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I wish I was a mother of boys

Posted by on December 30, 2012

The nameless, faceless girl who India has been fighting for since December 16th died today. I woke up to the news that she had breathed her last early this morning, at a hospital minutes away from the hotel we are staying in at Singapore. Two weeks ago, this girl who the media has named ‘Amanat’ or ‘Nirbhaya’, a student of medicine, was living the life of a carefree girl in Delhi. Two weeks later, with her intestines and other organs compromised, she was battling with death at Mount Elisabeth Hospital in Singapore. Most of us hoped that she would survive, against all odds because she wanted to live. Because somewhere, somehow, it would assuage our collective guilt as a nation. Last night’s news had, however, prepared everyone for the worst. India prayed fervently for ‘India’s daughter’ to make it. Her broken father however, had left the matter in ‘God’s hands’ according to the local papers and even as God’s hands delivered her to a better world, hopefully, India wept bitterly.

This wasn’t the first gang rape that a woman in India had been subjected to, but this was the first gang rape that Indians had reacted to at such a mass scale. This was also the first gang rape that had not moved from page 1 to page 11 of our dailies as days rolled by. As a nation, we were emotionally invested, for once. The gruesome details of the girl’s mutilation (for rape is a mild word) were shared courtesy the media and little was left to imagination. There was no way we could insulate ourselves from ‘the girl’s’ suffering or the trauma of her family this time. We have all gone about our lives, attending to work, Christmas get-togethers, weddings the past few weeks, but the sadness lingered somewhere in the background, like a dark shadow.

As a mother of two girls, I began to wonder if I wanted to raise my daughters in India at all. I have always felt privileged to be a mother of two adorable girls, even in a society that still cherishes a male heir. But after ‘the girl’s’ tragic story, I am filled with fear and I cannot help but wish I had sons instead. Sons who could not get raped by four men on a bus. Sons who I would not have to worry about and chaperone around even in their 20s and 30s. Sons who would not get stabbed for rejecting a girl at college or have acid thrown all over their faces and bodies.  As a mother of girls, living in my own country means I shall have to live with my heart in my mouth forever. Just like my mother has, just like her mother did.

I have spent the last three days in Singapore watching children play with abandon in this ‘safe’ city and wondered when I last let my children play around a park or a cafe without watching over them like a hawk. Today I let my four-year-old queue up at a cafe for a piece of red velvet cake while I sat sipping my coffee in another corner of the cafe from where I could not even see her. Yesterday I let my nine-year-old use the toilet while I sat inside the theatre watching a musical. This feeling is unusual to me. I do not know of one parent in India who would dare to let their kids out of their sight in Bombay, Delhi or any other city of India. Everyone in Singapore is talking about the gang-raped girl’s death at the moment. The taxi driver tells me “This would never have happened here because we are a small country and the punishment for such a crime is too severe.”

My maid seems less disturbed by this tragedy. She tells me she has seen this happen to a girl from her village. She was raped by three men and left to die among the fields, naked. The families of the accused were of good means and influential, after serving a minimal term in custody, they were set free among the fields of the same village, unencumbered. “Why are you so disturbed, do you think this has happened for the first time in our country?” the maid asks me. I search for words, too ashamed to be part of a society that breeds rapists. I feel a shame shared by many Indians like me, but a shame that does not reach the politicians who run my country. The police, the Khap panchayats, the politicians have almost always blamed the raped woman for inviting the act upon herself. Even if she were to survive the rape, she knows a blighted existence awaits her and so she prefers to commit suicide instead. India is a God-fearing country but sadly, women in India are treated like children of a lesser God.

The 23-year-old girl, this child of a lesser God, who lost her life this morning is being called a ‘Braveheart’ by the media? Did she want to be called brave? Is it brave to be raped, have your organs torn apart and then be thrown out of a moving bus? Is it brave to be left to die naked alongside a road? The girl did not want to be brave, she just wanted to live. And let’s us not call her Nirbhaya (fearless) or Braveheart and glorify her death, let us learn from it. We have been silent observers for far too long. Let us not forget about the girl’s sad end with the next tragedy. Let us keep the rage in our hearts going till the law is changed, let us not expend it all at once. We all feel wounded right now, let this wound fester till something substantial is achieved.




One Response to I wish I was a mother of boys

  1. Penny Kontakos

    How my heart & soul weeped when I learned of the ordeal of this girl and how many before her came to light and the worst is how many more will suffer the same until something drastically is done to ensure that it cannot happen again. I cannot say it only happens in India because for other excuses the beast in men come to surface. A British friend of mine had once told me whilst she was on holiday in Tunis with her sister, they had wandered off the invisible border that separates the tourist section with the rest of the locals and found themself in narrow streets with men pointing angrily and then they realised they were being followed by a pack of them and started to run back to their section with the wild pack not far behind. Even in my mother’s village in Greece a girl had too much to drink and a pack of men had found a good chance to ‘enjoy’ themselves leaving her naked by the side of the road where she was picked up by the police and returned home. She married my husband’s nephew who took pity on her and lived in the mountains where they go by different rules in life, including beating up men who misuse women even if they are the husbands. So I urge Indians not to believe it is only in their country but elsewhere too, and no matter how ‘civilised’ the country is, if a group of men have this brutality within them, once an ‘opportunity’ comes along it will be used and depending on the locals if something will be done there and then. Greeks are well known to respect the safety of women and would not believe me if I told them what had happened to that girl because it would offend their manhood, but I trust no one no matter where I am. Even in Adelaide, boys were found missing and the case was never solved and still there is a secret society where if they find the opportunity will abduct a young man less than 20 near the River Torrens. Many believe that high officials are in this society and one young boy had escaped and had narrated his story how he was offered a drink which was drugged and was taken to a place and sexually abused by many but had woken up before the others and escaped. Police had warned the parents of the missing boys that it was illegal to become Vigilantes and the poor parents had advertised rewards and secretly hired people, but this conspiracy is too deep and been going on for years and may be even the present day but I cannot be sure as these things are not written and I am glad I am not living there. The Greeks abroad no matter what sex they are, never go out at night alone but always in groups as it is true when they say safety in numbers.

    I once asked my mother why dad told me that she had cried when I was born, and she said it was out of love for me and pity of how I would suffer in life as our traditions dictate that a woman is considered a servant to the man and if there is not a husband or a father, then the brother no matter even if he is young can control his sister and yes, even beat her. She prayed I would not be beautiful so I would not become a sex object to men and be in danger even though it was up to the family’s menfolk to protect her, which they did but still there was the odd girl who would be persuaded or fooled to give in with a promise of marriage. I had to live in a society in Australia where on the one hand at home girls job was to look after her menfolk and have no say and on the other hand at school telling us we were equal. I finally decided I would fight and prove myself worthy to be called an equal with my brothers, and I literally fought the boys in the block and at school and won because I never let them see my pain nor my tears and did not know how to give up so it scared the boys and my brothers kept saying I should have been born a boy. I even did dangerous stunts so when the boys were afraid to jump from the jetty, I would jump in knowing full well that sharks were known in the area. Even in my travels, all the boys admire me now because I have proved I can adjust no matter which country I am in and find work no matter how hard it is. I have worked from offices and proved myself to the Greek employers that women have a brain and decisions can be done fearlessly as my boss as a ship surveyor had to travel the world for months and I would endeavour to compile all the information regarding the casualty of the ship and its full description and designs and go to the ship owners and get their log books and mechanic reports and compile a statement so my boss would know what to look for when making the report. During his absence he would leave me his signed blank cheque book to cover the office’s expenses and his brother and naval architect did not have the courage to sign contracts and left it to me to decide if I would sign on his behalf. When I went back to my people in Australia there was a job crisis and within a month I got a job for a Greek processing factory for salads and chips, and again felt I had to prove myself and all the men used to degrading the woman realised I was different and kept trying to break my spirit. I was the first woman who managed to learn the generators and the cleaning of the pumps and saved a man from beheading himself whilst washing the chip blades by jumping from the bars and onto him and literally plastering myself behind him and holding his body backwards till the people heard my orders to shut down the machines. My boss who saw this was stood paralysed, in fact all did, as they were expecting to see a bloody decapitated body over the big blades. Then suddenly my boss exploded like a volcano turning red and it was amazing he did not kill the guy himself but was fuming and told him to leave the building and never to see his face again. From that day onwards the men left me alone and even came to the extent to follow orders for the first time in their life from a woman. This was not unusual to hear from my people as they knew me.

    I remember long ago my paternal grandmother in the mountain village had said in her life time when she was young (end of the 19th century) that a neighbouring villager had attacked one of our village girls and raped her. The minute our menfolk found out, over 50 horsebacked riders went to that neighbouring village and beat the hell out of him and tied him up and dragged him with the horses up to the girl’s feet and asked her if she wanted to marry him. To my delight I found out she declined the offer and preferred to live alone than to marry him and my people respected her answer and let him go.

    All this I am saying, is to prove that no matter how hard it is to be a mother, it is even harder to be without a daughter which my daughter regrets as has two sons and no daughter to dress up prettily and later on share their secrets and stories. A son has his own attributes but a daughter is special not only to the mother but also to the father as she is the one who will be the closest during their old age, even though like the Greeks it is said it is the son or sons who are responsible for their old age.

    I am fortunate to have both and I love them both equally and I have raised my daughter to be strong and not be afraid of the world and prove women are just as equal as men. Of course, I have never hidden her of the dangers of men and that they are stronger than us, but if we use our brain we could see the signs of danger coming and how to take precautions against all dangers.

    As I had pedicted on that day, it took a young gang-raped girl’s death to wake a sleeping dragon in the form of an Indian nation and to show its wrath against all evil doers and it will be hard to control even though the government is hoping it will go back to its resting place and become dormant again.

    “If women didn’t exist, all the money in the world would have no meaning” – Aristotle Onassis

    Bless you and your family dear,

    Penny Auntie

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