“Oh, you are only two sisters? No brother?” the woman clicked her tongue to display her pity.
I do not know if she is sorry for me, my sister or my family. But why is she sorry in the first place? Because I and my sister will have no “support” to help us through life or because my parents will be “left alone” in their old age?
Over the years, I’ve heard this sentence more than I care to admit. It also isn’t novel to see families praying to numerous gods, offering sacrifices and whatnot, with the hope of having a son. Many such families also treat their daughters and sons differently. From “my son is not like that, it must be your daughter” to spoonfeeding their sons a bowl of male ego every day, this is the common Indian way.
This ego flows into the family and is quite evident to see – young daughters are quiet and timid, taking care of their brothers like their mothers, while boys are pampered and are prone to throwing tantrums. Seeing such behaviour, at times it is inconceivable that such siblings are being raised by the same parents under the same roof. This is how men inhabit the male ego, by imbibing the superiority of their mothers. But where do these mothers get this sense of “superiority” by giving birth to men? Because according to guidelines issued by our patriarchal society, a woman is only considered worthy if she can increase your progeny. What else is a woman good for if not reproduction? But why are men so keen on having male heirs? Is this because they want to keep their family name alive?
One thing that is considered pitiable about parents with two daughters is the question ‘who will perform the last rites for the father’. Usually, if a man has no son, it is performed by other male members of the family. Although women are also slipping into such roles these days, it is not exactly socially accepted. I asked my father about this and he said he would very much prefer his daughters to perform this rite, even if it costs him heaven. He firmly believes if there is a hell or heaven or any divine power, they surely mustn’t discriminate between genders.
Also read: Fleabag – An Ode to Sisterhood
For Indian parents, having a son means having someone to ‘take care’ of them in old age. For this, the man has to be the breadwinner, emotionally and physically strong for his entire family, and be the rock for everyone. But men aren’t allowed to be weak either. The pressure we put on men by sidetracking women is toxic to both the genders. I do not want to need a brother because I am falling short of a caretaker or of physical strength. This is not what men only are good for, they are not investment or simply a tool.
I have been blessed by a number of men who might not be related to me by blood but are my brothers and allies by choice. Many men have come and helped me when nobody came forward – from helping me when I fell on the road to teaching me how to use the metro ticket machine. While one gender is being told to look pretty and lose weight to get married, the other is being harassed to earn more, work more and ‘be a man’.
It is a misconception that men will always stay to take care of their parents and women won’t. All daughters and sons try hard to provide the best care for their parents – be it before marriage or post marriage. We all move out of our homes for education, for careers, for a new family but it does not mean we won’t take care of our parents just because we are daughters.
My mother was always content and happy with her pair of daughters. She always wanted a pair of ‘birds’ for her home. We were definitely not birds but were animals none the less.
Every time someone said to my mother, ‘Oh, why did you not try again for a boy?’, she told them that her boys were being raised by other women right now. And this came true. She found her favourite child in her son-in-law, who according to her is better than both her daughters combined.
But as an adult now, I can say India is surely changing. I hear this sentence less often these days. People are happier with their kids, be it a girl or a boy. They are aiming to raise their kids to be better humans than to be a better ‘gender role’.
Devika Mann is a literature major who is also a self proclaimed aesthetician and is absolutely in love with poetry, tea and windows. Send her a poem on her tumblr account.
Featured image credit: Unsplash