I was born in a family where a ‘boy’ was the preferred gender. My brother was treated like a Demi-God. The rules were different in the house for my brother versus me, because he was a boy. I was parented with the mindset that I was the ‘izaat’ (honour) of the family and I was not to do anything to jeopardize that ‘izaat’. On the other hand, my brother, was free to do what he wanted when he wanted because ’He was a boy’. I grew up in a joint family where my paternal grandfather favoured my brother and would ONLY have direct conversations with my brother. I was invisible and my voice did not matter.
My husband grew up in a family where being a ‘boy‘ was also the preferred gender. He is the youngest of three boys. He was the apple of his mother’s eye and he always managed to bend the rules. He broke the norms, was allowed to choose his spouse, and married someone from another faith. He broke the chain of a lot of traditions in his family.
I married into a family where having ‘sons’ was the preferred gender. Asmita was the first girl in three generations of boys on her father’s side. After Asmita, I was told by family it’s okay the next one will be a boy. I had just delivered a child, what do you mean the next one? We love the one we have! My husband and I fell in love with Asmita immediately! She was a part of us. It didn’t matter to either of us that she was a girl and not a boy.
After Lilly was born, I heard things like ‘you didn’t pray hard enough’, ‘you didn’t fast enough’. Did no one teach the elders about X and Y chromosomes? Once again, My husband and I were elated to have Lilly. I didn’t grow up with a sister but I knew that there was nothing like a sister’s unconditional love.
Then Naina and Simmi were born, by this point, the elders had given up on ‘me’ producing a son. Again, I fail to understand how I was supposed to produce a ‘son’. For a culture that believes in destiny and worshipped the female form of a deity for nine days, why was it so important to have a son. Forget nine days, the three main female deities are worshipped all year long. Throughout the years, I have had to face looks of sorrow and comments like ‘No boy’, ‘God, bless you with a boy’, ‘You should try for a boy’, ’if only you had a boy’. Why a boy? It made no difference to us. We are blessed to have four daughters!
We have raised our daughters in a Bicultural society to be confident, independent, and strong women. They are Indian-American. They were taught to take the best from both worlds. They have figured out what it means to be Indian-American by negotiating between the hyphen and as a result, they are able to make thoughtful decisions based on who they are and what they believe in. All four girls are proud of their Indian roots and culture.
Our daughters were not raised with a gender bias. We’ve raised them to believe that they can do anything they want and be whoever they want with drive, dedication, and ambition. The rules in the house are not based on ’because you are a girl, you should or should not do this’. That mindset does not exist in our home. We have raised our daughters with the expectation that they should be educated and be able to support and protect themselves. They are the creators of their lives and don’t need a fairytale Prince Charming to come and rescue them. We’ve taught them how to say NO unapologetically and confidently.
My husband and I, have given our daughters the strength to experiment and fail, have supported the girls through their rebellious years, and have assured them that our open arms will always be their safety net. The special bond that they share with their father is one I always craved for with mine. He may not always agree with their ways and decisions, but he unconditionally supports and loves them.
The girls have found a best friend in their father. They can talk about anything and everything without hesitation or fear of repercussions. Through out the years, I’ve been the disciplinarian while he’s been the cool, chill parent. He has given all four of them the courage to know that they are equal and an understanding to know that they are actually superior to men and that no man can make them feel any other way. He has supported their dreams, and has encouraged them towards making them a reality.
Our family is not your traditional Indian family. I don’t even know what the traditional Indian family looks like in today’s world. We are an inter-religious, bicultural family. Neither my husband nor I were born in India. He is a first-generation Canadian and I am a third-generation African. Our roots are Indian. We both cherish, respect, and identify with our Indian roots. We have passed on the traditions and cultures from both sides to our daughters. We believe that there is no limit, ‘because they are girls’!