By Anonymous Feb. 18, 2017
I live in a one-child world, in a world where everyone wants a girl child. I’m a freethinking woman, yet I wanted a son. So I had a third child.
It’s Sunday morning and I’m standing in front of my bathroom mirror, talking to myself, like some of us still do. I’m having a conversation with myself about what would my answer be, if I suddenly became famous, and someone asked me about my biggest regret in life. Even as I think about fame, I know that ship has sailed; my reflection confirms it. I am, after all, a 37-year-old woman with two children. But still I can play pretend. No one can hear my thoughts, so I humour myself.
So what is my biggest regret? Not surprisingly, I hear myself say softly that my biggest regret is not having a son. Tears roll down my cheek. It is not something I can say out loud. My friend has just posted a picture on Facebook, announcing the birth of her son. A lovely picture, a poignant moment for them, but still I am the one crying.
I have two beautiful girls. I should be thankful. I am thankful. But I want a son. It’s an impossible ask for many reasons. In the milieu that I occupy, adoption is not an option. I live in a one-child world, in a world where everyone wants a girl. In a world, where wanting a girl is what everyone expects from you. I am, after all, a freethinking, liberated woman, moving around in “educated circles”. A woman, who is proud of her gender and proud of her daughters. Yet, I want a son.
I’m not sure where this longing for a son comes from. All I know is that it’s been there since I was a little girl. My idea of a family has always included a boy, even though I grew up in a household being favoured over my brother. Maybe it is the way my mother and brother interact. The silent, calm, uncomplicated bond. Maybe I just want that for myself.
If I had two sons, would I have wanted a daughter to complete the emotional experience? I don’t know. Does my longing for a son stem from the clichéd “balance” that people seek for – someone who will discuss cricket with my husband, someone he will share his watches and ties with? Or can it be that despite my independent thoughts, my education, and ambition, I have actually succumbed to the secret hope my in-laws have always harboured – of an heir? Having been an achiever all my life, was this just guilt working its way up my subconscious for not delivering on an expectation? I don’t think so, since I have never lived by the standards my in-laws have set for me. But still, I want a son.
It’s a joy to raise daughters (I should know), but it’s a different kind of joy to raise a son.
The gender of a foetus has been a part of Indian folklore from time immemorial. There are myths about shapes of bellies, sex positions, and foods related to a child’s gender. I won’t be surprised if the Chinese calendar is one of the most Googled terms in India. Whether you get your myths from grandma or the internet, there’s no denying that sex selection is sadly entrenched in our society, to the extent that it’s almost criminal to even talk openly about wanting a male child.
I know, of course, that this is needed in many ways in a country where female foeticide is everyday news. But even as we implement a self-imposed blanket ban on the desire for a son, there are a few stories that don’t embrace the narrative of heir or economics. My narrative is different, my reasons are different, more personal, but the stigma still applies. I don’t expect outsiders to understand; they don’t know me after all. But my friends and family… surely they understand that wanting a son doesn’t make me regressive. It’s a joy to raise daughters (I should know), but it’s a different kind of joy to raise a son. My crime is, wanting that joy. My crime is, not wanting a third girl child.
I wash my face and go back to my bedroom. I sit by the side of my sleepy husband to tell him about my relentless desire to have a son. Not a third child, a son. My husband, a logical man of few words, says, “Who said you can’t want a son?”
The words lift the darkness from my heart. Of course, we debate it over the next few months simply because wanting a son or having a third child is unheard of in the circles that we move in. Sure people at my workplace will laugh behind my back, countless people will politely call me “brave”, and the not-so-polite lot will call me “mad”. Many more will heap me with remarks such as “Girls are much more affectionate”, “In the end, only daughters will care”, “A girl can do everything a boy can”. I will listen to all of it and yet listen to nothing.
I am going to have a son.
Two years later, Rudra is born. Rudra could have turned out to be Rukmini, and yes, I would have been disappointed, but then I would have made peace with it. Trying for Rudra is a gift to myself. It is like that impossibly extravagant journey of a lifetime that we all promise ourselves but seldom undertake. The difference is that I set out on that journey.
I am blessed (not brave) that I did. I am not afraid to say it. Not now, after I have already been judged. Now I can look at myself in the mirror and know that I have no regrets. As for life with three kids… well, that’s a story for another day.