A Daughter Dreams: My Story
That is me, two years after I fought my way into this world.
The Battle to Life
I was born on a beautiful autumn day in the magical town of Nainital in the Himalayas. My mother had just walked up a hill, and at home as she bent to pull out an old suitcase from under the bed, the maid noticed a pool of blood near her feet. Mother had felt nothing.
Father was out of town. The road from our house to the hospital was downhill and not navigable by car. A palanquin was quickly summoned to carry her to the hospital.
It was Placenta Previa — vaginal bleeding in the 2nd or 3rd trimesters. The bleeding was severe and the surgeon advised an emergency C-section. They told my mother that she might live but I probably wouldn’t.
Inside my mother’s womb I was confused and very scared. But I lay breathing quietly determined not to give up. Finally I was victorious as my body replenished all the blood loss and became absolutely normal within 3 days. As my mother could not breast feed me then, her friend who had also delivered a baby girl three days earlier gave me my first feed.
My mother held me close and we reassured each other of the bond that was going to bind us for the rest of our lives. We had together fought death!
My Mother’s Daughter
As a little girl when my mother would tell me the story of my birth, she would tell me how they had longed for a girl even 9 years after they had a boy (my brother). I always felt very wanted.
My parents always said, a life is supposed to flourish, and I was given this gift of life to fulfill a special purpose on this earth.
My mother!! She will turn 80 next year but has the heart of child. She was a principal in a prestigious school, with a strong passion for her work.
Her unconditional love helped me to become what I am today, to fight my own battles, to speak for myself, assert my individuality, to discover my dreams and realize them.
I feel I understood her better and the profound role she played in my life only after I too became a mother. Amma gave me my identity, roots and the wings to fly. I outgrew her lap but never her love.
One thing that I learned from ma is to let go. She never held us captive, emotionally or physically. She also gave us power to discern.
She is my best friend. Our heartstrings are attached in such a way that even silence is understood. To hear the unsaid and to feel the warmth and love without much display is something that we have developed.
As a working mother, she had to balance her love for her family and her passion for her work. So I often regard the moments I had with her as “stolen.” There were lots of such stolen moments of joy that I remember and miss.
As a little girl I would sit near the kitchen door while mother cooked and we would play antakshari (a game of songs). And I would read out poetry and passages from my favorite book. In the summer vacations mother and I would take the train to visit my grandmother. Those were our times alone spent trying to discover each other.
In winters mother would air the things stored in her old chests. I loved to sit next to her and explore the many things which were like treasures to me — Saris, little trinket boxes.
My parents were my friends with whom I could share anything under the sun. I guess this respect for growth and freedom has made me a better mother.
The Daughter that Never Was
When I got married, I really wanted a daughter. I felt that a girl will be closer to me, understand me better as a woman, as a person, and be my companion through my life. I wanted to live out certain fantasies through a daughter, do all that my mother and I could not do because of her busy schedule. Subconsciously I also felt guilty of not really giving my mother her due. And perhaps I wanted to complete that circle by always being there for my daughter.
When my first born was a son I had thought that for the second one, I will adopt a girl. But unfortunately the in-laws did not agree.
At the time of my second pregnancy, the radiologists saw my desperation and teased “Maybe it’s a girl, so smile young lady.”
I was delighted and I went out and bought lots of clothes for baby girls. When I found that I had a boy again, I wept. But then the cherub was such a delight that I gave all my love to him. Still I had to dress him in frocks and other girl clothes for sometime, to my mother-in-law’s irritation. But I had fulfilled my little desire.
Finding my Daughters
I could not have daughters of my own but I decided that I could still care for many of India’s neglected daughters. And so began my personal effort which continues to this day. I help girls from poor families whenever I can. I give them books, clothes and other things and encourage them to study and make their own mark in society. All 3 of my cook’s daughters have completed their graduation, done courses in computers etc and now have good jobs. They save their money and don’t abide by old customs like dowry.
My message to all parents reading this is : Please give your daughters a healthy, and safe future. Educate them. Let them blossom. Give them wings to fly and discover their own horizons. They have their individual identities which are stronger than their roles of just being daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers. And please YOU MUST SPEAK UP AND STOP female infanticide, child marriages and crimes against women.
About the Author:
Tikuli Dogra blogs at Spinning A Yarn of Life. Her post ‘In Silence I suffer’ (on male victims of domestic violence) was selected for a bloggers’ Avante Garde Award (Best Public Interest Post). She has also contributed to the anthology of short stories by Indian women writers, Ripples.