“Are you going to sit there and take this kind of a treatment, all your life, Mom”, said the firm voice in the front of her.
Durga, looked up at her 16 year old daughter, standing in the front of her with her hands on her hips, her eyes glaring down at her Mother, her entire posture speaking of the command and confidence that many young girls her age lacked.
She gave her daughter a meek smile.
“Dont smile at me!!! I am saying this for your own good. Dad, doesnt pay any attention to you. I have watched him since the time I remember. He hardly talks to you. He stays out all the time and comes home only in the middle of the night. He treats you like a piece of furniture. And you just sit there and say nothing.”
“You toil so hard. You do all the work in the house. You make food for him and keep it warm for him to eat when he comes home late. Has he so much as thanked you? Has he ever said a kind word to you? Has he ever said even one word to you?”, demanded her daugher, as Durga watched her brushing her short hair off her forehead.
Durga smiled to herself. Her daughter was growing up into a fine girl. She stood upright with no complexes about her developing body. She spoke with confidence sans any arrogance. She was a brilliant student who aced all her tests and she even represented her school at State Level badminton. And to top that she had a sense of fairness and was not afraid to speak out her mind.
Durga couldnt help but admire the girl standing in the front of her, a perfect picture of beauty, brains and boldness.
“You know, Dad is not such a bad man. He has never mistreated me. He has never stopped me from doing anything. You remember when I wanted to start playing badminton? He did not object at all. Infact I have never seen him objecting to anything that I want to do. So I dont understand why he treats you like this. But it has to be your fault, Mom”
“There has to be a reason why he looks through you as if you dont exist. And the only reason is because you are not demanding enough. You should be demanding your rightful place as his wife. Its your RIGHT!!!”, fumed her daughter.
“Tell me Mom, have you ever in your life, demanded anything? Have you ever in your life asked anything? Have you ever in your life fought for something?? EVER???”
She had woken up with a start, in the dimly lit room of their small hut in the village.
She was exhausted and she might have slept for another few hours. But something had woken her up.
Her hand reached out besides her…..searching…..
“My Baby…… My Baby…..Where is my baby”, she started screaming hysterically as her hand found an empty space where her just born baby should have been.
The midwife placed a hand on her chest.
“Lie down. You need rest. You are too tired”, the midwife tried to calm her.
She had forcefully grabbed the midwife’s wrist as she shouted, “Where is my Baby?”
Her gaze went past the midwife throught the open window towards the small courtyard outside the hut.
She pushed the midwife aside as she got up from the bed, steadying herself against the wall, trying to gather her strength as she painstakingly walked out into the courtyard.
Her eyes widened with horror as she saw the scene in the front of her eyes.
Her husband was standing besides the well in the courtyard surrounded by around ten of the village elders. A few women stood meekly at a safe distance from them watching the ongoings.
She looked at the face of her husband. There was anger in his eyes along with a speck of dejection. He had one hand on his waist and in the other hand he held the small just born baby.
“Is this what I deserve”, the husband asked the village elders.
“Tell me….What have I dont to deserve this?? A Girl?? What am I going to do with this …. this … this Girl”, he spat out.
The village elders calmly stood in the front of her husband as she inched herself closer to them, her eyes having a terrified look in them.
“Is this girl going to further my family…. my bloodline? Is this girl going to toil in my fields? Is this girl going to grow up and earn for my upkeep? NO !!!! But I will have to feed her, spend on her, grow her. And what will I get in return? Not even the satisfaction of having someone to carry forward my name !!!!”,he shrieked as he shook the little bundle in his hand.
“And you … God !!!! I prayed to you for a son. I prayed to you everyday. And this is what you give me?? A bloody daughter instead of the son I wanted??”, he wailed at the sky even as the village elders calmly nodded.
He stretched his hand over the well, the just born dangling dangerously over the dark emptiness below.
“You gave her to me”, he said, looking up at the sky. “You gave her to me…. You take her back. Yes !!! Take her back. I dont want her. She is coming right back to you”
It was her scream which made him stop. A scream like one no one would have heard before. A high pitched scream which would make anyone’s blood curdle….which could have stopped a few hearts from beating.
She rushed through the throng of people, pushing the village elders aside, as she reached the side of her husband within moments.
She did not know where she managed to get the strength from but she used every bit of it to snatch the little baby from his hand as she shoved him aside, watching him lose his balance and fall down to the ground.
She looked down at her husband trying to get up to his feet, even as she picked up the sickle lying on the edge of the well.
“I dare you!!! I dare you, you monster !!! Touch my daughter and I will chop your hand off”, she said with such ferociousness that her husband froze where he stood.
She stood in the front of the well draped in just a thin saree, her hair flowing besides her face, the sindoor on her forehead dishevelled her eyes lit up with a strange fire in them. She clasped her daughter firmly to her chest with one hand as her other hand shook the sickle under her husband’s nose threateningly……..Durga……
“One step…. take one step towards her and I will kill you. If I cant kill you now, I will kill you later. If I cant kill you while you are awake, I will kill you in your sleep. But remember….. if you so much as harm one hair of her head, I will cut your head off your body. She is MY DAUGHTER !! And I will fight for her till the end of my life”, she said looking fiercely in the eyes of the man who was responsible for the birth of the little child.
She stood there for sometime, as if daring someone to make a move. There was a complete silence in the courtyard. Not one word was spoken. Not one voice was raised.
She gave them all one last glare as they all stood rooted to their places.
She started slowly walking towards her hut.
“You….You are dead to me….. Do you hear me?? You are dead to me.”, came the trembling voice of her husband from behind her.
She did not respond. She did not care.
She continued walking to the hut. Her daughter firmly pressed against herself.
She closed the door of the hut, locking it behind her as she lay down on the bed, placing her little baby besides her. She placed a comforting hand on the baby’s chest feeling the tiny bundle of life breathing peacefully, her other hand still gripping the sickle, her knuckles turning white over it. She looked at the peaceful face of her sleeping daughter, a face blurred by the tears in her eyes.
“Tell me Mom !!! Have you ever in your life fought for your rights”, came the firm voice again.
Durga got up and stood herself in the front of her daughter. She pulled her close and hugged her tight.
“I love you”, she said as she patted her daughters head.
Her daughter looked up at her, noticing the tears in her Mother’s eyes.
“I didnt mean to hurt you, Mom. I am trying to help you here. Atleast one day fight for yourself…okay?”, she said with pleading eyes.
Durga looked down at the sweet loving face as she brushed the tears away from her eyes.
“Maybe….. maybe someday I will….. maybe someday I will fight for myself too”…….
Disclaimer: This story is a work of fiction. But Female Infanticide is fact. Female Infanticide is one of the least “reported” crimes in India. Despite numerous “Girl Child Protection” schemes by the various Governments, India witnesses one of the highest incidents of female infanticide in the world. Despite it being made illegal, there is an estimated Rs. 1000 Crore Industry for sex determination and abortion of the yet born children. And this all happens in a country where we riot when someone offends our Godesses and fictitious Queens. Lets save our girls…… we can save our sentiments later.