There are some people who still do the things people used to do 15-20 years ago. Like visit a relative during a vacation. So, a bunch of five distant relatives from Punjab landed up at our place in the middle of April, to spend a week ‘holidaying’ in Lucknow (which, if you ask me, is an oxymoron, but they obviously didn’t think that). And honestly, they were quite a fun-loving group of people, very Punjabi in spirit, if you know what I mean, and not much of a bother.
One of the days, as was expected, the topic veered to kids and having some of your own. I understand the elders’ urgency to see us with a child, but when the child they want to see is a ‘son’, I get really irritated. Bless us with a child, if that’s the most important thing for you, but don’t wish at the same time for that child to be a boy. But I was given the gyan that sons are must-haves, that life with daughters isn’t bad, that we bring up our daughters better than our sons and all of that, but that sons are what everyone looks forward to. That when you get old, your sons and their wives and their children make up your world. That daughters go away and are never to their parents what sons can be.
I tried telling them that my parents – parents of two girls – lived alone, but were not lonely. I tried to tell them that sons also go away – to study, to work. That often, sons turn their parents out of the house, and daughters take care of them. That girls were just as good. But how could the 50-year-olds believe that when a girl half their age refused to believe me. And that’s what appals me the most.
This girl, all of 25, mother to a 2-year-old girl, said emphatically that while some accept it openly, others don’t, the truth is everyone wants a son. And she’s not too wrong. In her worldview, that’s how people would be. But I could just stare at her. How will this world change if the mothers of a generation that’s in the making believe in something so totally redundant? These are educated people we are talking about – people who travel, who watch the news, who read, who are ostensibly aware. If they set so much store by a boy, what will our world turn out to be? Will our daughters grow up and fight the same mindsets we have to? I’m already impatient with a world that doesn’t understand that my gender does not make me less of a person; and to think we will go through all of this 25 years hence too, makes me livid!
It’s appalling also because in all my life I never heard my parents say anything like this. In fact, my grandmother, who belonged to a time when it wasn’t considered improper to wish for a boy, never let us feel that boys were more desirable as children than girls. I think she’s didn’t believe that either. My mom never forgets to tell us that while relatives would take upon themselves the duty to counsel my mother about perhaps trying for a third child, in the hope of a boy, my grandmother never expressed such a wish. How then can a 25-year-old living in this day and age think that sons are indispensable? Like me, she’s also one of two daughters. But probably, she was conditioned to believe that her parents would have been better off had they a son to support them in old age.
I sometimes try and think as objectively as the matter lets me, whether there is any justification for such a thought process. And I find none that’s convincing enough. Things like carrying the family name forward, or inheriting the family business – things that will happen once you’re dead – how can that be of concern to you when you’re alive? I mean, you want a son because you want the world to be what you’ve imagined it to be after you’re dead? How pathetic!
I don’t think men are unimportant. I’m not a man-hater by any chance. But I don’t think sons are important. Or more important than daughters.