Way back in 2010, a few months after my daughter, Avanee’s birth, I had written this (very) short story for a contest online. I thought you might like to read it.
Long hair, Bharatanatyam, feminism, cooking. Kohl in her eyes and a cake for every birthday in the family. Shopping for hand-woven sarees and carnations for her living room. She loved being a woman.
But when it happened for the third time, she hoped she’d give birth to a boy.
Seventeen years ago, when she lost her aunt, she was too young to understand what it meant to hate a disease. She missed her aunt but didn’t question her going away. Fifteen years later, as she watched her mother being wheeled into the operation theater, she was livid—because it was unfair. And then, another year and another diagnosis later, she wasn’t sure whether what she felt was fear or hatred. For her sex or for the disease. Perhaps, for both.
And so, at every ultrasound appointment, she would strain her eyes and see if she could trick the technician and catch that one glimpse—hoping to see proof of maleness. Unfortunately, because some laws are better respected than others in this country, she could never see anything below the abdomen and above the knee.
At the baby store, she would finger the pink A-line frocks but would buy shorts and tee-shirts instead. She would look at cute little girls in their traditional dresses with flowers in their hair and dream of plaiting her own daughter’s hair. And then, immediately reprimanding herself, she’d snap out of the dream.
Nine months went by, hope turning into belief—belief that the life inside her was a male. That he’d be free from danger. That he could live his life without fear—or that she could live hers without fear for him. A few days before her due date, she could see him—round face, wavy hair, brown eyes, and a wide grin—a splitting image of her own younger self. She could hear his voice call out to her as he constructed what he called a ship, from his Lego blocks. She could see him grimace at the veggies. She had long conversations with him about baking cookies together. She had bought books for him already and she’d read them to him at bedtime. She’d laugh at the thought that she probably wouldn’t know how to make him pee because she’d never been around a young boy before. She knew it was a boy. It had to be a boy.
And yet, she thought of two names—one for a boy and one for a girl—just, god forbid, in case.
When the gynecologist opened her up and pulled the baby out by its legs and declared the sex, she thought she had heard wrong—she thought she’d seen something in her last ultrasound—it had definitely looked like a boy. She shut her eyes even tighter beneath the eye mask. A little later, when she could open her eyes, she was handed a bundle—the baby looked at her through knowing, slit-shaped eyes, and smiled. She cradled the bundle in her arms and kissed a pink cheek.
“It’s going to be okay—nothing will happen to you—I won’t let it,” she whispered into the baby’s ears.
Within minutes, mother and daughter were fast asleep, one dreaming of dance classes and dresses; the other just being in her mother’s arms.