Kids Corner

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My Girls

by HARVIND KAUR

 

I am the proud mother of two beautiful daughters.

Sahib Kaur is three years old and Jind Kaur is almost two months old.

Both my girls were very wanted. They were difficult to conceive and bring into the world. This has made them even more precious to me and my entire extended family. Their limitless potential and beauty is the Guru's gift to me and my husband. I pray that my children will grow to be proud Sikhs who make a choice to practice the Sikh way of life.

I am extremely confident that my girls are going to do great in life. That's not to say there won't be obstacles and pitfalls, but I am confident the Guru's plan for them and us will be realized.

While I may have this attitude and my close circle may have this attitude, I am worried about the broader influence of the Indian/Punjabi community on my girls. As a woman, I have always been acutely aware of the double standards and the attitude of Indian culture towards girls and women.

Even so, I was totally unprepared for the responses and lamentations that were both overt and subtle when the news of my second daughter's birth was announced.

I had people say, "Koi na, it will be okay!" "Ik hor aa-gai!" "Hun ik hor bacha lalo!" "Aj kal kuria te mundian vich koi farak nai hai!"  "Oh, you have two girls!"

While some of the comments may seem harmless, I am wondering why any of these remarks were made at all. What happened to "I'm so happy you had another baby!" "How is the new addition to your family?" "So, what did you name the baby?" "When can we see the baby?"

There is such a different psychological impact between both sets of statements.

I guess my surprise is that, although our community has spread through the diaspora and been exposed to so many new ideas, we still cannot shed the prejudice we hold against the female. I never thought that, even after I had children, these attitudes would remain so strong, even among my generation.

I now realize the horrific way the community has treated my parents over the years. And I laud them, my parents, for making sure they raised three independent, well-educated women.

I have always heard people make disparaging remarks about my own personal situation: "Acha, pher tin kurian, koi bhra nai hai!" I've heard this so often when it comes to talking to Indian people, I automatically start with "I don't have any brothers!". I've always disregarded the remark. But now, I realize how much more traumatic such a statement must have been for my parents. The pressure to have boys is so overwhelming.

Given the notion that to have a boy is so important, I wonder how well we are raising our boys. From the stories I hear from young Sikh/Punjabi women, many of today's young Punjabi/Sikh men are a far cry from the type of men they would want to marry.

While many of the young men carry the external markers of Sikhi or claim an adherence to Sikhi, their attitudes toward women are by no means those expounded by the Gurus or representative of Sikh culture. (I do differentiate Sikh culture from Punjabi culture. The two cannot be conflated.)

The stories are frightening. Many of our young women just don't want to marry within our tradition. Now I have heard plenty of lectures of how our girls don't want to marry Sikh/Punjabi boys. All the pressure is on the girls.

But truly, the question should be about the boys. What is wrong with them? What are they doing that makes them less desirable? (These questions are outside of the issue of Keshdari or non-Keshdari.)

Now, in my life I have Sahib Rani and Jind Rani.

Every night, I tell them the story of the princesses from the Land of the Five Rivers. In my nightly tale, I tell them how Sahib Rani came first and was a powerful leader of the Sikh Nation. She guided the community in times of hardship and was respected and listened to. She not only advised the people in important daily matters, but also in how to be a follower of the Guru.

Then we talk about the other Rani - Jind - who came later. She also was a leader and faced many hardships, but was very courageous.

The message I'm sending my girls is clear. My husband and I are hoping that one day they will look beyond the tales I tell them and be encouraged by their namesakes.

I know the values I want to impart to my children. They're still young, so maybe over the next twenty years some of the hypocrisy and negative attitudes towards women will begin to dissipate even more. But twenty years is a long time to wait. That's also twenty years my girls will have to witness and silently be influenced by the negative attitudes towards women already embedded in our society.

I can only pray that regardless of this, they will still make a choice to remain part of a culture and community that has so much to offer.

 

March 6, 2008 

Conversation about this article

1: Jagdeep Singh (London, England), March 06, 2008, 3:26 PM.

I don't think that you can generalize that there is "something wrong with our boys". The truth, like most things, lies in the middle. Some Sikh men don't want to marry Sikh girls for their own reasons. Some do. We are all under the same pressures, and we also lead individual lives. Burdening Sikh boys with a generalized stigma doesn't help anyone.

2: Jagdeep Singh (London, England), March 06, 2008, 3:31 PM.

One more thing. I think one reason some Sikh women don't want to marry Sikh guys is because they don't want to be forced to live with their in-laws and lead oppressed lives in which their husband subverts them and their independence to the whims and control of her mother-in-law. In other words, Sikh girls want a man who will stand up for himself and stand up for her and not just be a Mummy's boy. Some of the stories you hear of lives and marriages broken because the man has not been independent enough from his family, are apalling.

3: I.J. Singh (New York, U.S.A.), March 06, 2008, 5:25 PM.

Harvind, treasure your little girls. I fondly recall meeting the first one when she was just a few months old. I am glad you shared with us the thoughtless, hurtful - perhaps, I should say, even vicious comments - that people can make, albeit with a smile. And these are coming from Sikhs - I would say they have not only missed the basics of Sikhism, but also failed the minimum standards of being civilized. Once again, congratulations.

4: Raj (U.S.A.), March 06, 2008, 9:14 PM.

Sikhs are expected to be color-, creed-, gender- and race-blind. It doesn't matter if you have boys, girls or both. The important thing is that they be civilized humans and good Sikhs? We should concentrate on that; who cares about minor denominational differences, such as gender, etc.? It was the Guru's way, and it should ours.

5: Brijinder Kaur Khurana (Delhi, India), March 07, 2008, 1:11 AM.

Harvind: First of all please accept my congratulations that you are blessed with two fairies. In my opinion, kids are the true blessings of God, boys and girls. The main thing is they should be healthy and independent for their lives. They should bear good moral character. But I would like to mention that there is nothing wrong with our boys because when you are giving birth to a girl child, only the ladies will say that you must extend your family for a boy. Usually, males are not the ones who differentiate. Most of the times, our own grand-mothers or elderly ladies in the house feel that a boy is very important. The fact is that all fathers adore their daughters. Blessings for Sahib Kaur and Jind Kaur.

6: Harinder (Bangalore, India), March 07, 2008, 6:32 AM.

Sikh women are worthy of being worshipped rather than being killed in utero. In difficult times in history, they got there children massacred but did not accept conversion for themselves or their children. Sikhs who abort female foetuses have forgotten this unique sacrifice of their womenfolk - and have lost touch with basic human decency!

7: Tejpreet Kaur (Cambridge, MA, U.S.A.), March 07, 2008, 6:36 AM.

Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for writing a piece that resonates with mothers of the past, present and future. My sister and I were raised with endless love from our parents and extended family; we were expected to incorporate the virtues of Sikhi by rising above the cultural nonsense and becoming humble and compassionate leaders in our communities and respective fields. Continue to maintain high expectations for your blessed daughters as they will be the emboldened and empowered new faces of Sikhi.

8: P. Singh (Canada), March 09, 2008, 7:29 AM.

Our faith is the inspiration to be on the forefront in opposing gender discrimination prevalent everywhere in the world today. That should be our goal. However we, men for the most part, can't get out of our own tribal mentality that is still stuck in the stone age. This, despite our sisters continuously setting inspiring examples as adults. For the sake of my daughter and all of ours, dear sisters, please don't ever be less than chardi kala in fighting to be radiant, and courageous in your life's pursuits. Know that there are others fighting alongside you.

9: Pashaura Singh (Riverside, CA, U.S.A.), March 09, 2008, 10:17 AM.

Dear Harvind Kaur: Please accept my heartiest congratulations on the birth of beautiful Jind Kaur. May Akaal Purakh bless you all in the family with the spirit of chardi kalaa and give you happiness and fulfilment in life. You are a role model for many Sikh women. Reading your piece has given me lot of inspiration. I am really proud of you. The remarks that you have heard are nothing new. The real situation of our community does not match with the ideals of Sikhi. But you just ignore these remarks and focus on your attention on the high ideals of the teachings of the Gurus.

10: Vic Dhillon (Brampton, Ontario, Canada), March 10, 2008, 6:30 PM.

Harvind: I could not help but make some comments about your wonderfully articulated article. I am a father of two boys and one girl. I love all of them the same, but I have a irresistable and marvellously uniqe pull towards my daughter and vice-versa, and I love it. When my frieds/family are blessed with the birth of a daughter, upon learning of the baby girl's arrival, I impatiently cannot wait to extend my congrats to those individuals. No matter if it is their first or the fifth. I make it a point to convey that they are very lucky people to have a girl arrive in their home. My experience has shown me that daughters play a phenomenal role in all aspects of a family's life. In fact, I don't know of a single family's example where a daughter has not made a lasting and loving impact on her parents/siblings. In my line of work, I have had to become aquainted with thousands of people/families at a close distance, so I would think my experience and analysis does hold a bit more water than that of an average citizen - on this issue anyway. This is extremely true for me in my family. My wife, sisters, mother, maternal and paternal aunts, grandmother ... and the list goes on ... have proven my theory of how females are playing an integrally pivotal role in their family's lives. I don't know where my family and I would be were it not for them. I am not discounting the role of the males but something unexplainable keeps saying to me that it is just not the same. So - if anyone is contemplating a sorrowfull/sorry response to the birth of a girl in their family - please ask them to reflect and think about the woman who endured the hardship to bring to them earth. Again, great thoughts on your behalf and I have faith that if we keep hammering on our message to the 'forgetful part of our community' we can make change happen. I truly have faith in this. Keep it up and take care of yourself, and the two precious gifts from WAHEGURU.

11: Bhupinder Singh Ghai (New Delhi, India), March 10, 2008, 11:03 PM.

Guru Nanak has written so much on gender equality. And the all-knowing Guru Gobind Singh had written in one of his rehatnamas: " kuri maar the saath nahi rakhna". He knew what would happen 300 yrs later. Ignoring our Guru's words would be the biggest mistake we are making. Anyone who contravenes that straightforward law cannot be called a Sikh. Period.

12: Kavi Raj Singh (Tustin, U.S.A.), March 11, 2008, 12:14 PM.

Unfortunate is the family that doesn't respect their pearls, and kids are those precious pearls. Any bias based on sex shows they have truly not imbibed the teachings of their Great Gurus in their lives. We should be thankful for HIS kindness when He bestows us with kids and we should focus on instilling true Sikh values in them ... take them to gurdwara, teaching them about the stories of our Great Gurus, share with them the sacrifices our forefathers made so we can one day carry on as Gursikhs... If our kids truly understand the value of being a Sikh, they will not even think once of marrying a non-sikh for they will know of how blessed they are to be born in the house of the Guru. Unfortunately, we are giving our kids the wrong message ... we are teaching them to be hypocrites, we speak from both sides of our mouths. We forget kids are watching what we are doing and they are going to imitate us once they grow up. Girls are our future, girls are our pride ... please don't destroy this treasure by having abortions. Let's remind everyone who plans to abort a female fetus ... they have no place in the house of the Guru!

13: Bal Anand (Delhi, India), March 12, 2008, 12:09 AM.

I am proud of my Panjabi heritage rooted in the universal values propounded by the Sikh Gurus. I am ,however, not impressed by clinging to outdated & dubious notions of the past - the historical Rani Jindan and Sahib Kaur represented the circumstances of a feudal past and are hardly role models in the present era of Kiran Bedis and Kalpana Chawlas.

14: Sharan Kaur (Elmhurst, Illinois, U.S.A.), March 13, 2008, 8:21 AM.

Harvind, loved your article and congratulations to you and your family again on the birth of Jind Kaur. I agree with most of what you have mentioned. However, the one point you bring up on questionning Sikh boys on why Sikh girls may not want to marry them should also be a question posed to the girls. I, for one, have had many acquaintances that don't want to marry a Sikh guy just because of his turban, etc. It really saddens me to hear them say it but it also tells me that these guys may be better off without them as they do not uphold the values of Sikhi. I also agree with veerji's comment above that many girls don't want to live with in-laws and boys need to give a Sikh girl the opportunity to decide and not expect it of her. Coming from a family where my parents too only had girls, the comments you mentioned above are very real and sad. I hope, with time, our community will rise above the prejudices and accept all of God's creations as equal. As a parent, all I know is how blessed I am to have a child and how honored I feel to be given the responsibility to bring him up as a Gursikh! Only now do I realize how much my parents did to raise my sisters and I as Sikhs and no words will ever be enough to thank them for it! This is a life that is so fulfilling and the blessings our Guru's give us are limitless. All children regardless of whether they are boys or girls are just a wonderful reflection of the abundance of blessings we have from above! Let us all never forget that and cherish these beautiful children!

15: Hardeep Kaur (Oroville, California, U.S.A.), March 13, 2008, 11:17 PM.

To my sister who always puts forth what is in her mind like the rest of her sisters who continue to stand up for what we believe in: I agree with you completely. We have turned into hypocrites. I too hear this from my daughter. But yet continue to raise independent thinkers and, at the same time, express my love for Sikhi. We do not know what our children will ultimately follow but we pray to Waheguru that the Sikh values be instilled in our children. In our house, our son has to do the same chores that our daughter has to do, whether it be cleaning the bathroom or cleaning the dishes. We try not to classify our kids' activities by gender.

16: Jagdish Kaur (Springfield, Ohio, U.S.A.), March 16, 2008, 1:16 PM.

Congratulations, Harvind! I am thrilled to know that you are a mother of two precious ones - wonderful! Enjoy every moment raising them. I love the names you chose for your daughters. God has blessed you with courage, wisdom and the Sikhi spirit. Guru Rakha!

17: Mandeep (Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.), March 25, 2008, 3:50 PM.

Harvind, I am proud of you for taking the step to write on this subject. I am a mom of two girls, as you know. I wouldnt change a thing. I was raised as equal to my brothers amidst Indian culture. So, hearing these outdated comments when I had my second one was surprising. It is even more saddening when it is from people born in Sikh households since the Gurus have done a fantastic job of enlightening us about this. Keep up the good work and enjoy your girls.

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