Thursday, April 17, 2008

Bringing up a Nazrani Girl Child

I do not know if all young nazrani girls born in mid 1950s were brought up like me. I was the last but one in a family of more than half a dozen male children. As a very young girl, I enjoyed climbing trees, chasing dogs, throwing stones at squirrels and playing cricket(I made up for the shortage of players in both sides!-was a left hander) or Kili(our diluted version of kabadi). My hair, neatly tied up in a pony tail in the morning, would be a terrible mess in no time. Whenever amma caught me running around with my hair looking like a golliwog’s, she used to summon me immediately and tie it up again. This happened several times during the course of the day. On certain days, when it crossed the decade mark, I would get a sound spanking but I would always manage to wriggle out of her grip before she had her fill of spanking.

Of course, she often made remarks about my gender, reflecting her anxiety about my unladylike behaviour. But it was that eventful day, when I squeezed through the window bars of a room on the first floor to get on to the tiled roof of the verandah adjacent to the kitchen, that changed my fun filled vacation routine drastically, tragically. I still remember how I achieved that feat. I worked my way carefully down the sloping roof and reaching the edge, sat down dangerously, with my feet on the metal water drain. I remember feeling literally on top of the world seeing the kitchen backyard in a new perspective. Amma came out to the backyard for something, and I called out to her with all my love for her in my voice. She looked around, not knowing where my voice came from. Then suspicion dawned on her and she lifted her eyes slowly to the roof. I can never ever forget that look of horror? terror?, panic? or all rolled into one? that spread over her face. Then, a slow strange, weird smile spread on her face while she spoke sweet nothings to me. In the meanwhile, our odd job man arrived with the ladder and brought me down from my perch in the heights. Amma’s expression changed the minute she realized that I was out of danger and I saw red lights which warned that I had better bolt. I tried to but she was quicker. What a thrashing I got!! but as usual, I managed to get away when she was only half way through and ran for my life, but not before turning back to look at her and do a little jig to show her I had outsmarted her once again.

That jig did the trick. I was so unrepentant that she decided that it would not do for a girl to grow up like a tomboy. From the next day onwards, I was sent to a convent in the neighbourhood, where I learnt running stitch and hemming and chain stitch and French knots and satin stitch and lazy daisy and and and . I also listened to the lives of saints. The nuns taught me the prayers that would help me to become a saint. I refused to say those prayers because I didn’t want to become a saint. They threw the scare of the devil into me about the devil and hell; told me how beautiful it’d be to go to heaven and sing “holy holy’ day in and day out!

From nine to four, during every midsummer vacation till I reached the fourth class, I went to the convent. After that, we shifted to a different locality where there was no convent within walking distance. Anyway, by then, I had begun to think in a gendered fashion


  1. Very interesting read. My mom was always worried that I would grow up to be a tomboy! I think tomboys are rebels against the system. My Dad on the other hand believed in no restrictions and perhaps thats why I didn't out to be a tomboy. I could do all that a guys did, realized that it was no big deal and that I preferred to play with my dolls...sometimes up the tree though!

    p.s I don't understand our community's penchant with beating kids to 'control' them. People of that generation didn't believe in talking to the child, just ordering and if disobeyed hitting him!

  2. @ silverine
    that was a generation which did not spare the rod- i am one of those who believe it doesnt really do any great harm - toughens u. children have a way of seeing the well meaning motive behind discipline.
    actually, my mom and i we were best of friends.

  3. i agree! no hardcore gimmicks though! plain old chooral....


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