Letter to my Little One-24

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Our gendered identity…

November 22, 2006

Dear Little One,

When I watched the picture that I uploaded today in the morning, I analyzed it very critically. I remember that you were in a light yellow shirt and knickers. The hair style and the general outlook that you radiated would make people comment, “Your Son?” and somehow I would be feeling guilty for you not being a son! Why did I want you to look like a son or for that matter traveling still back in the memory lanes, I find my father calling me Saroj Singh, a name I really identified myself with, and enjoyed doing it so. Now what is it that makes us take on an identity that is not our own. I started thinking hard about the time when a child develops gender constructed identity. I am sure that when you were born you didn’t know about the sex that you possessed. Is it not the fact that people like us fill this notion about defined roles for kids based on the sex that they are born with?I thought about my own father when he would recite to me verses from Kabir’s “Dhol, Ganwaar, Shudra aur Nari…” I would never think myself to be a “Nari”—a woman but would think of other women even your Nani falling in that category and worse still would roar out laughing at women being subject to such insult! It was perhaps that I identified more with my father than with my mother and “women” for me were the “other”!But how and when did I start identifying myself with the socially constructed identity that we call gender, I don’t remember. Perhaps it was when all the neighbourhood children would play for long hours and sometimes your nani would be worried on account of us being out for such a long time with boys. Or it could be when I was put to all girls’ school and I found myself to be different from some other kids who went to boys schools. Or it could be when I was asked not to do certain things as it was not befitting for the girls. Or it was when I found my parents earnestly desiring to have a son that I questioned my own worthiness in their life. Yes. It was at this stage that I, too, joined the bandwagon and started praying to God to bestow us with a brother. How strange all of it seems today but it is hard fact that I started belittling myself for being born a girl! How I wished “had I been born a boy?” Do you remember what your little brother was telling you one day when, I think, you have had a fight, “Had I been born earlier, there was no scope for you being here?” How intelligent indeed! I am sure all your arguments would have come to an end and you would have agreed, if not to him, at least to your ownself that it was true! Is it not that we have inculcated a culture where gender related issues have become common subjects where anyone and everyone has a suggestion to make. The only one who remains silent and has the least right to offer a suggestion is the person this whole debate is about—the woman!What do you say about it?Love

Ma

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