The Mother of a Daughter

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It was the same nightmare……again

I clutched the tiny hand of my daughter, sleeping next to me, and mumbled a silent prayer. It has become a frequent pattern, since I became the mother of a daughter. And I am not the only one gripped with this lunatic misery. There are many more, just like me, living in this constant fear, waking up in the middle of the night with an uneasiness down their gut.

Often I stop watching the television and throw away the newspaper. But whatever I do, I still cannot take it out of my head—those screaming ‘breaking news’. “Five-year-old brutally raped; New-born raped and murdered; 80-year old gang-raped; Bride burnt alive for dowry; Woman attacked by acid, and so on.”

Everyday newspapers bleed and Televisions howl – one rape every 10 minutes in India; statistics hammer down the ugly truth. I live this nightmare again and again, feeling the pain of the family of those poor girls, feeling their loss, sharing their fear, dreading and praying to god to protect me from this misfortune…….. Because I am the mother of a daughter.

She—my daughter— is a lovely child, a mischievous smile play on her rosy lips and her twinkling eyes reflect a fearless laughter. Like a bird she flies around hiding here and there. I dread this brave innocence of her and thus, I cook up stories of some invisible monster who will grab her if she is out of my sight. I watch her innocent smile vanish and a shadow of terror fill in her beautiful eyes, and I sigh. ..Because I am the mother of a daughter.

The headlines scream again and I scream at her for taking candy from that old man in bus. I scream at her for waving to the lift-man and taking a joyride with the neighborhood uncle. With one excuse or another I check upon her when she is with someone, be it a neighbor, a classmate, a teacher or a cousin. I trust no one…..Because I am the mother of a daughter.

I daydream the nightmares in crowded and lonely places. The other day I grabbed her arm so tightly that my fingers left a red mark on her tender wrist and she yelped in pain. But I still didn’t let it go and almost dragged her along with me, like a handcuffed criminal…..Because I am the mother of a daughter.

They—the books—teach her to be pleasant and friendly with everyone, but I tell her to be rude and not to smile to the strangers. They teach her not to be afraid but I scare her with the stories of imaginary ghosts who will snatch her if she doesn’t listen to me. They teach her to greet everyone and share her things but I tell her never ever to accept even a candy from anyone. They teach her to speak truth but I tell her to lie if someone asks her anything personal. I unwind the stories she learn and fairytale she watch, and recompose them with a different moral……Because I am the mother of a daughter.

She wanted to be a dancer but I stopped her from the dancing classes because it was too far. She liked swimming for long hours but I told her to hurry before it grows dark. She was fascinated by rock-climbing but I could not risk an injury. She loved football but that will tan her beautiful fair skin. I try to mould her in any way I can and teach her ‘virtues’ suitable for good girls….. Because I am the mother of a daughter.

P.S. Any crime against a woman/girl produces a ripple-effect; it has many direct and indirect victims. Even though we speak of women emancipation, gender-equality and gender sensitization, the ghastly nature of crime and the statistics force us to snatch the innocence from our daughters and take away that Right of a carefree childhood. What bigger injustice than this can be there that we start ‘punishing’ them from this very tender age for being a potential victim, for being a source of our ‘fears’?

……..

Also published in The Hindu Nov 2015

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