It was a fine morning, cloudy skies, cool breeze, the pleasant smell of wet soil, one of nature’s finer days. I was savouring the lovely weather with a cup of coffee and reading the morning paper when the doorbell buzzed. It was Aunt Lalita, our very own gossip goose. At forty five years and seventy five kgs, she managed to keep track of not just what happened in our locality but just about the entire Mangalore.
She bursts in, without waiting to be invited. “Inviting is for guests no, I am one of you!”, she gushes. In others words, you’re stuck with me whether you like it or not! “Oh it’s so hot! Don’t you have an AC? My son Alok has bought an AC for every room in our house! I’m so lucky to have a son! He’s so smart…” and so the babble goes on. (What Aunt Lalita did not mention was how she denied her daughter future education after her graduation, even though the girl had passed with a distinction and condemned her to a life which included washing the entire house’s clothes apart from other chores!)
I decide I’ve had enough and realize that buying a packet of salt would be a better way to spend my time and so I take their leave. At the supermarket, I meet Uncle Tony and his wife (Mangalore is a small town). “Oh hello there, how are you?”, I reply with the usual greetings and told them I was just fine. “Did you finish your college?”, “Oh yes uncle”, I reply “and I’ve got a job as well”. “How nice, in Bangalore, is it?”, this time aunty asked. “No, my posting is in Delhi and I may have to shift to Punjab too!” I said with a smile. “So far! What did your parents say?”. “They’re happy for me, aunty. Anyway I won’t keep you much longer, take care,” and with that I waved them goodbye and began to head towards the sugar. I had barely made it to the next aisle when I heard them conspire between themselves, “Sending the girl alone to Delhi! Don’t they know how unsafe it is; the place of a girl is at home if you ask me!...” I was stunned to hear them and surprised that folks in the 21st century thought this way and wondered if they would have said the same if it were a boy in my place. Contrary to being happy at my success, they were flabbergasted that my parents had consented to send me to work outside the state.
On my way back home, I pass the house of an old friend of mine and I was reminded of something he once said. He told me that if he had a sister, he would never let her go anywhere alone and if he saw her in the company of any guys, he would bring the sky down. That had left me with a very bad taste in my mouth, especially because he was always surrounded by girls, I guess he never bothered applying his principle to himself. Uncle Tony and his wife belonged to another school of thought to a certain extent, with them belonging to another generation, but what about my friend? He was close to my age, brought up in the best of schools, surrounded by friends with a modern outlook. Then how was it that he shared the ideology of the primitive ages?
Hadn’t we learnt anything over the years? Hadn’t Kalpana Chawla reached the moon, along with her male counterparts? Had we forgotten the strength of character that Indira Gandhi displayed while she was in office? How many Indira Nooyi’s would it take India to realize that an Indian woman could very well take up a job and excel in it, she was blessed with a business acumen too, that perhaps there was more to her life than cooking and cleaning and bearing children. The women of today were at par with men on every front. They are not superior to men, but neither are they inferior.
To all the parents out there who have or may have girl children, thank God for the gift of a child, many others were not as lucky. Realize that your daughter has the potential to be whoever she wishes to be, whether it is a teacher, a doctor, a CEO or even the Prime Minister of our nation. If it is her desire to be a homemaker, that’s good too, but remember, it should be her decision. As parents, all she wants from you is your support and unconditional love. Be the wind beneath her wings and then watch her soar. Help her fulfill her dreams and love her unconditionally, just as you would, had it been a son. And all the while, keep these words in your heart “a son is a son till he takes a wife, but a daughter is a daughter for life.”
With these thoughts I finally returned home, only to find that Aunty Lalitha was still there. “Everyone says Alok is such a handsome boy! Proposals are coming from Australia and Canada. He bought a flat in Bangalore…..” The saga continues, and I wonder if there’s anything else I could buy.