Sunday, November 12, 2006


We hear so many histories all the time, around every corner. Everyone seems to have a version of their own. Yet they are not the only stories that exist. Muted and ignored, exist other stories, like the rustling of tree-leaves in a gale, the tears of a mother in epic wars. These stories, often never told otherwise promptly forgotten, are her stories.
Pay attention because I am going to narrate such a tale to you. You must have heard this tale before in many forms and under many names. Yet this is different. It is a tale of hope, of tribulations and a quest for redemption. Let me take you there.......

"Please don't drink". He snatched the glass from her. "For God's sake this is the first month of your pregnancy, you are about to become a mother please don't do this. For the sake our child. Don't drink, don't smoke. He is yet to be born. "
"What if ...." his voice trailed off.
That was just few months ago but it seemed like centuries ago. She thought.
But those were the good salad days. Before they had that test done. Her in-laws had wanted a baby in the very first year of their marriage, that she wanted to concentrate on her career was absolutely not considered important. "Besides,' her father-in-law said"it is the duty of a daughter-in-law to give the family a few children and then devote her life to taking care of her husband and children."
The test, it is a crime she had told them,"yes" his in-laws had agreed, "but how will anyone know," they had countered. Besides, her mother-in-law said, "I know that you are bringing home a grandson for me, I just want to be sure." She had said in her best voice.
Reluctantly she had agreed. The results came out. She was as tense as she had been in giving exams in her school. It was a girl. At first they all seemed to be consoling like she really had failed a test. Then suddenly one day, her mother-in-law floated an idea on the dinner table.

Her mother-in-law was very adamant. "I deserve to have a grandson not another granddaughter like from the other bahu who had only given her only three daughters, and not a single son."
She said she had not a lot of life left in her, the Lord would take her away any day, she couldn't wait much longer. Also she didn't want anymore grand-daughters, there already were so many of them that she didn't even remember all their names.

She called her mother secretly. She started crying as soon as she called, her mother was very troubled "Why are you crying?" She asked her. "What's wrong tell me?"
She poured her heart out. Her mother had stiffened after hearing the whole story. "You have to do it," she told her. "You have no choice, and I can't interfere in any way. After all we are not related anymore. His mother is now your mother. Not me."
"But mother you have to protect me. You must understand me.” “No you have to understand beti, I can't do anything, my hands are tied.” “But mother, even you are a mother, can't you understand another mother's plight?" Even her mother started crying now. "I do beti, I do but you must understand me and you will one day, I am sure. When your brother brings home a bahu, even I will want a grandson...."

She tried to make them reason, doesn't her daughter deserve to live, to see this world with her own eyes? But he didn't listen to her, it is not a daughter till it is born.
One day, he came to explain "we want a son." He tried to act reasonable and tell her this.
"When was it decided that we want a son and not a child" she asked him angrily. "It is not as if I don't feel pained," he again said reasonably, but his voice shaking with the struggle to control his anger. He wanted to hit her, shut her up, make her realise who the boss really was. Maybe he loved her, but it was all getting very ambiguous. What she called the daughter was still only a month old and had no consciousness of its own.
"Pain, you feel?"She was now shouting, "You brute, what do you feel? Your own daughter, and you want her dead! Pained he says. It is beyond you to feel."
He slapped her, an error of judgment on his part, but he couldn't control it. Already she earned more than him, his boss in his own office. He was the laughing stock of the community, a joru ka ghulam and now a daughter.... why people will start questioning if he really was a man. She had controlled him so brutally but now he will show her what stuff was he made of.

She was forced into going to the Clinic. She tried to resist for some time, but after being bullied and beaten up, she couldn't take it anymore. They put her in a car and dragged her all the way, maybe they wanted to kill the baby in her womb. She had just sat in the car and cried all the time, and asked herself the same questions again and again... the same thoughts in her head...."How can anyone else take decisions for her? Was a girl-child not a child? Was she in any way an inferior being?"

She was forced onto to the operation table, drugged so she might not feel as her child died. In the drug-induced stupor, she could feel her womb being violated and found herself utterly powerless to take any action..... However, she could see now. She could hear them now. The cries of the woman being beaten by her husband. The screams of the burning bride who couldn't pay her dowry,the moans of the young girl being raped by her uncle, the sobs of the daughter, not loved by her own parents. Not just that, she could even feel. The uneasiness of the secretary alone with her lecherous boss, the country belle who wanted to learn how to read like her brother, the woman tilling the fields with so many mouths to feed, a drunk for a husband and an infant on her back.......
Her story wasn't just her own story, everyone's story was her story. She couldn't just leave them as they were, pained and exploited. It was her responsibility.
Despite all the progress and all the talk of equality that goes on, something was definitely wrong.
She could feel the pain of a planet of women and it was indistinguishable from hers.... Could nothing be done? Was there no way to reduce their pain and suffering?
She could not change thousands of years of wrongs in her brief life-span. But yet a lot could be done.
Ages of prejudices don't disappear in thin air, but with hard work and trust the impossible could be achieved. No one else should have to undergo the same trial as she, no one else's daughter should suffer the same fate as her own. Everyone is unique and this fact needs to be realized. No one is a substitute for another. There is only one me, she thought. But the same doubt arose in her head again. What can she do alone? How can she overcome such a formidable adversary, when she could not save her own womb? Then she realized, she was not alone. All the women whose pain was her were one with her.
Alone she might not be able to do anything but together with everyone, the odds favored her.
When she came to consciousness again she was lying on the operation table. The familiar weight of where her daughter used to be was no longer there. She no longer existed inside her. “They had taken her from me,” she said aloud and couldn't stop the tears that began flowing. She crouched into a fetal position, crying. Suddenly her tears stopped. She looked outside the window, the sun was rising. The dawn of a new day. She had lost her daughter, but a birth had taken place in the abortion clinic. She had been born, again. She stared defiantly into the sun. It was going to be a glorious new day. I didn't see it, but I think there was the hint of a smile on her lips.