My mother is the happiest soul on the planet. I just started growing in her womb. But a grey shade snatched her smile, abruptly. My father had strictly warned her that he wants a boy to continue the progeny. He had no idea that it is a story of chromosomes. He needs a wife but he hates the idea of a girl child, otherwise a blessing.
As I crawl out of mother's womb, relatives make faces and curse her for giving birth to me. No merry moments. No celebrations. No cakes, no sweets to distribute. No separate kid's cabinet is decorated for me. Gloom falls as I am born as a bad omen.
Darling doll: My mother rains kisses on my chubby cheeks, but others are indifferent – sad actually. I am not treated equally like other siblings. I can't laugh out loud. I can't talk, walk free. I feel my free spirit is caged. Decrees are issued. I notice, some of my relatives treat me as a toy (and I don't know what that means). I feel someone approaching me inappropriately, and when I talk to my mom and sister about it, I get a tight slap in return. I am told to seal my lips and never ever reveal it to anyone. I stay quiet. Interestingly, I live in a 'traditional' family.
Menarche: oops! I wake up with a strange wetness. I receive another slap as I run to my mother to know what these blood stains are. I am told to change my clothes, clean myself and never talk about it in front of male members. Whenever, I go to school or go to a neighborhood shop to buy some candies or essentials, I face hooting, cat-calling. I feel strange changes happening to my body. It feels awkward.
My college life: Till last year, I used to wear jeans, I gave up. Wearing an attire of your comfort is a sin in this pseudo-sacred society. Now, I cover my bosom with my dupatta. To avoid a lusty gaze, I put on hijab and Abaya now. I am covered from top to toe. I get into a crowded bus, more passengers are pressed in. someone is getting closer to me. Bigots would explain that it is better for me to stay home. Hijab is the package they offer us, an armour that protects us from suggestive looks.
I am a graduate now. I am 22. The dramatic turn of events unfolds. Before I narrate that, have a look at my social media inbox. Those who pretend to write long verses from religious texts on public platforms are nasty.
I want to work independently. I want to move out, travel solo but I am vulnerable. My parents are concerned. Zamana khraab hai. They want to see me off. But `seeing me off' is not all that easy. By now, I have already been smitten by the arrows of fakery. I also have feelings. I had been in an abusive relationship. He was a drug addict and I loved a wrong person. It changed me forever. I don't trust people anymore. Sexual harassment at workplace is a new trend. Women are belittled, discouraged, underpaid if they try to do something novel. I want to excel in sports. It is not my forte. I should try some 'girly domain', I am told.
Wedding woes: My parents are going to spend hard earned capital on my wedding to entertain random people. It is a goddamn custom. My family pooled money from bank and tried to live up to the expectations of my in-laws. We were asked to fulfill all the demands. We obeyed like dumb cattle. Since I had become a burden on my family, they wanted to get rid of me. I have been hitched to a person I don't deserve. He is intellectually bankrupt. Marriage is a compromise. I leave my parent's place and go to serve my husband's family. I shuttle between these two extremes. Where do I belong? Where is my family? Who owns me? None. My fate is sealed.
History repeats itself. I had seen how my mother was ill-treated back home. Now, it is my turn. I get up in the wee hours and I am the last person to go to bed. I juggle between multiple assignments. I am a maid, dishwasher, cook, sweeper, etc. I am not appreciated. There are mute observers around to criticize me.
Oh! These day, I feel vomiting, nausea etc. It is a girl. I am shell-shocked to learn that my partner wants me to abort the baby girl. I can't kill God's special and beautiful creation. I am not stone hearted. I will rebel. I will protect her until my last breath. My husband is not interested in me anymore. He leaves home in the dead of the night and comes back in the wee hours. He creates excuses. His extra-marital affairs ruined our otherwise pious bond.
Pregnant with pain: (hard to bear but) I braved labour pains all night. Gynecologist suggested to shorten the agony and settle for a caesarean section but I was adamant to come out without being cut open. It is hard to be a girl.
Old and ailing: In this (what we call) age of enlightenment, men of toxic masculinity make our lives hell. Domestic abuse has gone from bad to worse. Single parents/widows abandoned by their immediate relatives are broken. If my husband divorces me, I can't keep a man. This is how I am judged. If I can't conceive, I am barren. I am not allowed to be part of any social gathering. I am isolated. I am avoided. I am misfit.
I shower immense love to my grandchildren. I feel so connected to them. I am annoying, nuisance now. Remember, paradise is under my feet. I have silently been submitted to soil.
The author volunteers as a Mentor/Counsellor at Kashmir Education Initiative (KEI). IIHS's Urban Fellowship Awardee, he is currently engaged as Climate Change Media Fellow with Earth Journalism Network (EJN).