Congratulations! It’s a girl! One might say the trials and tribulations of a woman start when she is born. But the reality is that they start before she even enters this world. It’s as easy as a five month prenatal ultrasound. When the sonographer peeps in the belly and says you’ll have to paint your nursery pink. As a mother, you think far beyond that pink nursery. What will my little girl bring in to this world? When will she talk? What will she say? And will her voice be listened to?
One would argue the human race has come this far: far enough to realize there should be no social difference between being a male or female. In our theoretical utopia there isn’t. But our harsh reality begs to differ.
Since the beginning of time man has been dominant; the breadwinner; the decision maker; the be all, end all husband. From wherever else is the term manly driven from? And to be a woman… well it’s just the opposite of a man no?
So this beautiful young soul enters the world forced to take the tides, whether she likes it or not.
If she has been blessed enough to have a father who values her just as he does her brothers, being different to her brothers for her might just be the differences of longer hair, pinker clothes and dolls and teacups! If, unfortunately, not, then she will be reminded every single day that she must: behave a certain way, dress a certain way, talk like a ‘disciplined young lady’ and will be put in her place if she does not comply.
Growing up she wants to strive and succeed, just as she sees her brothers. Then comes the question of school, “is she worth an education?” Some might think otherwise. Now that is a story on its own.
I mean there should be no question at all. But, for the skeptics, let’s say she is worth it. The privilege of school brings with it other dilemmas. “I’m doing everything right; behaving in class, doing my homework, getting good grades. I even help Ma with household chores. why can’t I join the football team? I am better than my brothers.”
“They are boys. You think you’ll look like a decent girl with shorts and bruises on your knees?” Her mother questions.
The little girls’ questions are out of the question.
At least when I finish my studies, I will have some authority over my decisions. She thinks She works hard, convinces her parents to send her to university. Even takes on a part time job at the library. She even joins small cultural clubs, making sure not to mention it to her parents.
Then comes along a fine sunny day when this young lady has a stamped scroll in her hands. I’m finally liberated, she sighs with relief.
A job? Cries her father.
Why on Earth would you need a job? I have helped you pay for your education. Now it is time for you to settle in your own life.
What the heck?
So this young lady questions, argues, rebels. But in the end, gives in. For, in the worlds eyes, she had a choice. But in her eyes, she doesn’t.
She finds her mother throwing tea parties she threw herself once as a child. But this time it’s no fun. This time she becomes the subject of constant judgement. Day in day out she serves tea to strangers who judge. They measure her height, her footsteps and if they could, even her breath. Until finally one day a suitor is chosen for her ( or she is, for him).
She obliged. After all, she is a good girl and now a married woman. As a married woman she fulfills all her duties, just as her mother once did. Her husband although a decent man, alway is busy in his work. He works long hard hours to pay off loans; for their new apartment and wedding expenses.
One day while he sat at the dinner table as she served him dinner:
“You know I was thinking, if we both work. I can pay off my debts for this new apartment and the wedding.”
Her heart jumped up.
“I would love to! You know I always wanted-”
“Yeah, if you can manage it.”
“I’d love to.”
“You should not have convinced him to let you work. You are the wife. You should take care of his homes instead of trying to fulfill your own financial needs. We did not wed you to my son so you can impose your own thoughts on him. Didn’t your mother show you the ropes.” And her mother in law went on and on.
So you drank cups on cups of tea, ate dozens of kebabs, rejected so many eligible girls because hamay ek pari likhi, khoobsurat bahu chahiye thi. These ‘Modern’ double standards disgusted her. I was better off being home at 26 than this.
“I will tell her it’s your choice. Don’t worry.” Her husband reasoned with her as she cleaned the dinner table after everyone left.
It wasn’t that finding a job wasn’t hard. She applied relentlessly. Some said she was inexperienced and somewhere she felt it had to do with being a woman. She just felt it, an unsaid feeling.
Finally she landed a decent office job. Nothing special, but reasonable. Her office was predominantly men. All IT brats who tried to one up each other.
“Oh welcome! Finally another female.”
” we don’t see many in IT, I guess they can’t handle the pressure.”
Her male counterparts would make snide remarks. But she dismissed it off as ignorance.
Her days became longer. The alarm clock set for 5 a.m. every morning. She made two lunches the night before and dinner as soon as she got home. Days, weeks, months went by. One day her mother in law came.
“Hamare mein yeh waisay pasand nahi kartay(working), magar theek hai. Tum logon ki marzi thi hum kuch nahi Bohat. Agay agay mushkil ho jani hai bachay ke saath.”
“Either he is pregnant or I don’t know I am.” She thought.
As soon as her in laws left that night, her husband began.
“Ma says, and I agree, you should stop working. We’ve paid off quite in the last few months and with my promotion we can easily start a family.”
Her heart dipped.
“But I’ve worked so hard! I spoke to my boss and will finally get a raise. Remember I told you about Stephen. How we both got the job at the same time. I’m finally going to be paid the same amount as him. My boss is really impressed and-”
“- And now it’s time you focus on family. Everyone’s been asking, and now it’s gotten me thinking. All my friends have kids. It’s actually quite embarrassing.”
Again she could question, argue, rebel. But like she didn’t before, she didn’t now. It’s like having gone to school and not being able to play on the football team, she recollected with sheer anger. With that, she left her job.
Three months later an hCg indicator strip marked with two bright blue lines lay in her palm. Thank god, she thought, when he comes home I’ll tell him. His mother really needs a shut up call. She never questioned her son, rather always my fertility.
And then she felt all her nerves twitch.
As she leaned back to swallow her reality, she reflected. So this is life. Grandma went through this, Ma did and now I am. At least now it isn’t as bad as it was when they became mothers. But, still, in this modern society we, as women, are constantly scrutinized by the people around us, including other women. When will this scrutiny end? Or will it even ever end?
She recollected her thoughts.
I need to be strong and sensible. I’m going to be a mother soon. To a boy or a girl. And if it is a girl, I’ll need to be much stronger for my little girl.
She stretched her legs and dove right into the covers. This is going to be a long 9 months. And with that she doses off.
In this era of constant change, globalization and the World Wide Web, enough exposure is given to everyone almost everywhere about nearly every topic. It seems prime time to discuss and have a voice; more likely for that voice to be heard. We as women constantly push and strive for equality in every aspect of our lives. But why is it that terms such as: domestic, rape, honour (killing), equal pay, right to education etc. seem to stick to our souls, sisters? The optimist might say hey at least it’s not the Stone Age. Well YES, it’s not the Stone Age: exactly why it seems unfair to still have such terms glued to our skin. But this is an understood battle. An uphill battle. One that will evidently take longer to overcome than we expect.