Among the innumerable happy and carefree memories I have of my childhood there is also one gloomy memory that is quite engraved into my mind.
Having been brought up in a small town like Ranchi has had its own share of discomforts. Most of it, I never experienced. Thanks to the warm and loving family I have, Neha and me have had a very protected, lighthearted, affectionate and independent upbringing.
Coming to the point of this post, the most common childhood question I have been asked by every adult I met for the first time is “How many brothers and sisters you have”, my reply would be “I have a younger sister”. My response had always been followed by a quick “what? No brother, oh no, poor parents, 2 girls to marry off”
The adult could be anyone – friend’s parents, new neighbors, some vague acquaintances and sometime some god forsaken relatives. But the line of questioning was always similar.
Not only me, even my younger sister Neha has faced a lot of these. This one question followed by a quick dismissal and then the pity has made me go through a gamut of emotions. From the initial confusion to irritation to anger to rage to the ultimate indifference. If anything this probing left me a little more determined to make a mark.
This was outside. At home it was a very different scene. Our little family was picture perfect. Neither mom nor dad ever seem perturbed that they had only 2 daughters and no sons. This fact never bothered them. In fact in more occasions than one I had seen them shut people up when they started the usual course of “Oh Mr/Mrs Bhatia, but why didn’t you try for a third child, didn’t you feel a need for a son?”
So when we weren’t bothered why were others? When my mom was happy with 2 girls, when my dad was proud of his 2 daughters, when neither Neha nor I felt the need of having a brother, why was the society so concerned?
Today, both of us are doing well. I am well educated, have a good career and am poised to do even better. I am financially independent and happy in life. Neha is all set to follow suit, having just completed her MBA. How is it any different from a family which had 2 sons? Now the same old folks come and congratulate my parents on the having the proverbial “well brought up children”.
Why I say this today is because I saw the familiar story unfold in front of my eyes. I thought the world had changed. But be in the 1989 or the 2009, be it Ranchi or Bangalore, something’s remain unchanged. In the play ground of my apartment, I saw a 5 year old subjected to the same line of questioning. The little one, who had an infant sister, was visibly unsure of what she had said that had made the aunty so abject, simply shrugged and went off. I smiled, because I saw yet another independent and confident lady in the making.