Beggars on the streets freak me out. Maybe I am cruel and compassionless, but something about their wild, at the same time, dead eyes scare me to death. The way their skeletal fingers keep beseeching is terrifying. Over the years, I might have been approached by hundreds of them, varying from ages of three to maybe ninety. But this one lady stands out in my memory.
A couple of years ago, when I was in Pune, I was waiting at a bus stop when she approached me. She swore on all the Gods she could think of and said if I helped her, “Tujhe ek din beta paida hoga.”
I stood as far away from her as I possibly could. Then I wondered, why did her “blessing” specify a son? Why not, “Have a healthy baby”? Why specifically a “son”? Young as I was back then (just out of college) and as angry at such matters as I am today, I was in a foul mood for the rest of the day because no one my age seemed to care about such matters. They all gave the same advice, “Chhod na, yaar! She was just a beggar.” Hmph!
Now, this isn’t an isolated incident. When I was born (after a thirteen-year long wait!), the nurses looked at my mother with a lot of sympathy and said, “Oh… it’s a… girl.” Exhausted as my mother must’ve been, she could muster enough steel in her voice to declare a daughter is what she wanted, and she is proud that I was a healthy baby.
We knew a family, a long time ago, that had a string of daughters, because they were waiting for a son to arrive some day. They were disappointed with the daughters. The names of all their daughters meant “night” (I am not gonna specify the names) and when a son finally arrived, he brought the first positive name into the family. His name meant joy. Why the discrimination? They’re all your blood after all.
Why is a daughter a burden? A daughter is just too much hassle. There’s a question of nurturing her, protecting her, only to send her off to a different family along with all the savings that you have collected over the years. A daughter is dangerous – she has the ability to put the entire family to shame if not kept under strict vigilance. A daughter has no name – the family line dies with her. She belongs to another family, a family whose son is proudly carrying their family name forward. A daughter isn’t capable of working like a son. She wouldn’t be able to support a family like a son can. A daughter is vulnerable. A son, on the other hand, is a protector (almost invincible, one might say!). A daughter is worthless – to be kept in a dark corner, where a son must bask in the glory of all the light in the world. Why bother giving life to something that’s just so worthless?
A day will come when the sons will have a wonderful world to live in – a peaceful one and a glorious one – a world with no daughters. There would be joy all around, and the sun would never set. And night and darkness would be a part of half-believed legends.