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    'Putra Vati Bhava': India's Obsession With Waaris

    It is 2023 and some people continue to have a preferred gender for a child.
    Updated at - 2023-01-09,16:49 IST
    india obsession with waaris reasons

    I had no preferred gender in mind throughout my pregnancy. Once I got to know I conceived, I prayed for a healthy baby every morning and so did my partner. You never know if it's going to be a boy or a girl; it was for the genetics to decide, and that was that.

    While I was pregnant, I read and watched a lot of maternity content online, videos and articles of soon-to-be mothers sharing yoga asanas for smooth deliveries, tips to treat nausea, ways to have a peaceful sleep among others. However, every time I opened my feed, I also spotted posts with thumbnails screaming 'How to have a boy', 'Ladki ke baad ladke hone ke chances kaise badhaye', 'Signs you are pregnant with a baby boy', 'Do these yoga asanas to conceive a baby boy'. I was not into it because I never favoured a gender but the internet algorithms knew what most Indians searched for and I ended up as a target.

    While running away from society's expectations, soon we were blessed with a baby girl and were immediately thrilled. While we couldn't contain our excitement, there were some who felt disappointed by our baby's biological sex. 

    While they tried to keep their emotions under wraps initially, their emotions began to show over time. 'Hume toh laga tha ladka hoga' (we had guessed you would have a baby boy), 'symptoms toh ladke wale hie the' (you had symptoms of a baby boy), 'tumhara pet toh neeche tha, ladka lagta tha' (you were carrying low, that was sign of a baby boy). It just didn't stop.  

    Six months later, now when I am living the best phase of my life, having fun in my new role as a mother, the most outrageous suggestions still come my way. 'Ab toh jaldi se iske bhai ki taiyaari karo' (get ready to give birth to a baby boy now), 'ye toh shaadi karke chali jaaegi, ek ladka toh hona he chahiye' (she will leave home when she gets married, you should have a son), ‘Har ghar me waaris toh hona hi chahiye’ (every home should have an heir). All of it, unsolicited. 

    Everytime I share these instances with my mother, she is in splits. She tells me nothing seems to have changed and this is just what came her way when she brought me into the world 30 years ago. Previously, I didn't pay much heed to all of it but now I was curious, so I decided to dig deeper. 

    Why Do We Have Our Hearts So Set On Male Heirs?

    "Daughters Are Burdens"
    Daughters are still considered a burden to the family. Not only patriarchal practices like dowry but heinous crimes against women in the country put immense pressure on the parents. Many believe that having a daughter is an added responsibility for the family. Following their birth, parents in India consciously keep them cocooned since they are believed to be more vulnerable. 
    I am a brown girl and I can vouch for it. Growing up, I noticed my parents curbing my freedom at every occasion, be it going for a late night party, a school trip, or a vacation with friends. On the other hand, they never set a limit for my younger brother. On questioning their actions, I would always get the typical - 'ladkiyo ko akele nahi jaana chahiye'. With time, as I got aware of the crimes against women in the country, I realised that they always wanted to ensure my safety.
    "Daughters Don’t Carry Forward The Lineage" 


    Oddly enough, defying all scientific and logical facts, it is believed that it is always the son who takes the family lineage forward, this one ideology is deep rooted in our minds. Daughters are considered 'paraya dhan' and eventually asked to leave the parental home to become a part of another family. This is something that girls are taught in ourcountry from an early age. Growing up,my grandmother always asked me to learn cooking, mentioning that I will eventually have to cook for myself and the family once I am married. While I spent hours with her in the kitchen, my younger brother would roam freely around the home, living his life as per his choice because ‘wo toh ladka hai, uski toh biwi khana banayegi’ (He is a boy, his wife will cook for him).
    "Daughter’s Money Isn’t Ours"

    While there is a constant rise in the number of working women in India, many families still believe that sons are the ultimate bread winners for the family, they will be the ones to provide economic support to their ageing parents. Even in 2023 this one mindset continues to persist. My mother still doesn’t let me pay our householdbills, citing ‘ladkiyon ke paise nahi lete’ (we don’t take money earned by our daughters)
    "Ghar Ke Chirag, Ladke (Sons, The Light Of The House)"

    kal ho na ho
    Sons are unconditionally loved, not only because they don't bring along any liabilities but also because they can be put in charge to take care of the entire family, without any guilt. They are no less than a safe investment with high returns in future. Sons are treasured because society considers their strength more valuable and ours a liability.

    For Women This Is A Shared Experience 

    Namita Narula shared, "When I was fivemonths pregnant, all the grannies around me looking at my tummy said, "ladka hoga!" and when my bundle of joy was born my own mother-in-law told my husband, "ladka hai na!!! (It is a boy, right?)."  My baby is 13 months old and I still see bias towards him because the family thinks ladke "Apne Maa ke hote hai (boys never detach from their mothers)."
    "After my second daughter, people were like, "Ohh it’s okay, nowadays girls and boys are equal , don’t worry, girls are better than boys. Many also gave their condolences by saying 'it’s ok you have got goddess Laxmi in your house.' It's not like I am sad, I am happy. Why can't people just congratulate and leave?," said Karishma Sharma.
    "I was forced by my in-laws to give birth to a baby boy after I had a daughter, my first baby. They took me to astrologers, made me follow multiple remedies so that I would be blessed with a boy. They even tried to get a gender test done a few days after I conceived. Thankfully, I gave birth to a baby boy," shared Suman Bhatia. 

    Sau Putravati Bhavah: History Has It

    Interestingly, this obsession with sons is not new, it is also in our history to feel blessed for sons. If we go back to ancient epics like Mahabharata, Ramayana, they revolve around this fascination with male heirs. Most Indian legends are about kingdoms being passed to the oldest male of the clan. The sages used to bless the queens with 'Sau Putravati Bhavah' (May you be blessed with 100 sons). Some ancient religious texts also term the birth of female offsprings a result of an individual's bad karmas. 

    Cinema's Role In Endorsing Gender Bias

    Cinema has its fair share of stories that celebrate sons over daughters. Time and again, films and now web series have given us narratives that favour the male child of the family over daughters. Recall 1988's release, Waaris, a story that wheels around the struggle to acquire the rightful heir. 
    Govinda and Rambha starrer Beti No. 1 also went around a similar theme. Durga Devi, mother to sons, Ram, Laxman and Bharat wants a male heir. When Ram and Laxman are unable to, Durga Devi expects her youngest son, Bharat to give the family an heir. However, when his wife gives birth to a girl, he switches his baby girl with his friend's baby boy. All this to just keep the her mother's anger in control. 
    Even recently, the 2015 Zoya Akhtar directorial Dil Dhadakne Do highlighted the obsession with sons taking centre stage. Kabir, the younger son, the only male child of the family was pressured to head the family business even though he was not keen. On the other hand, Ayesha, the daughter of the family, a hardworking, headstrong businesswoman was alienated soon after she got married. 
    legal heir house of dragons
    House Of The Dragon, an American fantasy drama, highlightsthe same obsession with male successors. King Viserys chooses hisbaby boy over his wife while she is on the birthing bed, thinking he will finally have a male heir to hold the royal title, only to see his wife Aemma breathing her last and their newborn son dying shortly after birth. 

    Is There A Psychological Angle?

    I spoke to Sneha Dev, Clinical and Counseling Psychologistand asked her what contributes to this obsessive thinking of Indians. She said, "Indians are obsessed with sons
    because they think of them as their future asset, they think sons will carry the future of their family. Sons are treated as the pride of the family as they will bring wives in the future and that means more wealth and assets forthe family. Most families believe that the birth of the son in the family means the parents have done something good. Some also think that sons are sources of earning while girls eventually get married."

    Do We Have A Silver Lining?

    Daughters are no less than sons and our gender shouldn’t be deciding our worth anyway. If we can  manage to fill the gap in our minds that screams ‘daughters aren't enough’, our daughters will be able to lead happier lives, knowing they are just as loved and valued as the sons of the family. Change starts with us and it will begin only when we clear our minds off the stereotypical beliefs. 

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