My dear sis:
I don't know where to address this letter. I can't send it to where I know you aren't, and I don't know where you are. I don't believe in reincarnation, but I'll make an exception this one time. Whoever you are, and wherever you are, I sure hope that you'll read this letter. I want you to know that I have a debt to repay you.
You probably don't remember this. Once you went with dad to the corner store to purchase something. He had bought you a candy, as he had for me on the occasions that I had gone with him. As the two of you walked back towards home, dad noticed that you hadn't unwrapped it. "Annakku", you had declared [for my brother, in Tamil], closing your tiny fist tightly around the candy. Little did you know then that in a matter of months your life would forever remain unwrapped, for the sake of your brother.
"It's just a piece of candy, bro. What are you getting all worked up for?", you ask. No, dear sis, it's a lot more than that. You didn't get your crayons, so I could get my notebook. You didn't get your favorite doll, so I could get my tricycle. And, every time you got near it you liked to play with the bell, I was told I'd shoo you away, in a show of gratitude for the candy you saved for me! Sibling rivalry, of course, what else is new? Wait well, if only you had waited the worse was yet to come. Here are a couple of verses from a poem by Zoya Zaidi, The Missing Girls, that says it all:
Where have all the missing girls gone?
Gone! ‘Gone, to the Trashcan!
As an infant, she missed the bus:
Her brother got all the milk,
Her brother got all the rice,
She, only the watery starchy broth!
She missed the bus to the school,
Her brother got on…
She had no shoes,
She had no clothes,
She had no books,
How could she then get on?
Do you get your milk these days, sis? Did you have shoes, clothes, and books to go to school? Did you finally get your favorite doll?
And then your ultimate sacrifice. Well, I really can't call it your sacrifice, can I? After all, you had no choice in the matter. By any chance, have you read my post, Sophie's Choice? Not quite!? If you had, you'd know how, when, and why you died. It's not pretty, and I wouldn't have wanted you to read it, but for a couple of news stories that I read today that brought back all the painful memories.
According to the media reports, the Indian police in Nayagarh, Orissa, have recovered from an unused well, several body parts, including skulls, of female infants. I am quite certain that yours is not one of them, for, you died in Jaipur, Rajastan, and not in Nayagarh, Orissa. Then again, does it really matter? How many of those baby girls had given their lives for their brothers, living or unborn, as you had given me yours?
They say only through a son a father conquers the worlds, and only through a son’s son he obtains immortality. A daughter is dispensable, a mere property, to be given away to another man, or worse. When will they ever learn that without you there will be no me?
Half a million female abortions and infanticides take place every year in India, according to a research report in the Lancet Journal. Abominable as it is, it's ironical that some, who resent the few gains that you have made in the realm of reproductive rights, would like to place the blame at your very door steps. Are you pro-choice? If you are, then how can you object to these women choosing to abort their female fetuses, they ask. After all, you don't recognize the rights of the unborn, so, why should it make any difference if it's a boy or a girl?
I think it's a self-serving argument that is meant to confuse the issue. Let me pose you a hypothetical situation: say, a woman is raped, and she is pregnant against her will. A staunch feminist, she decides that if it were a female fetus, she'd carry it to full term, but she's absolutely opposed to bringing forth a male progeny of the rapist. She wishes to have a gender test done before she made the choice. I don't think that the State or anyone else has any business interfering with her seemingly discriminatory choice, do you?
Abortion against your will is a different matter altogether. And, I suspect that a significant number of the female abortions and infanticides in India are forced on the women, overtly or surreptitiously. Here is one that I came across in the news today: 10 family members held for forced abortion. And, here's another: Woman dies during ‘forced’ abortion. As a daughter, your life is not yours to live, and as a mother, your daughter's life is not yours to nourish either.
There's so much more that I'd like to share with you. Will you please let me know where you are, sis? I'd like to send you a box of candies. That's the least that I could do for what you have done for me.
Lots of love,
The Rational Fool
A recent post in one of my favorite blogs, Ageless Bonding, and my own comment on it, prompted me to write this letter.