Diary of a Little Woman | Female Lives Matter

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Young Nila learns about a really regressive practice among people living in villages... and it hits so close to home that her initial disturbance soon turns to determination.

Female infanticide is an important topic and must be introduced to students, irrespective of how negative it might be in a classroom context. | Special Arrangement

Sep 10

 

Dear Diary,

 

I learnt a new word today. Female Infanticide.

 

Do you know what it means? Killing girl babies. Not all babies, only the female ones! Is being a girl such a horrible thing? All the cool people I know are female. Except Appa and Prabhu Sir, of course.

 

It was during breakfast. As usual, Appa was busy watching his favourite news channel and I was busy reading my favourite part of the newspaper. The anchor was shouting louder than usual so I temporarily said goodbye to Calvin & Hobbes to check what the hullabaloo was all about. Turns out they had found two dead infants in a well in Haryana — both female. The reporter on the other end was shouting into the mike that there might be more bodies inside because many of the surrounding villages used the well to dump unwanted girl children.

 

I asked Appa why they were specifically targeting girls. He shook his head and said, “Nila kutti, we’ll talk about it after you get back from school. Don’t let this ruin your day.” He seemed sad so I hugged him extra tight and gave him a kiss also before running off to catch the bus. He smiled and became happy again.

 

I couldn’t stop thinking about the baby killers though. During lunch, I asked Poo and Rads if they knew anything about this. They were as shocked as I was. Luckily for us, we were called to skit-practice. Zoya didi was helping us practise for the inter-school competition. The entire school thinks that Zoya didi is the coolest head-girl ever. So after practice, we asked her to unravel the mystery for us.

 

I wish we hadn’t asked. Like Najju Paati says, some things are best left unknown.

 

But why only girls? Aren’t we more useful than boys? We are equally intelligent, if not more. (Seriously Diary, you MUST meet Rahul. If anyone examines the insides of his head, they’ll definitely find a big hole where his brain is supposed to be.)

 

Girls are better at so many other things like cooking, taking care of household stuff, sewing, gardening, baking. People think all this is no big deal. Well, think of a day without food, clothes and plants! Yeah, Appa is smart and all but he can’t survive a single day without Amma. He ALWAYS asks Lakshmi Paati to stay with us whenever Amma goes out of town.

 

Also, we are much more mature than boys. Says so in a Reader’s Digest article. A girl is two years more emotionally mature than a boy of the same age. That’s why in arranged marriages, they always make sure the woman is younger than the man.

 

Ok fine, maybe boys are physically stronger than us. But last week when Shanky was boasting about how boys are stronger, Najju Paati pointed out that childbirth is THE MOST PAINFUL THING EVER. And I pointed out that he always comes home crying about those kutti-kutti cuts on his knees when he falls down while cycling. So much for boys being stronger.

 

And after childbirth, it is the women who have to take care of these babies. Seriously Diary, have you heard of any dad who takes as much care of the child as the mother does. For all my arguments with Amma, I must say she does a LOT more for Shanky and me when compared to Appa. Even she goes to office everyday — but she’s the one making breakfast, lunch, dinner, buying veggies, washing vessels when the maid doesn’t come, giving our clothes for ironing, attending PTA meetings, organising our birthday parties, EVERYTHING! All Appa does is sit with his newspaper, watch cricket, and talk to Srinivasan Uncle about the greatness of the Hindu religion.

 

So then why do they kill only girl babies? Zoya didi said it’s because there’s no point taking care of girls as they have to be married off and won’t be around to take care of their parents after that. Hence, it would be a waste of money to bring up a daughter.

 

Stupid logic! In that case, ALL the men have to be thrown in wells because they can’t even take care of themselves! What will they take care of their parents and all.

 

Poo and Rads came over after school because I’d told them that Appa would be explaining the topic in full detail. We watched the news for a while hoping to catch updates on that story. Nothing! The same news anchor was now shouting about how two actresses had worn the same dress to some film awards ceremony. So senseless these TV channels are! Hello! There are girl babies being killed here and all you care about is matching dresses!

 

Appa came home early. He was surprised to see two more heads waiting for him. We all sat down with a cup of tea (Amma and Shanky also). And then he began.

 

He told us about how in many villages they think the girl child is unlucky because the parents have to pay a huge dowry when they are married off. And it’s only the sons who take care of their parents anyway. He said that female infanticide happens mostly in India, Pakistan and China.

 

In China, the babies were either drowned or left in the open. In the olden days, people would leave them at ‘baby towers’ built by Buddhist monks, where the kids would be taken care of. In India, the mother would often be made to kill the little girl by poisoning or suffocating her.

 

We were too stunned to ask questions. Just then, Najju Paati rang the bell and jumped straight into the conversation. “Patriarchy is the root cause of all evil,” she declared. We asked her to tell us about patriarchy. “No telling. Only showing. It’s movie time,” she shouted in her announcement voice.

 

As I was wondering what movie this was, I heard Amma whisper to Najju Paati that every film with a big hero is about patriarchy. Appa also heard her (Amma is such a bad whisperer) and looked offended (maybe because he’s such a big fan of Indian films - especially the ones with superstars in it). Najju Paati and Amma were busy cackling. Poo, Rads and I cackled along. Movie means movie. (Shanky is begging to join us. We shall decide depending on his behaviour.)

 

It really is dangerous out there, no? Poo, Rads and I have a new mission now. To educate the world about female infanticide. We read a little more about it in the encyclopedia. (SO heavy these books are. But SO much information also.)

We have decided to make a chart about this topic so all our classmates will know what it’s like outside the safety of home and school... in the real world.

Ok. I’m going to read the remaining strips of cartoon now. Need to laugh a bit after all this scary talk.

Sleep safe, Dear Diary.

 

Yours slightly-scared-but-mostly-bravely,

Nila

 

Sep 12

 

Dear Diary,

Some teachers went and complained to Principal ma’am saying that the chart on female infanticide was too negative. Principal ma’am asked them to shut up.

Actually she told them that as teachers, they should know that female infanticide is an important topic and must be introduced to the students, irrespective of how negative it might be. Basically, it means that she wanted them to shut up. Hah!

 

(This is the second in a series of diary entries that explore womanhood with the innocence of — well — innocence. Do read the first entry, ‘A period of discovery’.)

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