A father’s success as a father does not lie in marrying off his daughter. He wins the day he becomes the ‘ideal man’/’benchmark’, and creates a bar for his daughter’s future husband, in his daughter’s mind. It’s his most priceless success, which cannot be measured with any amount of money that he may spend on her wedding. In other words, he wins the day his daughter says, (barring a few minor and inevitable human imperfections), ‘I want a man like my father as my life-partner’. That should be his goal. He should become the standard of safety, of protection in her life. That’s the only way she’ll be able to distinguish between a man who will just want to devour her body from a man who will love her soul to bits. If she cannot feel as secure in her lover’s arms as she does in her father’s embrace, she’s with the wrong person. If she’s with the right person, she makes two people win, and she becomes two people: a princess for her father, and the queen who reigns over her lover’s heart. A daughter is a responsibility that both parents undertake.The day a mother conceives, she should leave any prejudiced notions that would keep her from embracing a girl child. A baby is a baby, and that’s where the discussion should end. The day a mother conceives, her womb becomes the responsibility of both parents, because the baby is their own creation.

Having said that, parents may love unconditionally, but sometimes, they forget that the day the umbilical cord got cut, the baby became an individual. He or she will always remain a part of both parents, but an individual needs to learn his or her own lessons. The journey parents undertook might be in total contrast with their child’s journey, because he/she was born in a different generation. Once the child gets freedom to breathe in the world, outside of the womb, he/she is a free person. And who does not love freedom? Freedom, after all, is the symbol of life. The freedom to breathe is the greatest freedom, which is often underestimated. Then why do some parents not let their children, especially daughters, breathe? Why do they exert control over an adult daughter, who is mature enough to think for herself, and understand life’s mysteries in her own way; old enough to think about and talk about sex, which is life’s own origin, but is treated like a child? Why are her talents lesser than anyone else’s? What is so wrong about her not wanting to get married-whether now or never? What is so wrong about getting hurt in love, if she chose to fall in love (I earlier didn’t believe it was possible to choose, but now I do)?

The new generation is resilient, and that’s what parents do not understand, and I think it’s a problem unique to every generation. If children take a plunge, they own up to their actions and their consequences. It’s not at all easy, but life does teach us to take responsibility for our actions. If a girl can be married off at 22, she is old enough to be in love too. There are those girls who fall hard in love, who love with madness, risking their lives along with everything else that is (or was once) their own. But calling them ‘characterless’ is like not understanding the pure love, and when a girl gets ‘dumped’ by her lover, she feels doubly torn because of the weight of the ‘stigma’ and the pain of loss. She might be well-equipped to handle the pain, for she’ll sooner or later accept that it was her own doing, but she did not choose to be stripped of her dignity just because she took a wrong decision. It is equivalent to getting naked without consent. Is this the kind of protection that the Indian society is wont to give to its daughters? She probably realises her mistake, and she’ll find it hard to forgive herself. But she finds it harder to ask for forgiveness from people she does not owe anything to. After all, she decides who ‘owns’ her. ‘Society’ does not, and should not. Society is composed of individuals like her, and if she is scarred, rest assured she is wiser than anyone who does not understand love. She won’t always wear her wisdom on her sleeve, but it will manifest in her sighs, which pity people who try to compartmentalize her character.

A raped woman is also somebody’s daughter, but she did not choose to get raped, because by definition, it means ‘without consent’. Why is she not given the freedom to breathe? Why should she hide, and who should she hide from? What exactly was her fault? Was it her biology, or her clothes that made her turn into a ‘hush-hush’ topic of a dinner table conversation? Why should we discount some sick man’s perversion, his primal instincts, his lust, his avarice? Not every male is a ‘real’ man. It takes a different kind of education to let a boy transform into a gentleman. But we often forget to educate the sons in the society. We forget the fact that despite being perceived as a so-called ‘burden’, and ‘paraaya dhan‘, it is actually a majority of daughters who willingly belong to their families, and in many cases, it’s the sons who forget to take care of their parents’ needs. What kind of a husband and a father will that son be who neglects his own parents?

It’s ironic that we forget that if there were no daughters, there wouldn’t be any sons. There would be no evolution, no ‘man’kind. The world started with them, and will end at them.

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