The moon is shockingly bright that night, adding an aura of surrealism to the scene. The soft bluish hue washes over the river banks, as a light breeze dances among the long blades of grass that grew there.
He is tall, still and silent, standing a few metres away from the rushing waters. The moonlight casts long shadows over his face, hiding his features, yet it was not hard to see the tension in his frame. He is bare chested, in a simple villager’s garb, clutching a small bundle in his strong, muscular arms.
He lifts his head to the heavens, taking in the beauty of the night. The clouds are imposing in their blackness, fighting to conceal the radiance of the moon in some mystical battle of the skies. The faint breeze barely rustles the grass, yet it carries with it a deafening silence, filling his ears with nothing.
He nods, imperceptibly, to himself; yes, surely tonight is a magical night. Surely, tonight is special.
His thoughts are interrupted by the call of a nocturnal animal, and his gaze drifts over to the dim lights of his village in the distance. It is a good hours walk, but he was happy to make it. This place was special to him.
For it was here, that as a child he played with his friends, dashing among the river stones, diving into the waters to overpower and wrestle with the other boys, laughing and dancing under the watchful eyes of their fathers. It was here that he had grown accustomed to his father’s approving gaze, whenever he raced to the banks first, or threw a pebble across the surface further, or when he swam the furthest without any hint of fatigue. He had come to love and even crave that glint in his father’s eye, that showed that he was proud. It was intoxicating.
His father had been good to him. He had provided him with everything he could, and as a dutiful son he had helped bear his father’s load; first in the home, and then with his work. He did it joyfully, knowing that this was the way it was done. This was how it was meant to be. Why else was he born, if not to take over from his father once he grew weak? It had been the way for generations. His father had told him as such, until the day he died.
Now, here he was, so many years later. He is no longer a boy, yet at this moment, he has never been more unsure of his manhood. He has been growing tired with every passing day, more so than usual. His wife’s nightly duties no longer pleased him; in fact, she barely pleased him at all. There was no joy in work, no comfort at home.
How had his father done it, he wonders? But he knows the answer; his father had him. He had realised as such many months ago, and it was a sign from the heavens when his wife told him she was with child.
As soon as he had heard this news, he knew it was what he had been missing. Not a day went by when he did not dream of life after the child arrived. The joy he had once felt from his own father, he would now bestow on his child. A child of his own, to love and to care for, to teach and to mentor, until that child was old enough and strong enough to lift this burden off his shoulders.
He is brought back to the present suddenly, as the baby in his arms starts to cry. He looks down, and realises he has been holding it too tight while lost in his thoughts. He looks at the baby’s face, round and full yet somehow glowing in the dim light. It continues to cry; a sign of weakness, he tells himself. This baby is nothing like him, despite what his foolish wife tells him. How dare she compare him to this, this crying, sobbing, twisting…
In a trance, he takes a step forward, and another, and another. His feet enter the water, and he presses on. The waters rush around his ankles, then his knees, and then his waist. The rushing stream is icy cold, and yet it cannot match the chill he feels inside of him. He looks back at the shore, a moment of indecision, and in the dim moonlight he sees his father, from many decades ago, seated on the rocks, watching him. Smiling at him, and nodding at him in approval; and in that moment, he makes up his mind.
He looks back at this baby one last time, this wretched baby girl that should have been his newborn prince. She is silent now, and her eyes suddenly lock onto his. He is transfixed, his gaze only broken as the clouds win their battle with the moon, engulfing the night in darkness.
Minutes go by before the moonlight finally breaks free again, its rays falling to the ground to find him standing in the water. Alone.
I’m not sure how well this post fits in with the others I’ve seen for the ‘16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence‘, but somehow I could not shake this scene from my head. I was inspired by many of the posts written already, especially this post by Dilly where she says “Violence (particularly against women) is sometimes un-physical, passive, and the signs aren’t skin deep.” I found that to be very true; often we think that violence entails pots and pans and beatings, and while those are widespread in themselves, we often overlook the simple thinks such as words, actions and attitudes.
In 1984, a study in Bombay found out that 7999 out of 8000 abortions performed after prenatal sex determination were girls. In another study, it was found that in Jaipur, capital of the state of Rajasthan, prenatal sex determination tests resulted in 3500 abortions of female foetuses annually. If you can’t fathom that, try this: India as a whole loses half a million girls a year to prenatal sex selective abortion and infanticide.
This is real. This is happening. As I wrote this post, I felt so completely helpless; hopefully, together through efforts like the the 16 Days of Activism, we can affect a change that we as individuals would be powerless to achieve.
Gehan is a guest contributor to the RO blog. You can find more of his writing here.