A toddler of four, she walked down the same path everyday holding her father finger to reach the children’s park round the corner in the evening. It was a routine they both enjoyed. Her days were eternal freedom. She observed. She analyzed the world around her in her own ways. Nothing escaped her eyes and she was bursting with questions all the time. It has been a few months since she has started talking in sentences- an achievement that she could not help but show off in every way possible.
It was a winter evening when the father-daughter duo walked out of the park and headed towards their home. She pranced and jumped, all the while asking anything and everything she could. A little ahead of them, there stood a man in his mid-twenties at the edge of the road, looking down at the drain with his back turned to the road- a awkward posture to her virgin eyes.
“Dad? What is he doing?” her shrill voice rang clear amidst the silence.
“He is peeing. Let’s go home.” The father replied. He was much at ease with his only daughter- she was his child and not just a daughter.
She stopped walking.” Why is he peeing there?”
“Maybe because it was urgent dear.”
Her chubby cheeks inflated further as she contemplated the idea of urgent bladder relief. All of a sudden she let go of her father’s finger, ran to the man and peered good-naturedly at his front side, much to his mortification and her father’s amusement.
“Sorry mister–, come back here kid- you are not supposed to do that.”
Her father recognized a tinge of haughtiness in that baby voice that came somewhere from below his knees. She was mirroring his stubborn character already. He was proud.
“You do not watch people while they are peeing. That is bad manners and it is their private needs.”
She kept silence for a while more as they walk ahead from the spot. Her father was not used to this silence. He felt uncomfortable worrying that she might have taken his tone for scolding. And then she blurted out,
“Why is his one long? It is not like mine.”
For once the father was stumped. But he was her father after all.
“Because he is a man. You are a girl. They are different.”
“Okay. I need to pee. Can I pee there?”
“Absolutely not. It is unhealthy. You will fall sick.”
“But why not? He was doing it. Would he not fall sick?”
“You will wet your pants. Home is just a few minutes walking dear.” He chose to avoid the last query.
“I will take off my pants.”
“You are not supposed to take off your pants on the road dear. That uncle was wearing his pants, remember?”
“So… I can pee anywhere if I do not take my pants off?”
“No… because you cannot pee without taking them off. Men can.”
Again, she lapsed to silence. Her tiny head felt heavy with the “simple” idea of the “other” gender. Who are men? Any person peeing on the road is man. Are they good? Don’t they have bathrooms? A million more question fluttered around in her mind.
“I want a long one.”
“Men only have long one dear.” He was flabbergasted.
“ I want to be a man.”
Her father was taken aback.
“I can do anything and no one will tell me it is unhealthy or bad manners. That’s why.”
“But you do not need to be a man to do whatever you want to. You need to grow up for that. You need to study and become a great person. Then you can do whatever you want to. Grown up girls who study hard and become something worthwhile always can do whatever they want. Girls are equally good and better. You do not have to be a man for that sweetie.”
He stopped short. She was four and perhaps she can hardly understand what he meant. He never wishes to see her just as a girl but then, even he is bound to the society.
She just nodded and did not ask any further on this.
Twenty three years later, a pleasant February evening:
“Dad, I am going out on a trek trip.”
“Good. Who are you going with?”
“No one. I am going alone.”
“You cannot go alone. I will not allow it.”
The potent haughtiness he had witnessed a score and three years back, now has been unleashed to its maximum in her voice making her voice hardly female.
“But my friend already went there alone and he said it is safe enough.”
“He is a guy. He can go and survive anywhere. You are a woman. There is a difference.”
“Who said I cannot survive? Why can I not survive?”
“You are old enough to know why not. Now no more questions.”
The first rule of being a female- “does not ask questions” was quoted to her yet again- a quote she has heard billions of time since puberty.
She silently went back to her room trying to remember the things he had told her once. Or has she imagined them?
The very teachings of childhood now became vague in the light of adulthood. She is a woman first and human later now. It does not matter if she is perfectly fit and capable enough to take care of herself. It does not matter if she is better trained at combat than most males. After all, she is a “she”. She is the goddess meant to be worshipped but not to be unleashed. She is meant to be pleased and pampered in her tantrums but never to be understood. She is meant to be controlled for she cannot mind her own safety. She is meant to be always addressed as C/O and not by her identity- her name. She is to serve and never be thanked or ( am I asking way too much?) served. Her parent’s home is not her own, neither is her husband’s. Her womb is not her own but the family ‘s she never really belongs to. Her body is not her own, neither is her mind and never her will. She never really gets to choose who will touch her for there are many who will touch her some way, whether she wants it or not.
These are knowledge she was never taught but she imbibed with time. Painful truths- even more so for her who believed ardently the words she believe to have heard as a kid- the consolatory lies. She has lived enough with them so far. She did what she could do best now. She was his daughter after all.
A note fluttered in the morning breeze early dawn, stuck on the refrigerator-
“Let me fly dad. I am your child and not your daughter. Let me fall. Let me get hurt. Only then you can really know that I will survive when you are not around.”
Image courtesy: google images