Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"She is 22,going on 23..

Aniket Alam on female foeticide and the "missing women"(although i am not very sure about the "cultural" assumption he makes).

        Dangling as I am on the precipice of 24 years on this planet and having attempted to keep as many options as possible open for the future, it causes me immense chagrin to see girls of my age and less losing a lot of options for no fault except for the fact that they were born women. This fact struck me with immense force about a year and a half ago as I suddenly realised that girls of my age were getting 'married off' in droves. Now many belong to socially and economically "settled" families and this makes the situation(for me at least) even worse. A lifetime of seeing dreams shattered,creativity drying up and social and political attitudes ossifying around me has at least made one thing clear.Marriage closes more doors than it opens.

        Discussions back home always led to frustrating stalemates ."Of course she should study.Who said we are against it? Its just that when a suitable match is found its always safer to get her married off..Who knows what will happen if we wait" was/is the most standard response. The other one was "She can always study after marriage". It's just that as time passes, children are born, houses are built and life goes on, a lot of things just die out slowly and steadily.Talents are drowned, bitterness grows and open mindedness is often replaced by a stubborn unwillingness to consider the other point of view.Of course these features are in no way restricted to women.Men develop most of these 'system features' despite there being so many more opportunities available to them. However one cannot but feel a sense of loss, a complete lack of comprehension as generations collaborate(willingly or unwillingly) to bury the dreams and possibilities of youth

        Of course "marrying off" a girl is not an isolated process. It begins at a tender age and reinforced through a series of gestures over the years ranging from subtle insertions into a conversation about how the girl is to go to another house to an early introduction to housework and cooking. These concepts influence how a girl is educated, what subjects she chooses and what career options she selects.It even influences her personality,the amount of noise she makes and the tone and tenor of her voice. It ensures that her thoughts are often tuned to keeping the family and her parents happy.And in the end this indoctrination prompts her to choose the better over the best, prevents her from holding out until she can decide a proper future for herself. Universities in the West generally encourage students to work a while after their masters and evaluate their interests before they apply for a PhD.We decide our girls' future much earlier.

        I realize that I am painting a "good and evil" picture here. I completely accept the possibility that this is a unidimensional point of view. There are many who do a great job multitasking their families,careers and interests. I also know that there are many who swim against the tide(occasionally with their families' consent)and have the courage and determination to ensure that marriage will not close doors on them .The indoctrination mentioned here is also not a norm.On the other hand there are girls who face graver circumstances and in certain contexts,these musings will be labeled as the self-obsessed ravings of a slightly jobless,upper- middle class man condescending to speak for the subaltern.But Anyway.

Here's to those who fought till the very end and to those are still fighting..

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