s always taking their side… probably because others wouldnt.”
    We need such people!

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  49. @Anonymous Thank You, we are all affected, let’s all speak up in whichever ways we can. Your leaving this comment makes it worthwhile for me, thanks for this encouragement.

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  50. i dont know u so i ddnt comment on many of ur post which i read today.

    but on this one.
    i will definitely congratulate u for ur girl child.

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  51. Pingback: I do not like reservation. « The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  52. Though I never been a biological mother as of now, I know that the pain must have been too much for you to bear at that delicate time of life when every woman needs lots of support can care. Yes, most Indian woman want to ask this question.. they wants to as to why is Indian culture being so hypocritical in worshiping women on one hand and killing, abusing them in possible ways on the other hand. Its is because most people do not take the pains to understand what is it that their religion actually prescribe !! There are many like matters where people (not just in India but all over the world) turn a blind eye.

    Personally, the idea of adopting one child is appealing to me. And now I think, if this happens that child, better be a girl child🙂 . I also at times feel that I am proud and happy to be a woman and may be life as man would have been somewhat boring ??

    Niharika I have always wondered about this 😉 Maybe men feel they are better off, I hope they do.. it’s good if one is happy with themselves🙂

    And yes, even I have my doubts when I see some people with huge age gaps in the last child and the second last child, specially when the last child is a Boy !! 😦
    Having said that, I must add that I have seen many people praying to have a daughter (may be after they had a son). 🙂

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  53. Pingback: Reservation by custom and tradition is acceptable. « The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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  56. I come from a matriarchal family in kerala where girls are preferred over boys. In the olden days, a boy would leave his family to come and stay with the girl’s family after marriage. But that doesn’t happen anymore because of the culture of nuclear families. I was the first girl child in my family after 40 years, and everyone wanted a girl. My grandmother was thrilled when she found out that a girl was born. And I grew up believing that this was the norm. But as I grew older, I was faced with the harsh reality of girl childs in India.

    I have never understood why in this day, everyone wants boys? What difference does it make if a child is a boy or a girl. After all, a child is a child. And today, a girl child is equally capable of supporting her parents.

    I wish everyone would have the same attitude my parents have. They’ve never let me feel bad about being a girl. Gandhi said, ‘be the change that you wish to see in others’. I want to have girl children. And if I’m not lucky enough to have one, I’ll adopt a girl. But, I think every parent should know the joys of a girl child.

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  57. I was suggested your blog by a friend and true to her words, you write well. And let me add with a lot of feeling. Thats an amazing story, but we have common people who fight in every day life, albeit not so dramatically. My parents were ones who brought up two daughters very proudly and gave us the best they had. My dad, I am told went off for a vasectomy after two daughters. This was in the 60’s. It brought an end to my grandmom’s expectations and harrassment for my mother. I have come across many more couples like that from the same era and hats off to them!!

    Me – Hats off to men like your dad. It is not possible to fight gender bias without both men and women refusing to accept the traditional ideas that somehow male children are better to have than female children.
    ( https://indianhomemaker.wordpress.com/2009/05/09/difficult-daughters-easy-sons/ )

    It is not men or women, girls or boys, but rather the social conditioning which shapes our attitudes. In this patriarchal world, we do find men & boys who are sensitive and caring. Except the patriarchal world does sometimes treat them unfairly – like the “joru ka gulam” in Pukar.

    Me – I agree Kasturi, Patriarchy does not benefit men or women – it just empowers a few to control the lives of many others. I have blogged about this here
    https://indianhomemaker.wordpress.com/2010/11/28/a-woman-is-not-a-womans-worst-enemy-patriarchy-is/

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  58. I can’t stop my tears mam .frankly I always hated indian culture.Hats up to those women who stood against social evil.i don’t know how I manage to read this post after five years .thankyou so much .best wishes to your daughter.i don’t know what to right as iam getting goosebumps.

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