Do girls make you uncomfortable?

We are a family of five. Two adults called Mamma and Papa and three little children.

A few months ago, I met a woman in an empty flat. A regular person, quite like you and me. Posh school, Delhi University, an MBA and her own small business now. She was house-hunting with her husband and they were there to see a flat our friend owns in south Delhi. Our friend lives abroad, so we had gone to unlock the door for the potential new tenants.

It’s a boring old chore, but when one is a family with little children, every simple outing has the potential to become a little adventure in no time.

“Hi, I am Natasha,” I said. She looked at my children. She looked at me.
“You wanted a boy,” she said to me.
I stared at her face. A question mark appeared on mine.
“You wanted a boy,” she repeated.
“No,” I said, tentatively.

I began to get the drift of what she was saying. By now she was looking directly at our youngest child, Naseem. Naseem was embracing the empty, dusty spaces in the house, humming her own song. Now encircling a pillar with her hands and trying to climb it like a coconut tree, now treating her father like a pillar and climbing up on him. Afzal swayed for a moment like a coconut tree in a storm, then regained his balance, Naseem still hanging on to him.

“She’s a girl,” said the woman. “They are all girls.”
“Just step outside the house with me for a moment,” I said to her. I opened the main door and led the way. She didn’t seem to understand.
“Come out here,” I said to her. She stepped out. “Sahar,” I called out to our oldest daughter, “I am just out here consoling this lady.”
“What, Mamma?” she called back from the empty cupboard she and Aliza were sitting inside.

I gestured to her. I am here, just letting you know. Play carefully. Sahar is 9 and she and I read each other’s faces quite well.

Now I turned to the woman who had come to see a flat but was distracted by little girls. To be accurate, distressed by little girls.

“What are you saying,” I asked her directly.
“I’m just saying that you must have wanted to have a son, that’s why you tried three times,” she said.
“It may not have crossed your mind yet,” I said to her, “but some people have children because they WANT to have children. Some people are in love with each other and become pregnant and get moony-eyed ideas about wanting to create a family together. It may be a foolish idea that doesn’t always work very well, but it’s something that happens to a lot of us.”
“But you have three daughters,” she said. She showed me three fingers.
“Before I start feeling sorry for you,” I said to her, “let me just cut through the crap. Do you realize how WRONG it is to talk like this IN FRONT of children? You are saying to them that their parents don’t want them? That they don’t have a right to exist? That random strangers can be rude to them just because they are girls?
What is it about them that you hate so much?”

She didn’t have answers, of course. Only preconceived, borrowed ideas and conditioned responses. She’s not alone. We all isolate each other, callously spitting smug, self-righteous judgements without a second thought. We have quick-stick labels for everyone, irrespective of the personal choices we may have made.

I’ve just figured out that one way to shut out ignorant voices is to speak louder than them. It doesn’t always come naturally to me. I feel furious but my anger creeps into dark corners and hides inside me. I stumble upon it unexpectedly.
I am learning to hold on to my anger when I meet it. It is slippery and likely to get me into trouble. But really, sometimes it is better to be in trouble with others than to be troubled alone. It is critical to shake people up than be left shaking with rage oneself.

“Mamma, Papa is calling you inside.” Sahar and Aliza came out of the flat. “What are you talking about?” Sahar asked, looking at my face for clues.
“Important things,” I said. “Things I learnt from you.”
[This was first published in Mint Lounge]

About Natasha Badhwar

"Because I'm a Tinker. That's who I am. Tinkers fix things. But I can't do it alone." (Pause for lots of action. Group Action......) "You did it, Tinker, you saved Spring!" I also have three children, one marriage, a million friends and one life.
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12 Responses to Do girls make you uncomfortable?

  1. Regular person? Really? "Posh school, Delhi University, an MBA and her own small business now" makes her a regular person? Glad I was born in the good old USA where "regular people" are not judged by the kind of externals that, for some people, seem to get in the way of kindness and good manners.

  2. Roanna says:

    Beautiful post about strength and resolve … and the daily endurance of bull-crap. People do not seem to think, they do not seem to ever stop to think. I have also taken on the task of facing The Stupid. It may exist (and surely it does and shall), but not in my presence.

  3. shilparch says:

    I recently moved to Jaipur from Delhi after getting married. Such mentality was of course present in Delhi as well, but at least it was under wraps for me and not out on display. Being in Jaipur now, and especially since I'm a sindoor-donning-mangalsutra-wearing-married-woman (I prefer not to exhibition my marital status and like to be as normal as I was before), the snake is out of the box now and in my face! A recent incident in my husband's friend circle left me shell shocked! The guy in question is from a "conservative" business family and his wife was expecting a baby back then. Their first child. This is around the same time when the female foeticide episode on Satyamev Jayate was aired. A discussion popped up and someone said looking at his wife that they would have a girl. He got quite offended. A lot of name calling followed. The mere thought of being a father to a girl, is that so threatening? Being a new addition to the gang and meeting that guy for the first time, I chose not to speak up, and haven't stopped cursing myself from doing that till date. He's a father now. Father to a baby girl that he did not want.

  4. Natasha says:

    You are so right, Edgar. We asume that the well-educated also come with strong values. We correlate poverty and lack of privilege with narrow-mindedness. All around us, it is quite the reverse, it is the rich, the educated and the privileged who shock us with the smallness of their minds all the time.

  5. Natasha says:

    This is so sad and hurtful. After I am done feeling depressed, I realize there's nothing else to do but gather my people around me, hug them…and insist on creating our own world. A world of love, courage and justice.Thank you for sharing, more power to you! Love, N

  6. CHETHANATH says:

    I am father of 'only female child'. Why cant u try..may be you can have a boy?? ..hmm world is crazy..

  7. shalvika says:

    I totally understand. I am the 'only girl child' and people keep suggesting my dad about having atleast a boy or atleast two kids(Still,a boy is a must). Sigh..this world.

  8. Natasha says:

    This is so sad and hurtful. After I am done feeling depressed, I realize there's nothing else to do but gather my people around me, hug them…and insist on creating our own world. A world of love, courage and justice.Thank you for sharing, more power to you! Love, N

  9. Natasha says:

    Thank you for sharing, Shalvika, Chethanath. The world is indeed crazy. We just have to SPEAK LOUDER THAN THE LOONIES…to be HEARD. Love, N

  10. Kalki says:

    My mother was born as the eldest of 5 children – 2 girls and 3 boys.Whenever we are at a maternal side function, and when people are introduced, I am always the son of my mother whereas my uncles' sons are 'grandsons of the family'. Then what am I?Interestingly, while my maternal side has mostly highly educated, rich people, my father's brothers and sisters are all simple graduates living middle class lives. But I had never seen them differentiate based on sex. My aunt's son (father's sister's son) was as much a grandchild in the family as any of the other grandchildren. (please note I now use grandchild and not grandson.)I think it is a reflection of the education system in India – the more educated you are, the more regressive your thought process is.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Am a proud father of 2 lovely gals..and even thoufh theres no plan to have any more kids..i wud still want a gal…..its not that i dont want a boy but wud be happier with a gal always…Peoples mentality has to change….it is an evolution and it will not happen overnight…but it will.. Believing in the religion which says the heaven is below ur moms feet….seeb my mom…my wife… i wudnt ever be able to do wat they have done and sacrificed i life for their family…..its being a lady that makes them what they are…

  12. I have a different story.. it's not always true that people are troubled because you have three daughters .. they are troubled in my case that I have only one child.. A boy… and therefore assume that I being satisfied didn't want another.. Story is I couldn't bear another and.. a girl or a boy didn't matter to me as we are THREE SISTERS and my dad left us in the childhood as we were only girls and had no son…. The world has a problem with everything..

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