Friday, January 1, 2010

The girl child in India

Many of us will be aware that ‘the better half of the world’ still doesn’t have proper support system and families in India & elsewhere still feel burdened by their advent in this world. I would like to start with one incident from one of my journeys. I was recently visiting to Gwalior (a former princely & popular place in Madhya Pradesh in India) where my younger brothers stay. Three of us (including one of my brother’ friend) were returning after a dinner [at about 8:00 pm and it was quite dark]. Suddenly we heard a girl screaming and saw a guy forcibly pulling the girl to the nearby main road [I later came to know that there was a vehicle there]. We became quite concerned as this part of the India has high poverty and there have been numerous incidents of girls being forcibly converted to prostitutes. I mustered the courage and held the guys' hand. I asked him to let the girl go. The answer didn’t surprise me much. He told that the girl was his wife and running away from him. He also told that the girl was mentally disturbed but she looked alright to me. The guy smelled of alcohol even though he and the girl were wearing pretty decent cloths. I didn’t let the guy go and insisted that he should let the girl go. He then told that the mother of the girl was waiting at the main road (which was around 500 m from the place where this incident was talking place. I asked him to call her. He started calling the ‘supposed mother’. An old lady with another guy came towards us. I was surprised & bit concerned about what I was doing - was I right or wrong. As the girl was screaming some people from the nearby houses also came. The girl got an opportunity to make herself stable and called police guys on the phone. The girl then started saying that the guy was forcibly taking her to his house. We somehow freed the girl but she didn’t run away! She didn’t refute the claim that the old lady was her mother. Suddenly two police guys appeared on a bike and when I told them of the situation they took the guy with him on the motorcycle. What surprised me at this instant was that the girl then started shouting again and telling the police guys not to take the guy. She started pleading the people to call ‘good cops’. More confusion! The policemen looked quite authentic with all the walkie talkies, uniform etc. Then I was struck by a fleeting statement “Isse phir shaadi kaun karega?” [Who will marry her later?]. When I saw who made the comment I was ‘ashamed’ to see that it was the old lady [I came to know that she was actually the real mother of the girl!]. Most of the people may had missed that statement but it is still resonating in my mind.

We left the place but with conflicting thoughts and several questions in my mind which still bother me.

  • Was it right to do what I did?
  • Wouldn’t it have been better for the girl to go with the guy as she will be atleast guaranteed a roof and security – even though the husband would have been a drunk? At least she will be protected from the hardships of the society which can’t provide sustenance to a lone woman rather she is subject to all kind of humiliating situations.
  • What would have been prompted a mother to take such a harsh decision? I have utmost respect for mothers, irrespective of nationality, and I can very well say it would have been one of the most difficult decisions the mother would have taken. A mother who fed the child from birth, provided food & shelter, took care of the child when it cried, cried and laughed with her, even feeding the child and not eating herself??
  • Did I commit a great ‘sin’ by considering myself a better judge of the situation? I was not the mother and had never interacted with the child!! I had not born the child and not known the happiness or sorrows of the life which both had shared? How could I have made the judgement?

I ask these questions more today as one of my cousin sisters is going to get married soon [barely around legal marriage age in India]. When I talked to her she doesn’t want to get married. Her parents have started looking for a suitable bridegroom. When I literally told my father if he has gone crazy to help them in this he explained me the society, the people, the hardships etc. the girl or the family might have to face and I have to say he is quite right. Many of us, who have spend last several years in cities, have less understanding of things happening in smaller cities/ villages. She couldn’t get the academic environment or exposure which I could get so she can’t sustain herself. Even if I come forward to support her she can’t be married at a later stage as Indian society is not so open about it. I feel a sense of impotence. Our society doesn’t have a mechanism to support or recognize the individuality of a girl. We remain aloof from the common populace by the so called ‘fast life’ increasing our needs and hence efforts to meet those ‘needs’. We think ourselves, people from best of the institution in the country, unable in managing our own lives so how can we do that for others.

When I was a kid, with lots of needs, I used to think I will become a very rich guy with s*** load of money and will change the world – mine as well as that of people around me. I now realise that even if I have the whole planets’ wealth I can’t do so. Money is not the solution of everything. ‘Proper’ education is – enabling an individual to be ‘free’ from all kinds of needs & dependencies. I feel now even closer to the goal of 'Sustainable Living'. Sharing with another human being whatever little has been given to us – be it education, money, happy moments, people etc. Sharing others’ sorrow. Learning the true purpose of life. Breaking the impermanent walls which we have built around our hearts us and ‘opening’ to the people of the world.

I ask for all those, who are as confused as me,

“Asato Ma Sad Samaya, Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya”

[From ‘non-existence’ lead us to ‘existence’, From ‘darkness’ lead us to ‘light’]

For inexperienced readers of Sanskrit explanation of the sloka above is at;topic=154973.0

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