My maid is pregnant...

.. with her fourth child. Yes you've guessed it.. the first three are girls.

Till two years back Suman lived with her husband.. a quiet, unlettered, housewife looking after her home and two daughters. The birth of the third changed that. She needed to work. That was when she, with her daughters, came to live with her sister.

She learnt to work, on the job. It was a struggle but she managed. Each day brought with it challenges .. finicky employers, demanding kids, water shortage, leaking roofs, illness, uninvited guests. She fought to make ends meet. She struggled to survive. And she learnt. She managed.

When the new session came I saw the worry lines deepen on her forehead... admission fees, uniforms, books. She started looking out for more work, trying to juggle time-slots at various households, she cribbed a bit, asked for an advance and she managed. "Aap logon ka kaam achcha hai. Dhoop mein daurna nahin parta," she observed one day sweltering in the hot April sun, "Isiliye ladkiyon ko parha rahin hoon."

Her husband continued to work in another city. She didn't expect any help from him, financial or emotional. His earnings were all for himself and 'his family' (parents/siblings). He would drop by occasionally, take some money from her and go away again.She was raising her daughters single handedly, settling down in this new role.

Then comes a threat from the mother-in-law. 'Give me a grandson or I get another wife for my son'. And here she is... with another child. Worries far overshadow her happiness, if there is any --
-- I'll have to quit working after a few months.
-- How will I (not 'we') manage the expenses.
-- Who will take care of me/my daughters during the delivery.
And the biggest one of all...WHAT IF IT'S ANOTHER DAUGHTER?

She knows this is not the right thing to do. Yet she's doing it. Why? I asked. Let him get married, I told her. He's just a token of a husband, anyway. Let him go. Let him marry ten times over. 'Log kya kahenge,' she says with a sigh as she gears up for the year ahead.

If it's a son all will be well. He will be the object of everyone's affection. The meagre family finances will be channelised towards him . The daughters will watch him being pampered and will grow up resentful of him yet hoping to be mothers of sons. If it's a daughter she'll be the object of disappointment and resentment. She will grow up feeling guilty of being a girl and will hope, even more fervently, that she'll mother boys.

Another slave generation is spawned.


maybe... just maybe Suman will succeed in educating her daughters. They will grow up watching their mother struggle. They will learn to appreciate her. They will read their mother's silent resentment, understand her pain at doing something against her better judgement.

Maybe their education will teach them to value themselves. Maybe it will empower them enough to feel anger, rage, frustration and maybe they'll vow never to be in their mother's shoes.

Maybe they'll be the mothers of a free India.

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