‘I have grown up and gotten used to the fact that my parents are considered less fortunate since they did not have a son.’

Sharing an email.

* * *

Dear IHM,

I have been a regular reader of your blog. I thought of writing to you since something recently happened which triggered a turmoil in my head.

Before I write about my thoughts, let me give you a small brief about myself. I have been born and brought up in a small town in a middle class joint family where rules were different for girls and boys. My male cousins enjoyed privileges which did not come too easily to me. I have a younger sister – so you can imagine I have grown up and gotten used to the fact that my parents are considered less fortunate since they did not have a son. I have heard random people giving advice to my mother how she will be able to conceive a boy child. Its atrocious but you would be amazed to see the amount of interest such topic generates specially in a family function or any gathering (could be a prayer meeting for somebody as well) my parents ensured that we had our own lives in spite of all the filth around us. Both my sister and I have done fairly well and did what we wanted to do. Parents support was unconditional but silent. Probably their intelligence convinced them it’s easier to do what you intend to do quietly rather than making a fuss about it and inviting trouble. I have been married for long now and recently my sister also got married. I was completely appalled by the number of people who said some absolutely nonsensical things to my parents

 

  • –          Hun te tusse apna kaam muka baithe ho  (you have completed your duty )
  • –          Ab ganga naha lo , Chalo bhaar utha sir ton ( take a dip in holy ganga, burden off your head)
  • –          My brother in law comes from very rich family – so people actually came and said “Nice Catch”
  • –          Munda Honda taan tussi kamande (if you had a boy you would have earned a lot of money – by means of dowry)

These thoughts were all over my head when I noticed that in the entire marriage ceremony there is not a single blessing directly for the bride—

  • –          Sada suhagan raho
  • –          Sou putravati bhava
  • –          Soubhagyavati raho ( and mind it bhagya comes only with husband or a boy child)
  • –          Khush raho and jeete raho were reserved for the guy only

What troubles me is that the educated lot of my family agrees with these comments and believe that my parents have completed their duty by making sure we both sisters are settled now. At the end it all seems like a façade… you study, do well, have a great career, make lots of money but you are not complete – TILL you get MARRIED/ or have KIDs.

 

My parents still do not take money from me in case I want to contribute- they take it only if they can return it. I feel slightly cheated… it’s not what I signed for. Would it have been so much of an issue  if I was a man!

 

My parents did not stop me from doing anything, I wonder how they would have reacted if I would have told them I don’t want to get married. Or more suitable for me now— I don’t want to have kids- I will adopt in case I wish to have a family with children in future. Deep down I know they will not be ok with this. The issue is that our generation also echoes these thoughts- my countless friends keep asking me when I am giving Good news- as if nothing else in this world qualifies for being a Good news except for child bearing.

 

And this creates a sense of discomfort for me – generations have come and gone but our deep rooted insecurities have remained unaltered. The picture of a perfect life has not changed over years and does not get complete without marriage/ kids….We do have pictures of a single women/a couple who choose not to have kids/ a divorced woman marrying again—- but these pictures are not celebrated like a wedding. And these pictures are not displayed for people to see but are hidden inside out of reach.  

And that’s why I also feel that whenever I decide to have children I would want them to see all pictures, and create their own picture. I wish that people around would also have different pictures on their walls…. A world where every picture would have a different story

 Is it a Wishful thinking???? 

Ananya!!!!

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Indian family values are good for Indian daughters?

These lines sum up the biggest reason for male child preference and skewed gender ratio in India.

Dheeyaan dee maa rani, bhudhaapey bharey paani

Monika wrote about her experience as a daughter of a three ‘dheeyan dee maa’ here.

And Shail’s tells in 55 words, the story of the girls who are allowed to be born.

‘We grew up in a very liberal family. We knew what our limits were and our focus was our education. We never betrayed our parents.’

“But, my only motive in life has been my daughter’s happiness which is now in your hands. I beg you, please keep her happy”

So what could make even the average, selfish, money-minded Indian family welcome baby girls?

An email from an Indian father: I want to place on record my own story as a warning to anyone…

Do you think this video can make Indian parents want to have daughters?

Another email. When an Indian daughter-in-law has no brothers.

Are Happily Married Daughters a status symbol in India?

The interference of parents in the married life of their daughters…

Difficult daughters, easy sons?

When a daughter refuses to go back…

What do you think of this mother, and this family?

46 thoughts on “‘I have grown up and gotten used to the fact that my parents are considered less fortunate since they did not have a son.’

  1. 1. Ignore what others say like your parents did.
    2. Things are changing slowly, though not as fast as I would like🙂 isn’t it amazing, we are still stuck in the mentality now, what was considered normal in bible & how old is that book?!
    3. We can create our own pictures!

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  2. I recently traveled to India my current childless state was a topic of discussion for many a family members and friends. Everyone would bless me to have a “SON”. My in laws took me to a babaji who gave me some medicine which would ensure I have a boy (ofcourse I drained it down the toilet). But It shocked me that even today in this progressive country of ours everyone just wants a BOY. It made me really sad and disillusioned.

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    • Why did you agree to go to Baba at the first place? Why did you silently drain the medicine rather than openly declaring that you are not going to meet any baba or taking any medicine? Is this attitude of “ignoring” such idiots for the sake of “avoiding” confrontations not a reason to make such idiotic behavior look normal? Why don’t we openly talk about our disagreement and even hatred for such garbage discussions/ideas/suggestions and let these people know that THIS KIND OF TALK IS NOT ACCEPTABLE…ACTUALLY OFFENDING AND AGAINST COMMON ETIQUETTE? Most of Indians have no idea about personal space, privacy or social etiquette so they feel free to ask/comment about anything and everything even in the first meeting and actually consider it their right/duty when you are their friend/family. So, it is important to teach them some lessons in social etiquette rather than “silently avoiding” idiots and making their behavior appear “normal”.

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      • I agree. The standard advice in these situations is to just ignore it, but I don’t think that works in the long run. I think a lot of intelligent, progressive Indian women have a hard time breaking away from patriarchy because they’ve grown up listening to nonsense, they’ve never heard anyone counter it, and they internalize the misogyny that they’ve been exposed to. It’s about time that we started confronting such behavior in a calm, assertive way. If that doesn’t work, I think a certain amount of brusqueness is acceptable (after all, expressing the wish that someone should have a boy child rather than a girl child is appallingly rude, so why do people who do such things deserve politeness in return?).

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        • It’s because it’s hard to break ourselves away from social conditioning which has been ingrained so deeply within us and our environment. But as long as we’re doing this introspection and are able to recognize that this is because of conditioning, it’s fine. I myself get into this trap sometimes of trying to ‘fit in’ even when i don’t care about what’s happening. Agree with Namrata that we should express our disagreement more.

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      • Absolutely agree with what you have said. Anybody who openly expresses desire for a male child ONLY is a despicable human being beyond reproach in my book and deserves no respect or politeness or courtesy from my end. Why be polite to such people? Don’t care if they are elders or in-laws, they are wrong, offensive and morally reprehensible people that I have zero respect for any more and I will happily let them know that. Yes someone who openly desires male child will change my opinion of that person. This seeminly normal attitude even amongst the educated people is the root cause of all gender problems in India and I refuse to stay silent and ignore it for sake of politeness. Damn politeness, these morons make me angry and I absolutely hate such people and will not stay quiet to let that be known.

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        • I think the problem in India is gender insensitive traditional folks are very vocal, while the gender sensitive modern people are silent like the parents here. One need not be angry or abusive to elders who wish u sons, but just tell them then and there itself that what ever the gender of the child, it’s ok. Remind them that times are changed and such blessings are insults in modern society.

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        • I would find it particularly offensive if someone had wished a male child on me when I myself was desperate for a girl child. My husband still jokes that I may have gone into terrible depression if we had had a son instead of our daughter😉

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  3. “…generations have come and gone but our deep rooted insecurities have remained unaltered. The picture of a perfect life has not changed over years and does not get complete without marriage/ kids…”

    Dear Letter Writer,
    These words from your post called out to me to answer. While things may seem unaltered and cause for despair, the very fact that you’ve written these lines shows that at least one person is different: You. And there are many more of us like you. Don’t despair. Change may be slow but it is happening. You may not be able to change your relatives’ views, but you can choose to ignore them. That is also change.

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    • “You may not be able to change your relatives’ views, but you can choose to ignore them. That is also change.”

      Dear Aparna,
      Why choose ignore? why not retaliate? ‘cos this is not “change”….this is compliance.

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      • Actually it is not compliance. Compliance would be following the advice. I am wary of telling other women which battles to fight and which not to. If she wants to, she can argue with them, else she can ignore them. It is up to her. Living one’s life the way one wants to is also a change for Indian women.

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    • I think people who express misogynistic views should be confronted, not in the hopes of changing their views (in most cases, they’re too far gone), but for the sake of any vulnerable young person who might be listening. The next time you’re tempted to let a misogynistic remark slide, imagine that a young girl is listening, and think about what hearing that sort of stuff will do to her psyche. I just don’t understand this “just ignore it” approach. If people counselled others to just ignore racist or casteist remarks, they would be rightfully derided for timidity and moral cowardice. Why is gender discrimination different?

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    • Thanks Aparna. Appreciate your thoughts and support. Definitely there is a change but i agree with what Arun has mentioned earlier that educated people are much less vocal as i would want them to be. Suddenly when there is a chance to take a stand we get bogged down by Reeti riwaaz etc etc…. And that is where atleast we can do much much more.

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  4. “The issue is that our generation also echoes these thoughts”

    That says it all. A friend tells me, “Your parents take gifts and monetary support from you? After my marriage, my parents haven’t taken a single penny from me. If I ever gift anything, they’ll return something of double the amount. It is supposed to be like that.”
    They call it Milna-Varatna.

    Till our generation starts thinking otherwise, things are not going to change much.

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  5. ” कन्यादान ”
    देखा है विरोध
    Have Seen Antagonism/ Revolt Against
    सती प्रथा का
    Sati
    बाल विवाह का
    Child Marriage
    दहेज़ प्रथा का
    Dowry
    कन्या अशिक्षा का
    Girl Child Not Educated
    कन्या भूर्ण ह्त्या का
    Female Foeticide
    यौन शोशर्ण का
    Sexual Harassment
    बलात्कार का
    Rape
    पर कभी नहीं देखा
    BUT HAVE NEVER SEEN
    कोई विरोध
    ANY ANTAGONISM /REVOLT
    ” कन्यादान ” का
    AGAINST KANYADAAN { DONATION OF DAUGHTER }
    क्यो कोई स्त्री
    Why NO Woman
    कभी विवाह मंडप मे
    During the Marriage Ceremony
    नहीं कहती
    revolts
    “नहीं हूँ मै दान की वस्तु
    “No I Am Not A DONATION
    मुझे दान ना करे ”
    Dont Donate Me
    क्यो कोई पुरुष
    WHY NO MAN
    कभी विवाह मंडप मे
    During The Marriage Ceremony
    नहीं कहता
    Says
    ” नहीं ही हूँ मै भिखारी
    NO I AM NOT A BEGGAR
    दान नहीं लूँगा
    I WILL NOT ACCEPT DONATION/ALMS

    I wrote this poem long back and which i am translating for your readers IHM

    I always believe that revolt needs to come at the right time only then it will be effective .

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  6.  “Deep down I know they will not be ok with this”…..
    Despite of everything rightly handled , how come this statement is there…So there is still something wrong and thats the catch….Are we working on that ???

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    • Disappointment is not in my act— its the fact that you expect your parents to understand- in this case I know I will go ahead despite their disapproval which obviously will have an impact on our relationship.

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  7. I supported my mother for over a decade after my father died … but she very openly wished it was her son that was doing it, the son who had died when he was 22 years old a long time ago. It still rankles

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    • i agree with this , same is my mother , who always feels that she is “alone ” with me because she never had a son and her husband expired 19 years back
      for her a house without a man means “alone ” although i am unmarried and living with her and giving her atmost care and attention and SHE IS A RETIRED UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR now 73
      its not just u and me its a common phenomenon that without a man a house needs pity

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      • Tell me about it ! After my dad passed away, as a young girl growing up, it really built up a lot of angst and sadness in me, this whole ‘victimhood’ about the ‘household being without a man’. My mother is very well educated and was a working woman who brought us kids up single handedly. But I would cringe at some of her statements about ‘us being alone’ or something to that effect. She was brave and stood up to every possible challenge she had to, but some of her ideologies, I will never understand. Maybe I am being harsh on her, because it was probably just her social conditioning at work. It is easy for me to be judgemental about her and those of her generation, but they were brought up differently . Though they were educated, they spent most of their lives slogging at home and work with a sense of ‘duty’ attached to it. I doubt they even had the time or energy to think/debate the way we do . There surely weren’t internet forums those days and it is not easy to meet like minded people in real life , even assuming you had the time.

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        • Its conditioning yes , but its more of being dependent mentally on males for social security . Most woman marry because they feel marriage gives them a security . Man gives security so go with brother , father , husband or else you r alone . The society has put man on top ladder and woman are thought to look up to them for their security . Indian house hold is never a house hold because man make a house and home and not woman

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    • Ignore them. Respond with you thoughts, if you have the patience. Meanwhile, here’s wishing you a healthy and happy baby, of whatever gender it turns out to be. Here’s wishing you a safe and smooth delivery. Here’s wishing you a lovely time with your baby in its growing years. Here’s wishing the baby grows up to be compassionate and kind human being. Isn’t that all that matters?🙂

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      • Exactly Pallavi, You are right! I blessed with a baby boy, he is one year old now. Loving motherhood❤
        Sorry for the delayed reply. You know, motherhood is the busiest job in the world…

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    • Hi Ambicaayla. I am 4 months pregnant too. I live in the US. My American colleagues, in general, wish me a girl whereas Indians I know here wish me a boy. Honestly, I don’t care for the gender of my child. In fact, I am not finding out, inspite of having the option to.

      I have been told by my side of the family that status of a woman changes in the society (and among inlaws) when she has a male kid. Is this true? My mom for the longest time felt that it was her duty to push me to have a male kid till I stopped her. My mother inlaw did the same to her daughter….pushed, prayed etc. for her daughter to have a male child. She was very disappointed on the birth of my sister inlaw’s second daughter. My mother inlaw expressed her concerns in an apologetic manner to my sister-inlaw’s mother inlaw for the same!

      My inlaws have not outrightedly demanded a male kid from me yet; but I sense the desperation. I am super worried.

      I have fought all my life for my rights and the rights of my mother and friends. I have a lot of anger in me build up over the years, which I fear, will spill out big time if even a single soul is disappointed on me having a daughter.

      So far, I have made it clear to everyone around me…my child, irrespective of gender, should enjoy SAME customs on their birth.

      In all, I just want to celebrate my first child on that very special day and I don’t want ANYONE to take that joy away from me.

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  8. It’s not wishful thinking for you should you really choose to do it. why worry about the rest! Including parents. I feel it begs logic when adults want so badly to hinge on others’ approval. So what if it is parental approval you are after! Why does it matter to you so much what they think, feel, and do, so long as they do right by you, so long as you have got from them everything you needed. They’re entitled to their thinking, personalities, attitudes, and their adherence to what they value/respect/follow as culture. Yes it’s true that there are no direct blessings for the woman. yes it’s true that’s discriminatory, and therefore wrong too. But there are people like you and me and so many of us here who truly believe these things belong in the history books. This is change. We are the change. We can’t expect the earlier generation to change overnight. You and I won’t be handing out these ridiculous “blessings” to people who touch our feet. That’s all that matters. You. right now. Besides, your kids – adopted or biological – is an issue you have to decide on with your partner. Why should parental disapproval account for so much! Big deal!

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  9. Revolution, that expedites change, needs sacrifices. However, silent resistance too can lead to palpable change. Just that it takes more time. The women speaking their minds here, the author of the post and this terrific blog itself are bringing about change.

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  10. Im actually ok with people wanting boys only, not in the indian context of patriarchy and thinking of girls as burden, but how different is it than me wanting a girl ONLY!!!
    I actually cried and felt so bad when i had an ultrasound and was told my first child was a boy . nothing against boys, they are lovely too, but i’m not kid friendly and i always wanted either 0 kids or 1 daughter at worst case. I love kids, but i ‘m not too fond of the comitment that is reqd to raise them. anyway I considered termination, but couldnt since i was too far alongand medically i had issues. Just because i had a boy, after 6 yrs decided to go for the 2nd one with the specific plan to not continue the pregnancy if it was a boy. My husband was on board with the plan, he didn’t care either way, but was ready to indulge my fantasy of having a daughter. He only issue was why risk the toll on the body in case of termination of pregnancy . but i convinced him i think . i don’t know, the 2nd turned out to be a girl to my great joy, My parents especially my mom thought i was stupid, but thats ok. she actually prayed i would have a boy and i could not terminate – seriously why would a mother wish for her child to be unsatisfied and unhappy!!!!!!!! that enraged me and i told her I’d talk to her next after the child was born or not and till then we were off the communication train. I admire my MIL who knew how much i wanted a daughter and did some ganesa vrath/puja etc for the entire time to ensure i has one – and was quite the laughingstock of her conservative colony, i told her i didnt belive in such things, but she does and she said she would what she believed in to help me get my wish. — what a darling .
    so anyway the point is society can say what they want and comment on how they want, we as women should go ahead and do what makes us happy – society,culture, judgement ko goli maro..

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    • In my opinion, terminating pregnancy based on gender is horrendous irrespective of gender of the fetus. And doing pooja/vrata for specific gender is equally ignorant irrespective of gender you desire.

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      • I don’t know . Sex selection of any kind may sound heinous, abominable etc but ‘reverse sex selection’ for a girl child like MR described above, seems like an extremely powerful thought considering the millions of girl foetuses over the centuries who were not allowed to be born or murdered after birth ! More power to Indians who ‘choose’ a girl child over a boy after centuries of doing the reverse.

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      • I agree that for some termination is plain wrong, based on gender is wrong for some ,but not for me. termination is not ideal in my book either, and I’ve had to have one but I dont know of any way to get what i want. I simply wanted a girl child , 1 girl child and thats it. not a boy , not 2 , not anything else. so what do i do.
        I also did not want to adopt a girl, I wanted my own girl baby, no excuses or reason, i cant say why but thats what i wanted then. so we discussed it and decided that if we wanted more kids or my husband wanted a boy or any other combination I was open to adopting any number of boys or girls after that as long as they were older – i mean around 6-7 yrs old. but the 1 child i wanted to birth i wanted a girl .
        I now have a boy and a girl , i’m happy about both, love them both, but i was not truly happy till i got my girl. nothing changed and no great revelation happened and me and my son are as bonded than me and my daughter at this stage but i still didnt think i would be happy without my very own daughter, and yep she looks like me🙂
        so call it selfish, bad or whatever, until there is a sure way to come up with a baby of the exact sex one wants i guess selective termination it will be. To avoid all the complications that goes with it in india i was ready to move to a country whic doesnt restrict terminations.
        again I’m just stating what i want, not encouraging anyone to do so. and yes it is reverse bias on boy children. but as a parent i want what i want and i feel as long as I’m not forced It’s ok. forced to have a child or forced to terminate , in my book both are wrong and no one’s business but my own. If it’s morally wrong to terminate on gender , then i guess I’d rather be wrong than unhappy stuck with a single male child when i really want a girl.

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  11. Beautiful words – “I wish that people around would also have different pictures on their walls…. A world where every picture would have a different story.”
    Yes, in our culture and other similar cultures, everyone must conform to the same model to protect the hierarchy. Independent ways of thinking and different choices are frowned upon because they threaten the status quo. Many people who don’t benefit from the status quo unconsciously defend it (mothers and mothers-in law for example).
    The obsession with marriage and kids in many societies was created to maintain power structures which secured land and wealth ownership. Some societies have broken out of it, and some like ours haven’t yet, but are more in the process of changing.
    There is an organization here in California for Indian married couples who have chosen not to have kids and are happy about it. The local branch alone has 350 couples.
    The best thing you can do – if you don’t want to have children – is to not have children. Don’t worry about what other people think or say. It is your choice, it affects your life, and only you and your husband can make this decision.

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  13. Thanks for your thoughts and support, its indeed endearing to listen to similar voices.

    The fact remains that its not an easy journey- but the pace of change is still slow for my comfort… i do see a lot of new age couples breaking barriers and coming out of their traditional roles. Ours is a collectivist culture and as a culture things done for “I” are not appreciated and supported. Individuality is not nurtured specifically when it comes to a female. you become a support to another individual (Read husband/ father/ brother)….

    And thats where we need to make a change!

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