Ladkiyon ko zor zor se hasna nahiye chahiye, thoda dabb ke raha karo. (“Girls should not laugh or smile so much, learn to control your emotions.”) I was just 6 when I was taught this beautiful lesson in life. I was taught not to laugh louder and to not even smile much.

And if I ever scored badly in my school exams I had to hear a wonderful statement — “You’re a girl, you don’t even have a good face and if you don’t study well it’ll be very difficult to get you married.”

My grandparents loved my brother very much, who is just one year younger than me, he was way cuter because he had a fair complexion I was made to believe. His gender also played a huge role in getting him that status in the family. I was a girl and on top of that, I had a dark complexion. My granny was fond of her grandchildren, very fond in fact but only if they were boys. And if it was a girl, she should look beautiful, it was only then would she even touch that granddaughter. So I was obviously far from getting any sort of love from my grandparents. One thing I feel thankful to God for is I was good in academics in the entire family of 12 kids. It literally saved my life, or

My academics came to my rescue when I was treated like an untouchable in my family.

I was a curious kid who understood financial conditions of the family and knew what to ask and what not to ask from my parents. I hardly played with toys. But it wasn’t the same case with my brother, he had a room full of toys that my grandparents used to gift especially to my brother. It is very easy to tell a kid “this is just for you” and make him believe in it. That is what my brother was told every single time. They were all his toys.

This is how I was taught in my childhood that love towards boys is so much more and different as compared to girls. So this is how I grew up to be an insecure girl and sister.

As we all know our Indian parents’ ideology of teaching kids to study well is by comparing with other students. “She is getting good marks, why can’t you study like her?” This was the case for my cousins. They had to hear this often from their parents and they were compared with me. It is so obvious kids develop a feeling of hatred towards the ones they are compared with. And that was how the little love that I got from my cousins was snatched away by my relatives. There came a point when my brother fell into the trap of my cousins and turned against me. So I was left all alone since that very day.

If the foundation itself is weak, then it is just unfit for a building to stand on. My brother and I never had a good bonding ever since because there was always someone in our big fat Indian family making us stand against each other. We are siblings for the world but fights would never end.

The only way of killing time during my childhood was to study from my subject books. I was never encouraged to read novels either so it was only those academic textbooks that were like my friends to kill time. My parents thought if I start reading novels I might not study academic books at all and so novels were never on my bookshelf. But I did love reading novels like Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Harry Potter, Snow white, Tintin, Cinderella, Malgudi Days etc. which were pretty famous back then. Mine was a CBSE course so we had specific allotted time for library that had many amazing encyclopedias and novels. That’s how I managed to read a few novels then. I’d say I just got lucky to increase my knowledge about things.

I was not allowed to interact with boys. One day in my intermediate first year, one of my school friends forwarded a message to me. It was a joke that was a conversation between a teacher and student. When that message popped up on my phone, my dad happened to see that light and checked my phone. When he saw a boy’s name, he created a scene. He blackmailed me that he would speak with my principal the next day.

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The next incident was in my B-tech first year, boys came up along with girls to my house just to celebrate my birthday. My dad got pissed off looking at those boys. The day ended up with a big drama as soon the celebrations got over. Yes that’s how I used to celebrate my birthday, in isolation. The only thing I asked for from my dad that day was — “You do have female colleagues at you work place, is it that you won’t interact with them and is that a crime if you do? If speaking to my classmates is wrong then speaking to your colleagues is equally wrong.”

From then on my dad allowed me to speak with boys but limits were set. Although I was not allowed to go for my college excursions and other trips, I was at least given the freedom to interact.

Today I am 22. Oh yeah! Gates for my marriage are open already. I don’t understand how parents start trusting a guy just by a single page of biodata with a photo stuck on it and conclude that he is the best match. When they can’t allow their daughter to go out with a guy whom she knows since her childhood, how do parents send her off with a stranger one day who they have read very little about most probably.

Terrible Indian customs we have entered with even in the 21st century. I don’t know when people REALIZE “trendy” is not just in clothes but also in mindsets

This was originally published here.

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