“How can I stay at my daughters’ home?”- 4 January 2012

‘I have never been to my elder daughter’s house for a night stay so how can I come and stay at your house’, stated the Mother to her younger daughter who had just married and was insisting that her parents come and stay with them for a few days. The younger daughter was made of different mettle than the elder one. She was more dynamic and radical in her thoughts. She would not reason in the mother’s argument and pushed up the insistence. The parents were in a peculiar dilemma as they very much wanted to visit the girl and see her off to a distant land where she would soon fly off to. The outcome was predictable- to be fair to both, the parents agreed to spend the days with the newly- weds but to spend the nights in a nearby hotel! By no standards could they dream of living at a married daughter’s home. Their minds did not allow them.

A sick mother needed nursing and care but could not bring herself to go to her married daughter’s home. Her daughter cried and begged her parents to stay with her so that she could take care of them but no they did not. The girl was worried sick herself for her mother’s health as she continuously felt guilty for neglecting them and cursed herself for being a woman. What severe limitations women have in their lives she thought. A single child to her parents she could only feel helpless and guilty. Why was she born a girl- she hated her-self. She could not change her parent’s age old thinking and could not convince them to break out of it. They were helpless and wanted her help but felt inhibited by their own prejudices and cultural norms.

These are not ancient stories but recent ones and an everyday one. All parents who have just girl children have experienced the dilemma very intimately. So is that why Indian parents desire a son? A son’s home is your home and a daughter’s home is not your home is the thinking and a deep rooted belief.  What happens to parents who have no sons and only one or two daughters is everyone’s guess. If we are trying to save the girl child we must also seriously think of saving her parents and of all the other dimensions that go with it.

If we value a girl child then we should value her parents too who have given birth to her. They are as important to her as her in-laws. As more parents opt for the single child norm or the two child norm and cannot decide the sex of the child then we should help people to accept the total reality that follows whatever it is. Society needs to be sensitised about these associated issues which are natural fallouts of the campaign. When common sense does not prevail over age old beliefs then we need to take stringent action against such practices.

If it is difficult for the old parents to make the first step towards change then it is up to the boys to make the move asking their wives to bring her parents home honourably. The son in law can go an extra step to assure the girl and her parents that he is not a son in law but a son. He is not like a son but actually a son. Parents are to be respected whosoever they belong to and need to be cared for. It is the responsibility of the children to take care of them whether they are boys or girls.

This is happening in many progressive homes where differences are vanishing and the changes are being brought in with much sincere thought and not much effort. This is still a small percentage though and make for a good story. We hope this will become the norm soon and not remain an exception.

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