When my sister-in-law became pregnant, my father asked my mother “what do you guess it will be?” She replied, “everyone is saying it’ll be a boy but whatever it will be I just want them to be healthy”.
This ritual restricts the family of the pregnant woman from entering temples, except for the girl child.
I smiled hearing this from an uneducated woman. It was the first time I witnessed childbirth so close to me. A few hours later, I was introduced to a ritual called ‘Shaavad’. From the moment of childbirth until the ceremony of bathing for the mother and child, no family member can enter a temple or do any acts of spirituality. This is the same for the death ceremony.
However, the girl child in the family can do it as the ultimate caste of the girl child will be the caste of her future husband. I was asked by my father to perform the daily worshipping ritual. In normal circumstances, I am not a routine worshipper and nobody questioned me as I take the (mis)advantage of being a girl and they don’t know when I might be menstruating.
But suddenly this compulsion and distinction between me and my brothers came up to the surface. The myth of equality I was brought up with got blurred and I was confused about whether to be happy that the newborn is not a girl and hence wouldn’t have to face this discrimination caused by the combined forces of patriarchy, religion, and the notion of purity and pollution.
I couldn’t find a way out, and with this new finding, I told them, “I am an atheist“, this didn’t solve anything. They didn’t take me seriously. I realized even if I might actually be an atheist isn’t it true that eventually, I am the one who is supposed to marry a man and leave this family, and aren’t they right in calling me an outsider?
This system is based on 2 basic assumptions and trends seen in society:
a) A girl will marry a man and migrate.
b)Men don’t leave their ancestral house and hence are the natural inheritor of property.
It requires a systematic approach to solve it. But first, it needs to be considered as a problem.
The Uttrakhand government’s recent bold move to put nameplates of daughters outside their house is one initiative but beyond it, no news came of the marriage of these girls and shifting of their husband to their place.
The systematic change requires the shift in the mindset of men too and not just one-sided upliftment as this might lead to a problem for boys maybe after 50 years.