Sunday, March 17, 2013

Celebrating Girls, Celebrating Women

Thank you Women's Web for honouring me with a first prize!!!

I feel like a school girl now!wow and WOW again.

Women's web is holding a contest on Celebrating Girls, Celebrating Women. Details can be got here. 

The following is my entry for the contest. The offer of Flipkart vouchers for the winners was too good to resist. Moreover I have become too lazy to write. This assignment is a welcome one. So what if I am competing with a generation half my age! 

Looking back I feel that I had it lucky. I was born when my parents were traveling from Bangalore to Madras and my mother had to disembark at Jolarpet and check into the railway hospital to deliver me. My dramatic entry into the world made my father grant me the status of a heroine and he would never tire of repeating the story of my birth to anyone who was within hearing distance. I was his little princess. When I was a month old I had convulsions and as the story goes, my father, though a doctor himself, could not decide on the medicine and its dosage that could be safely administered to an infant. My paternal grandmother prayed that she would name me Padmavathy after the deity in Tirupathi if I recovered and soon afterwards my dad miraculously found a cure to my illness while looking up a medical journal. My grandma performed a “Sumangali Prarthana” when I recovered and my naming ceremony soon followed. I grew up without realizing that girls were considered unwanted in several families. We faced no such discrimination in ours.

As a child I was encouraged to speak out and stand up for whatever I considered was right. On one occasion the Principal of our boarding school punished me for something I had not done. She refused to listen to any explanation threatening to write to my father about the incidence. I wanted my father to hear my version being pretty sure that he would understand. I wrote a detailed letter mentioning the Principal’s refusal to allow me a chance to defend myself and gave it to my teacher to post. Since our letters were censored the Principal got to read the letter. She called me to her office and asked for my side of the story. When convinced she asked me if I wanted the matter dropped or if I would want her to post the letter. I replied that I would want my father to know about the incidence and if he felt that I was wrong I would gladly accept his verdict. She posted it just to see what my father’s reaction would be. However, she did add a note from her side saying that the matter had been resolved and that she wanted me to stay away from bad company and do well in life. If she had expected my father to scold me or advice me on good behavior she must have been disappointed. My father expressed absolute faith in me and added that he was sorely disappointed at the judgmental attitude adopted by the school. The Principal was highly appreciative of my parents’ trust in  me and even more surprised at the level of confidence I showed by depicting the episode truthfully and posting the letter through her.

“This is the kind of rapport I would want every child to have with their mentors” she added after narrating the incidence in the assembly. The entire school clapped for me. I was just thirteen years old then.

Years have gone by and today I teach undergrad students in a local college. I am afraid that even today girls face discrimination in their families and are considered a burden by their own parents. Just two days ago a young girl doing her B. Com in our college approached me saying that her friend was being subjected to mental torture and was contemplating suicide. The girl had been abandoned by her husband within two months of her marriage. That her husband was unemployed or that she was sexually harassed by her father in law who accused her of being a woman of loose morals when she refused to yield to his advances did not bother her much. She was more upset that her mother wanted her to return to her in laws and ‘adjust’. Her  mother was  worried about the future of the other unmarried daughters who would not get good husbands if she continued to stay with them after marriage. More so since her in laws were spreading rumors about her character and chastity. I could understand her mother’s point of view even if I did not agree with her. I asked the girl to remain firm and continue to concentrate on her studies. Suicide was no solution. She could earn some pocket money by teaching school children and/or taking up part time assignments. I told her that there was no need to return to her husband unless he found a job to support her and promised to stand up for her against his father. She had heard from reliable sources that her husband was planning to remarry.

Good riddance” I said. “It should be sufficient reason to put him behind the bars”.

I offered to talk to her mother if required. When she left I could make out that she had gained some amount of self assurance. I asked her friend to keep a watch over her and continue to instill confidence in her.

Although the status of women needs to improve I am glad that girls are reporting incidents of physical and mental torture. Instead of churning out spicy stories about their friends in distress, the youngsters are offering support them in whatever way they can. This in itself is cause for celebration. However, womanhood cannot be celebrated unless they realize their own worth and merit. A colleague of mine spoke of the lavish wedding she had planned for her daughter who was  a final year engineering student. She had set aside 25 lac for dowry and gifts for the groom. She would need another 10 lac for the wedding expenses and five more for jewelry and silverware. She claimed that this was the minimum that a well employed groom would expect adding that if she tried to bargain there were others ready to quote a higher price for the same boy.

I blame the girl and her parents more than the groom's family for the situation. I would certainly not want to marry a man who could decide on his life partner based on the price quoted by the highest bidder. The girl’s family wish to flaunt their purchasing power by making such offers and the groom’s family behave as if their son is up for sale (read auction). Bride burning and torturing daughters in law are consequences of the greed that is being fanned and nurtured by society in the name of dowry. Girls too have no qualms about letting their parents part with their life savings for their marriage and allowing them to depend on their sons for their upkeep.

I cannot help narrating a conversation I had with my co - sister 25 years back, She wanted to know if I had bought diamond ear rings for my daughters and advised me to buy the earrings fast since prices of gold and diamonds were touching the sky. I replied that I had no intention of investing in diamonds and their education was my priority. My co - sister insisted that no decent guy would marry them for free. I retaliated by saying that my husband's cousins (8 of them) had all married well placed men none of whom made atrocious demands. I too would be able to marry my daughters without the above mentioned piece of jewelry. If she quoted one example of a person who made dowry demands I could give five examples of those who did not. I can proudly claim that I was right and the question of dowry never came up at the time of their marriages.

Let the successful ones among us celebrate women and womanhood by all means. However, in our moments of celebration let us also remember that there are several women who need our emotional support to stand up for themselves.


This piece is my entry for -  http://www.womensweb.in/articles/celebrating-girls-celebrating-women/

20 comments:

Kalpana Solsi said...

I fully agree with you Hip Hop Grandma. Even though you may be contesting girls half your age , in the contest , your entry carries substance and the burning truth.(i do not know about other entries). May you win the contest. You have rightly said that the bride's side is on the wrong side when they openly and unabashedly flaunt their 'purchasing power'. Girls are not cattle to be 'sold off' nor are the boys 'tagged' by a price. This itself defeats the purpose of holy matrimony. keep writing.

Geetashree Chatterjee said...

Enjoyed reading your post. There is still hope in this world it seems.

Sri said...

Beautiful post, HHG!!

Even i am totally against dowry..i know a case where a love marriage didnt happen as the guy suddenly started asking for a huge dowry..his mother had brainwashed him that had he listened to them and had an arranged marriage, he would have got so much dowry!

Hip Grandma said...

Kalpana: thanks. When I see the plight of women in our society I get very upset. I was annoyed at the way my colleague spoke of the lavish wedding and the designer wear that was required to be flaunted at the time of her daughter's wedding. Why can't gifts wait for a later date? Should they be made a bargaining tool? Amir Khan's Satyameva Jayate focused on dowry menace and the episode was discussed in our college. But when one's turn comes very few can resist giving or accepting dowry. 90% of it is not even used by the girl or put away for a rainy day.

Geetashree: thanks.

Sri: the girl mentioned by you was right in calling off the marriage. There may have been no end to the demands made by the groom.

Ganesh Balimidi said...

MBA degree is necessary in today’s business world. So the candidates who are working after doing their bachelor degree they can do MBA.
School of Business Management Bangalore

Pooja Sharma Rao said...

lovely post and a wonderful blog !

Hip Grandma said...

Pooja: thanks.feels good to be read by your generation

rinzu rajan said...

I so hate that word dowry and more the practice! Sadly, dowry has a good new name in our society, called gifts! Many give it to their daughters in the name of giving away their share of the property! But then flaunting their moolah at the time is not important. A share of the property can wait for a later date. A very good post, especially describing the events that led to your birth.

Here is mine

http://rinzurajan.blogspot.in/2013/03/the-frock-and-hopscotch-days.html

Thank you

Hip Grandma said...

rinzu rajan: Dowry was given to daughters for a different purpose when the practice was first started. Girls were not given education nor encouraged to take up a career. they had no share in ancestral property. So parents gave her gold, silverware and a small capital to support herself in difficult times. It makes no sense now when parents themselves have no ancestral property and in the name of giving dowry they have to part with their hard earned money that they could put to use in their twilight years. As you rightly say, this money or property can be given to children later also. Why show off at the time of the wedding. For all you know the in laws including the son in law may squander the money and one's daughter may not even benefit from it.

Pooja Sharma Rao said...

congratulations !!

paulOaries said...

congrats on your win... and you inspire me... thank you for writing the post,

Aabha Vatsa said...

Congratulations!

Sharvani Sachidanand said...

Hey fellow blogger

Was recently given a Liebster award - a networking blogger award of sorts. and decided to spread the cheer, so congrats on the award :)
More information on the link below
http://sharvani.blogspot.in/2013/03/he-hei-was-actually-given-blogger-award.html

cheers

Hip Grandma said...

paulOaries:Thanks.

Aabha Vatsa: thanks

Shravani: that was a sweet gesture. thanks. I was given the same award earlier too from another blogger Debolina. While I felt great to be recognized by your generation I did not respond because it involved too much work like framing 11 questions and tagging 11 other bloggers. getting on in age you see** wink, wink. I think I'll do one thing. i'll answer your questions and that of Debolina in the same post but I refrain from tagging people. is it okay??

Archana said...

congratulations!!

Hip Grandma said...

Archana: thanks

dipali said...

Wonderful post!

Sandhya said...

Wonderful post! Kudos to you for having stood up for yourself, so much so that the principal herself was convinced.

I am the youngest of three sisters and like you, we grew up not knowing that girls were unwanted in most families. My father, a doctor, was very particular about education and had told us that come what may, we had to study until post graduation, which would later help three of us embark on successful careers. My late mother, a doctor herself, inspired us by being strong-willed in times of adversities and taught us that women need to stand up for themselves at all times and be fearless. As a child, I would sometimes hear visitors coming home ask my parents "what will you do now, doctor? You have only daughters?" My father replied "What will I do? I will educate them well so that they become independent and strong and face life's challenges with courage". Just like your parents, my parents had immense trust in us and did not believe stories that were made up when we attended college.

As I grew up and was exposed to the outside world, I began to witness harsh realities. Boys being favoured over girls, boys being asked to eat first in few homes and the girls asked to eat later and clean up, girls being married at the age of 14 and then on forced to take care of home and children etc. Recently, a colleague who was pregnant said she prayed for a boy and would not be able to live if she was blessed with a baby girl, citing that "boys are more precious". I gave her a piece of my mind and told her she being a woman herself should not degrade girls and women.

I had been to my sister's friend home. The friend's father was no more. Her sister was sent back home because the brother-in-law's family was demanding dowry. I realised there were so many social evils that were making lives of women miserable, dowry being the foremost one. One of my hostel mates had once proudly declared that she would not agree if her father did not give her at least 15lacs in the form of dowry. My friends laughed at me when I said mine would be a dowry-free marriage. All three of us have had dowry-free marriages.

I am so thankful that my parents stressed on education and independence, eventhough we lived in a conservative town.

Sorry for such a long comment. I could relate very well to your post and wanted to share my feelings and experiences. Please keep such inspiring posts coming.

Sandhya said...

Congratulations on winning the first prize:)

Hip Grandma said...

Sandhya: glad that your childhood was like mine. Let us shake hands. And thanks for your wishes.