2nd January 1996 – I was taken away on this day. Kidnapped, if you would like to use the word. I was only an hour old then. My mother had planned this long before I was born. If I turned out to be a boy, I would stay in the family, grow up with them, and one day help on the fields. One day I would bring in a wife and then help create a son to carry on the family name. However, if I turned out to be a girl, I could not stay. I had to leave. So my mother had arranged with the widow who lived at the end of the village to sneak me out and take me to the Mahila Kalyan Sanstha and then leave me there to find my destiny, to fight my own battles.

And as the fate would have it, I was born a girl.

My father did not want me. My grandparents did not want me. I was useless to them. And my mother knew this very well. She knew secrets that were thought to be buried so deep that no one could ever uncover them. She knew why so many baby girls were born dead in the village. She knew why after nine-months of pregnancy, often no cries of a hungry baby echoed from the expectant house.

My mother wanted me to live. I wanted to live.

When the widow came to take me away, she remarked how unusually deep my gaze was. I wanted to remember my mother’s face forever. I knew I would never see it again. In spite of her painful labour, my mother looked beautiful. Her red dupatta with green block prints are imprinted on my mind as are her dark eyes and a smooth brown complexion. She put a locket of Goddess Kali around my neck for strength and to ward off the evil eye.

I held on to my mother’s fingers for a little longer. I wanted to be hugged by her, to be fed by her, to be cuddled like baby boys are when they are born. But deep inside I was resigned. I let go of her fingers and tore my gaze away from her face as she wrapped me in a tattered blanket and handed me to the widow. I did not cry.
There was no time to waste. Soon my father and his brother would come for me. So the widow fled with me held gently against her breasts. I don’t know what happened to my mother after that. I don’t think my father would have bothered too much about the missing baby girl. It was better this way for him too.

I know I will survive. I stand a better chance out in the world than within the muddy confines of my home. I can feel the strength burning inside me with each tiny thud of my heart. I know I will go farther than anyone in my family has ever dared. And my father was right. Girls don’t carry on their father’s name. I won’t too. But, yes, I will always remember my mother. I will be her daughter. I can’t wait to start exploring the world. But I feel a little scared too. Because along with my mother’s courage, I also have a bit of my father’s cowardice flowing in my veins.

Note: This is a work of fiction and is not related to the person in the picture

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