"What was she thinking?"
Alankrita shares with us an incident which, sadly, most of us can recount as well. It's about a mother aborting her daughters for they were mere girls but as soon as she had a son and her family was 'complete', status of her daughters was also elevated from daughters to children. Throughout my childhood, I've witnessed plenty such situations where not just daughters but mothers also only got some value in the household after a son was born. What amazed me and still does is that women who might be victims of forced abortions themselves also transformed into self-righteous son-bearing individuals once they had sons. These same women would then go on to become mother-in-laws forcing their daughter-in-laws to have sons. Please read on to hear Alankrita's view:
It was always spoken of in whispers. Very disapproving whispers. "She was crying when she told me. Her in-laws made her test her fetus and then forced her to abort it. It was a daughter." Whispers because the in-laws who made her abort were close relatives. Disapproving because we were the more progressive branch. The young victim was married into an extension of the family. My mother, with her college degrees and only one daughter, "One is more than enough, thank you, now mind your business" - never spoken but heavily implied - and her sisters who were content with their two daughters only families (somehow there were a lot of daughters in this part of the clan).
But there was nothing they could do to help the poor victim. All they could do is talk of her plight. There really was nothing else they could do either, lest they be accused of meddling. And somehow when it is not something you need to deal with daily, it does become a "not my problem".
I met the lady- her husband was a distant cousin- and their two daughters, even stayed in their house for a day or two. And somehow the "crying" did not ever seem to really fit in with her, I always felt. Or maybe I did not know her enough. She was nondescript. Probably would pass as good looking. Very knowing-her-place-in-the-home kind of person. Cooked, cleaned kept house and was training her daughters to do the same. The eight year old fetched water, put the dishes away from the table and was generally the model child. The two year old was more spirited – but would have the freedom slowly sucked out of her. The lady was gossipy in the way only unoccupied sitting at home women can be. That is all I remember from my first visit to them.
And then "it" happened. The spoken-of-only in-whispers-and-at-the-dead-of
-the-night abortion. Which of course all of us youngsters came to know of, just as all family scandals become public knowledge- by that strange osmosis that seems to permeate these unknowables. And possibly even we discussed it amongst ourselves- I do not remember spending too much public time over it- because my cousin-confidantes did not seem to find it tragic nor even worth spending more discussion time on. But privately I did wonder about them. At first I made her out to be a tragic heroine – forced against her will to perform an abominable act of murder- helpless while the dragons of her family lashed against her (I was young and very impressionable). But soon news filtered that their next "try" had hit gold- they had conceived a son, she no longer even seemed suited for the swooning tragic role. But I kept thinking about them. The daughters . The elder one had been about 10 when her youngest sister was never born. Of course she was not told officially. But I am betting she new. Children know. She must have heard the words, understood something. I mean, can you really hide something like this? I wonder how she felt, how did the younger feel when their parent's love and attention was taken over by their baby brother. When the new upstart moved into their mother's womb and then took over their lives. Did they resent his presence? He did get more attention than they could ever think their overworked parents and doting grandparents were capable of giving. Did they feel grateful they had not been flushed away to make way for him? The mother. How could she have looked her in-laws in the eye ever again. And talked to them normally. How did she let her husband touch her, make love to her (if the act preceding reproduction in this case could be called that)? Did she pray secretly that it was ok, as she checked for signs of a pregnancy? Did she secretly curse her elder two daughters for being female?
I met them again years later. The daughters were well into their teens and the little boy one of the most obnoxious little brats I have ever met. Yes I was prejudiced, but not so against the child. He was spoiled and nasty even as his sisters had been precocious and cute- too much pampering makes little monsters- I mused. I could not help thinking, so this was what that had been all about? And his mother, the tragic heroine of my imagination, busily dissecting a mutual relative suddenly said, "Well, we care for providing both our daughters an education like people provide for their sons, after all they are all kids only".
Related reading: Opinions