I have been crying. There have been images on the TV, reports in the newspaper and talk on the streets. I understand the anger against the perpetrators, the concern about the victim and the frustration with the government. But my thoughts have been with the mother of the girl.
Like me, she would have hurt while giving birth to her daughter. She would have tended her, dying a million little deaths over her welfare and security, fretting over her cough and cold, wrapping her in warm clothes, planning for her future, dreaming of her rosy destiny only to be left with this infected mass of broken intestines in the ICU of a strange hospital far away from home.
How does she keep at bay, thoughts of the brutalization of a body she has hugged and kissed? How does she shut her eyes against the prone heap that used to be her reason for being? How does she accept that the clock cannot be turned back? How does she erase this shadow of death over her daughter? How does she make the pain go away this time? How does she live with this the rest of her parenting years?
It is bad enough.
You want to know what it is like to walk around with your heart in the mouth every living breath. Well, go have yourself a baby girl; a “gudia” or a “chidia” or a “titli” and you will enter a lifelong pact with fear and shame and guilt and impotent rage. You and your precious girl will be raped over and over even in the legitimate spaces you will occupy. The world will rob you of your peace of mind, of your pride in your offspring, of your dignity of being.
Look at me. Twice in a year, I celebrate the days I gave them birth. But every one of the remaining 363 days of the year, I kill them slowly and softly.
The decimation does not happen in one clean stroke, it resembles whittling and chipping, dragging out the torture to leave the spirit in a perpetual state of red rawness. I spend so many of our waking hours preparing them for the worst, it is paralyzing. Rather than march to a triumphant tune, I train them to go mincing over eggshells. Not confidence but caution, care, control are the theme words I surround them with.
What do I do? I am an Indian mother. My family, the one I was married into, wears their badge of conservatism and religion with the utmost pride. My job, I have been told, is to bring up an adjusting, sensible, people pleasing girl wrapped in trendy packaging. All I need to do thereafter is to express eternal gratitude to the family that will deign to absorb her, relieving me of my responsibility, so to say.
But I am mothering in 2012. I come at the head of several centuries’ old line of evolving Eves. I see myself as a renewed, recharged, and revitalized link of this mothering bio-chain. I feel the need to justify my place in and discharge my responsibility with integrity. My ambition is to send the race forward whole and confident. And so, I teach them to live and love instead. I let them stay out late. I permit them to go on overnight trips. I encourage them to ride bikes. I hope that they will enjoy nice clothes while their bodies look good in them. I expect them to be completely at ease around the other gender. I tell them that they are more than footnotes to the male stories in their lives. I raise them to believe that they have a commitment to themselves and the world around them first; all the time paying a deadly price for this culturally deviant template. An acute concern for their well-being is soaked with the constant fear of repercussions, of being proved wrong, of being held responsible.
In permitting them to live, I die one wheeze at a time inside.
Is it any wonder then that new mothers of baby girls gaze at the cribs with tears in their eyes?
Their hearts are heavy with the maniacal laugh of the hyenas outside.