Nearly 30 years back, when my mother was rather full, with me inside her that is, the only thing that she prayed for…was a boy! Now, before you cringe and take a stand on this one, you must hear the story why.
She was the second of the three children that my grandparents had; the elder being a boy, then her and then another girl. My mother was the prettiest one, brilliant in academics (she got double promotion twice while in school, unheard of in our times), docile and obedient. She never threw a fit for anything that she wanted. When her younger sister was born, 6 years after her, her mother told her ‘You are big enough, do everything yourself’…by and by in her little sister gave her the first lessons of motherhood! While my grandmother was seeped in running the household of a gigantic joint family, her own maternal instincts were never revealed. My mother was a fashionable kid, at least going by the short skirts that she wore and those which I happily inherited as a teen were nothing less than a badge for me! She was pretty…and still is…but was not the one to flaunt it! She was a traditional beauty of the 70’s…long cascading hair, beautifully drawn eyes with a distant vacant look in them! She was always told she’s pretty, when all she wanted to hear is that she was a good student…being the conservatives that her family was, she was never allowed to step out of the house alone. A car would drop her to college, 5 bus stops away and that would pick her up again. She loved sports, cricket was her elixir! But she was different…brought up differently…with a separate set of rules. Rules that were specifically made for her, diktats that were completed subverted for my aunt and uncle! They were the rebels in the family…gave up studies when they wanted to, hung around with friends with no ambitions in their lives. I don’t blame them…both in their early 20’s led spectacularly mirror-image lives. Both, except my mother. She was married off. She had barely stepped into the 2nd year of college that my father was sought and she was bundled into matrimony. No one asked her whether she was ready for it!
My parents for the first two years of their marriage stayed away. My father, 7 years older to my mother let her study…complete the Bengali Honours course that she was pursuing in Lady Brabourne. My mother always wanted to study…marriage was a hurdle that she knew would be coming…but didn’t know how to surpass it! Perhaps, she never told my father that she wanted to study further. Knowing the man, I know he would have never refused her. She idolised her husband. She was even scared of him for most of her lifetime. She revered him, because he was the kind of human being she has never met in her entire life. She was happy with her marriage…but could never forgive her parents for not giving her the choice to choose.
My mother’s story is not incredible in any sense of the word. She was taught that a woman does not have the right to make choices. A woman has to be married off when her parents think it right. A woman is rightfully dependent on her husband. A woman cannot complain. A woman cannot bargain for a better life than what has been chosen for her. A woman must accept everything that comes her way. A woman is not allowed to make plans for herself. When we watched DDLJ more than 15 years back in a darkened theatre…that scene between Kajol and Farida Jalal where the mother says that a mother is not allowed to make promises, I could hear my mother gulp. My mother when she conceived her first child in the winter of 1980, she was scared. That if she had a daughter she would have to give up the right to lead her life the way she wanted. She was afraid that her daughter would have to follow the rules and accept the choices that her parents would make for her. She was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to change anything for her daughter.
She was wrong…because there was a father like mine in the family picture. My dad gave me the wings to fly. Even when I was a little girl, he let me make the choices that I wanted to. Together with my mother, they let me falter and scramble to safety by myself…they let me flunk in school and shed copious tears, work harder, get the higher scores to only tell me that scores never mattered to them! They let me fall in love when I was too young, scrape out of it and get my life back on track again. They let me choose disciplines that I was interested in. They agreed to let me stay by myself in the big city even while they knew how unsafe it was then! They let me pick up media studies, when everyone around them was talking of MBA. They let me do the sundry part time jobs to know how tough it is to earn a living. They let me live the way I wanted…choose a partner I wanted to have babies with…settle down with him when I felt I was ready. Never did they push, pinch or close the door on me. I am what I am because my parents gave me the choice to lead my life like it belongs to me.
When my mother was pregnant for the second time, she prayed for a girl this time. And this time, as she tells me, she prayed harder. She knew her daughter was growing up with a life very different from hers, she knew her first born, even at the age of 5 had a life of her own. God didn’t hear her again… she had a baby boy!
It hurts to see parents make the wrong kind of choices. I have seen people sulk at the birth of a girl child. I have seen people not spread the news when a girl is a born. I have seen people hopelessly trying for a boy for all their lives…all of this doesn’t hurt me actually, it angers me! I don’t want to know the sex of the child. Because I know I won’t let the sex of the child determine the way she / he leads the life ahead. But all I can say that Googly will have the choice to lead a life that rightfully belongs to her / him. I wouldn’t dare dictate it…neither will I let anyone judge the way Googly leads it. Every woman has her own secret conversations with her unborn. I do too. What I tell Googly is another chapter in itself…someday you’ll find them here.