Thursday, June 25, 2009

Saving the Girl Child

Naina was the life of her family. For her parents she was a bundle of joy...her mom's best friend and her dad's favorite child. Naina was younger to her brother, who doted on her like a parent would do.

Naina was a hard-core feminists. Her views and her decisions always said..."Down with Male Chauvinism"; "Down with parents' preference for male child"; and most importantly "Down with female foeticide". She would excel in every debate. Friends looked up to her as a representative of female rights. Guys were careful with her. They knew, Naina would not spare any sexist comment. Naina had a fire inside that enlightened her views and actions. The love and support she got from her family nurtured the fire inside ..everything was flowing happily until her brother got married.

Her brother wife never got along with Naina. Whenever there was any argument in the family, Naina's parents would tell her to stay she ultimately had to go to her own home. And Naina would wonder, "wasn't this my home till now?". As time passed by, Naina lost the support of her brother...And she silently observed how her parents always supported her brother. She was heart broken. She faced gender discrimination in her own home. But still everything was flowing fine.

Naina dreamt of a soul mate and a happy life. Naina's parents started looking for a match for her. For few years they kept looking, but one thing or the other would spoil the matter. Naina observed the male chauvinism in the Indian society. Gradually Naina observed that her parents lowered their preferences. They were ready to make compromises about her life. "Why the desperation to get rid of me?", she would wonder. Then the proposal from Shekhar's family came. Naina was reluctant, but her parents convinced her of shekhar's virtues. Tired of tensions with brother and his wife, Naina said yes. The fire in her mellowed down. That day Naina wondered again " Why am I being convinced of the proposal when I don't want to?" She knew within deep of her hearts that Shekhar was not the right match for her. But looking at the way her parents got relaxed after the alliance, she did not protest. Silently, Naina compromised her life and future.

Naina found Shekhar's family much below her expectations. Even though she had a government job, and handed them the whole salary, they tortured her physically and mentally. Amidst the chaos, Naina's parents could do nothing except repenting the fact that they misjudged Shekhar's family. One day Naina packed her bags to leave Shekhar. But when she reached her parents home, they told her that she needed to adjust with her husband, and that she was not welcome there. She saw a look of triumph in her brother's eyes. Well her supposedly own people were happy over her misery. "So for my brother," she thought.

Naina got pregnant. The news brought a new wave of happiness for her. She dreamt of a beautiful little doll like baby girl. In her third month, weird discussions started in her home. Her mother-in-law started pressurizing for the pre-natal test. Her husband strongly supported his parents. It was a baby girl. They pressurized her for an abortion. But Naina was adamant. That evening, there were heated arguments in the family. Shekhar and his parents on one side, and Naina on the other. In the heat of the argument, Shekhar hit Naina. She fell down and got drowsy. In her drowsiness, she saw her little girl far away...the little one was crying and saying, ""Ohhh mom!! Why do you want me? I don't want to be a woman!! I don't want to go through the life you are going through!! Kill me before you see me going through the same sufferings? Mom!! I don't want to live such a life!!" In her dream Naina ran towards her child and hugged her. She told her child, " But you are all what I have." The little girl said, " No maa!! you will never have me. My life will be ruled by a father who never wanted me, and later by my husband. Do you want to give birth to another slave like you?". In her dream, Naina kissed her child, and her child disappeared. When Naina woke up from her dreams, she was crying like a mourning mother.

Fifteen Years Later

A little girl of 5 years was playing in a park with her friends. At some distance Naina was sitting reading her book. The moment she would win, she would look at Naina whether she is watching or not. Naina was finding it hard to concentrate on her book. That little girl caught her constant attention. Naina felt that the girl looked like little girl of her dreams. Naina's eyes filled with tears and she let out a small sigh. Suddenly a young girl came a hugged Naina from behind. She was wearing tennis dress, and a tennis racket hung casually on her shoulder. She said excitedly, "Mom!! I won!!" Naina kissed her forehead and they both walked towards the park exit. Watching them starting to leave, the little girl ran towards her and hugged Naina from behind. She said, "Miss, will you come tomorrow. I will wait for you." Naina nodded silently. On her way back Naina said to her daughter, "Aru, I am thinking of adopting this little girl." Arunima gave a surprised look to Naina. Oblivion of Arunima's expression Naina continued," Fifteen years back I almost lost you becoz your dad didnot want you. This girl was found abandoned. She was thrown away becoz her parents didnot want her. I will give her what she didn't have till now. Mother's love." Naina's thought went back to the same time when she woke up from dream.

When Naina woke up from that dream, she realized why a mother says yes to female foeticide - not because she would love her daughter any less than her son; because probably she wants to save her child from the hardships and pain that she has suffered in her life. Being a woman she understands what a woman has to go through. She almost went through the trauma of losing her child. She realized she could not afford to lose her child. Her child's views sparked the fire within her. She decided she will not let her child go. She will give a better life to her child...set an example for women like her. She will give a better future to her daughter, so that she does not repent being born as a woman.

Naina decided to part ways from her husband. This time, she did not go to her parents home. She went to a working women hostel. During her pregnancy she got in touch with an NGO, where she started going on weekends. She used to work as a volunteer there. The people at NGO became her family, they loved her for what and how she was. Naina gave birth to a lovely little girl, whom she named Arunima the glow of dawn.

All these years life had been a struggle at every step. People still donot take single mothers very well. At times, loneliness and lack of life partner would engulf her and depress her. But with Arunima her side, she got strength at every step. Naina brought up Arunima like a friend - giving her space, and respecting Arunima's decisions. Today they led a comfortable life. She came to know that her ex-hubby married again, but never had a child from second marriage. He tried to contact Naina so that he can meet Arunima, his only child. But Arunima declined. He had rejected her few years back; and now she rejected him. And then Naina met Milli, a small girl in the orphanage ran by the NGO Naina was associated with. Milli tugged Naina's heart every time she met her. And now Naina had made up her mind. Next day Naina went to the orphanage with Arunima and put her papers to adopt Milli.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Uprising

“Maina Devi!!!”, the old accountant called out and looked, from above his spectacles, at a group of women waiting eagerly for their turn to come. A frail woman in late twenties, with face covered in veil stood up. Accountant asked her to put her thumb impression. She stretched out her hand, full of bangles, pressed on the dye and put her thumb impression. The accountant gave her the money for the day’s labour. Maina kissed the money and put it on her forehead, thanking her God for the first payment of the day. A factory was being constructed in the village; so they employed the women folk of the village for manual labour. Maina husband had gone to city to work and sent money for home on monthly basis; but by the end of month it always fell short. Now she could earn money on her own, and make her family’s ends meet. On her way back Maina remembered that she had to take groceries also. With veil down till her chin, she rushed towards village grocery shop. The shopkeeper was an old man, so upon entering the shop she touched his feet. With barely audible voice, she asked for things she wanted to buy. With her head lowered she made the payment, bowed in front of shopkeeper and made way to home.

On her way to home she wondered if Tara, her daughter, had prepared dinner. Tara was ten years old and the eldest of her three kids. By the time Maina reached home, Tara would finish all the household chores for her. The thought of Tara brought a fond smile on her face. Upon reaching home, Maina saw that all her work has been done. A rush a relief swept Maina and she sat down to rest. The moment she relaxed, her elder brother-in-law entered the room; Maina jerkily put her saree down her face. She had never talked to him face to face. He was probably looking for her mother in law. In his presence Maina did not dare move. She stood still. In her veil, she failed to notice his flustered expressions. But she was surprised to see him at home that evening; he always returned late evening. Being a widower, he seldom stayed at home. Maina and her mother-in-law took care of his two kids. When he left, Maina looked for Tara. She called her twice or thrice; but no response. Maina walked up the roof to look outside, when she saw Tara sitting in a corner. She was probably crying. Maina asked her the reason but Tara ran away; evading her questions. “She must have got a beating from her grandmother,” thought Maina.

Somewhere in the City: Household where Maina’s husband worked

Naina came back from her kitty party. Petite and lovely looking Naina was married in one of the most influential families of the city. That afternoon, Naina got late to reach the stop, where Sara’s school bus dropped her. Sara was an eight year old child, studying in one of the best schools of the city. As Naina rushed towards the bus stop, she saw a happy, jumping and jiggling Sara coming with her nephew Amit. Amit was Naina’s brother son. He was studying medicine and stayed with them only. Naina smiled at both of them. Amit said, “I observed that you were late, so thought of picking up Sara myself.” Sara excitedly said, “Mom, Amit Bhaiya is so good. From tomorrow onwards he will pick me from my bus stop. You know we had such fun on the way back.” Amit also said, “ Yeah from tomorrow I will pick Sara.” Naina heartily accepted.

Back in village, Maina was waiting for her husband to come. Every night would seem so long to her. Laying on make shift bed on the ground, Maina looked at her kids. She observed that Tara had gone very quiet these days. Even though she completed all the household chores, but seldom talked to anyone. She turned her side and lovingly put her hand on Tara, who was sleeping next to her. The moment she touched her, Tara jerkily got up from her sleep and gave out a small shout. She shivered with fear. Maina consoled Tara, and put her to sleep. But a sixth sense, usually attributed to mothers about their kids, gnawed her. Something was wrong with Tara; she was not her usual self. She wondered what might be the reason.

Well!! It did not take long for things to get clear. That day Maina had come back early from the site. She saw that all her room was turned upside down. Hmm that must be Tara again; she keeps fiddling with my sarees to play with her dolls, she thought. TARAAA !! She called…but she got no answer. Suddenly she heard a muffled shriek. That was tara…she knew. She ran in the direction from where the sound came…and what she saw took the ground off her feet. She saw her brother-in-law raping Tara. Tara was struggling to free herself, but he was strong enough to overpower her. For a moment Maina did not know what to do…but then she thundered, “Bhai dare you touch my daughter? Get off her, or I will chop your head off with my sickle.” Hearing her stern voice, he got off Tara; picked up his clothes; and ran to the other room. With trembling hands, Maina held Tara’s hand, dressed her up, and came outside. She knew what she had to do.

Naina was laying table for the dinner, and Sara was playing with her dolls. She had a male doll and a female doll in her hands, and she was talking to them. Naina smiled and blissfully watched her little doll playing with dolls. Sara was trying to get them close. Suddenly Naina’s smile turned into grave expression. Sara was telling them kiss each other, by putting their tongues into each other’s mouth. Naina took Sara into the corner. Conscious enough to not to show fear to the child, Naina asked her, “Sara!! Who told you that, baby?” Sara innocently said, “Promise me that you will not tell anyone!!” Naina said yes; Sara said, “Amit bhaiya told me… He has taught me to kiss…now he will tell me how to make babies also.” Naina’s heart stopped beating. She did not know what to do…if she made a scene out of it, Shekhar, her husband would come to know. This would affect his relations with Naina’s brother, who was Amit’s father. Amit’s father was Shekhar’s business mentor as well. Everything would get affected. For the financial well being of her family, she decided to keep mum. She consoled herself saying that “Afterall Amit is my nephew. In the end, blame would come on my parent’s family.”

From that day, Naina guarded Sara like her shadow. Everytime she would see Amit talking to Sara, her anger would rise. Sometimes, she felt like killing Amit; but could not say a word to him. She looked for an excuse to ask Amit leave their home, but could not find any ...her happiness and contentment was lost. She would remain tense, feel guilty, curse herself, and be worried all the time for her daughter. Rather she was getting paranoic about Sara...

Few Days Later:

When Ram Kishan came back from his village, and along came Maina with their kids. Naina was looking for a household help; so she employed Maina as her maid. When Maina met Naina for the first time, Naina could not help wonder about her frail body…Maina was so weak. After few weeks, when they were alone, Naina asked Maina why she had come to the city. Maina looked reluctant, but then opened up. She narrated the mishap with Tara. Naina’s heart missed a beat…how similar was the incident that happened to Sara.

Maina continued saying, "When I came to know about my daughter's incestuous rape, I went straight to the village chief and called Panchayat. In front of entire village, I accused my brother-in-law of raping my daughter. Police was called and my brother-in-law was arrested. Due to the incident, my mother-in-law threw me and my kids out of her home. When Ram Kishan came to know about the incident he rushed back to village; met the elderly people of the village who asked him to accept me and Tara with due respect. So we came with him to the city." Naina was surprised. She looked at Maina and asked, “Are you not scared of consequences? What about your daughter's honour, her name?" Maina gave a thought to the question and said, “I have two daughters. Had I kept silent about the rape, he would have raped my other daughter as well. And he himself has a daughter. If he did not spare his brother's daughter, he wouldn’t have spared his own daughter either. This way I have saved my other daughters as well. Nothing is more important than the safety of my children. So far as Tara is concerned, I will try getting her married in city itself. But I am happy that that animal is behind bars."

The determined look in Maina's eyes brought an ashamed look in Naina's face. She felt very small in front of Maina’s frail personality. Naina repented the fact that she spared her child's molester for trivial reasons. But not anymore!!! Naina knew what she had to do…