Indian family values are good for Indian daughters?

When a girl disappears…

My cleaning maid didn’t come yesterday – this morning she said she didn’t know how to tell me what happened, but knew me well enough to know I would understand. What could it be? Her chachiya-saas’s 4th daughter (father in law’s younger brother’s 4th daughter) didn’t come back from tuition the day before. The 15 year old had left with just a notebook, pencil and a little change for some snack, all the kids reached till their street together around 7 30 pm , and after that she hasn’t been seen.

The mother waited till 8 30 pm, then asked my maid to come with her to the tuition teacher’s place. Then they looked in all the parks – including she said ‘a notorious park near XYZ theater’ and her mother started getting worried then and wished the daughter had died instead of this.

I thought she would be praying for the child to be alive? No, it seems not if it is a daughter.

She started crying saying it would have been better if she had eaten poison and died.

Better for who?

I asked her if the mother feared the girl had eloped.

“…it is possible that the fault lies with our own child, but I was close to her, I know she was not like this..”

“Like what Kanta? And what fault? She is 15! Younger than my daughter, even if she did like a boy,  did she discuss this at home? Could she discuss something like a liking for a boy with anybody at home?”  By making falling in love such a crime, we put girls in terrible dangers. Like cornering them into running away (and often being sexually exploited) instead of simply going out with a boy.

“All her other daughters have never let us down, the older three have had proper arranged marriages… ”

“Did you ask everybody in the neighbourhood to help you look for her? Somebody must have seen her… if she was forced she would have dropped her notebook in the struggle?”

“We did, her mother was worried about ‘badnaami‘ (honor) but agreed to complain to the police when I convinced her.”

“Kanta if honor is so important, tell her mother such news can’t be kept a secret, now she can save the child’s life, by making a noise and all this honor-shonor is forgotten in a few years. What’s the worst that would happen? She won’t get married? At least save her life now.”

The female sub-inspector at the police station asked us to get her school certificate to prove she was 14, saying she looks older…”

This boggles me. Wasn’t this too urgent to worry about her age? Find her first and then worry about her age…? She could be dying this moment.

My maid left for the girl’s school, (opening today, she said, after summer vacations) “Maybe if some haadsaa (disaster) happened with her, she would be too ashamed to face her parents so she might have gone to a friends’ house, or maybe somebody knows where she might go...”

So if something bad were to happen to a daughter, it is possible that her family was not the safest haven for her to rush to?

I told Kanta not to work but to try and speak to as many people as  they could, get help from neighbours, teachers, class mates …and not to rule out acquaintances. 70% crimes against women are committed by someone known to the victim.

“I can’t tell them at such a time, but her father drinks and often brings home his cronies and the mother was often beaten for protesting, she used to tell him they had young daughters at home, it was not right to bring this kind of men home. Maybe somebody known to her  told her there was an emergency and took her away to some lonely place…”

She disappeared on Thursday evening, it’s Saturday morning now. No news.

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