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When I close my eyes, all the past events begin to show up in front of my eyes like a lucid dream. I remember those beautiful moments as a girl when I would chat with my sister Shikha didi for long, and how I would tease my brother-in-law as his young naughty sister-in-law. I also remember those moments which were not as beautiful. I remember how I felt humiliated when I went out as a girl for the first time in this world. I still remember how boys from my school teased me when they found the truth about me. I also remember when another boy touched my body parts inside my saree for the first time… and I certainly remember all the humiliating taunts by Gita.
As a child, I was growing up in a reasonably happy family. In my family, I had another elder sister named Madhu, who was younger to Shikha didi by 2 years. I was the only son whom my mother loved very much. My mother tells me that my father was a drunkard who never took care of our family. He left us when I was young. So, I have a very hazy picture of his in my mind. While I loved Shikha didi a lot, I always used to fight with my other sister Madhu. It was because Madhu never liked the idea that I was the one who received the most affection. We had a big family home, but we lacked the money to take care of it. My mother used to work as a LIC agent who would walk door to door to sell insurance policies. Somehow, she would manage to make our ends meet. And yet, she ensured that I was attending an expensive private school, while my sisters had to be content with the free government school’s education. I was poor in studies, and yet, my every wish was fulfilled. After all, I was the last hope for my mother who had a dream that I will support her when I grow up. And that was the reason, Madhu, who was smarter than me, didn’t like me.
I vividly remember that fateful day. I had left for home a little earlier from my cricket practice. I saw my sister Shikha didi at home who must have been around 19-20 at that time. That day, she was wearing a very beautiful net saree from mom’s collection in her wardrobe. She looked like a girl who was wearing a saree for the first time. And indeed, she looked gorgeous. Whatever little jewelry my mother had at that time, Shikha didi was glittering in it on that day. That was a very special day. A family was visiting our home to see Shikha didi as a potential bride for their son.
My never-complaining and always happy goddess-like sister Shikha always looked beautiful. But today, she was really beaming in a traditional attire. And her happiness increased as soon as she saw her favorite brother aka me!
“Sonu! My dear brother. I had been waiting for you for so long. Come tell me, how is your didi (sister) looking today?”, Shikha didi asked.I looked at my beautiful sister. “Didi, whoever is the boy coming today, he will say yes the moment he sees you. You definitely are the most beautiful woman, didi”, I said to her and moved forward to hug her.
But my mother stopped me. “Sonu, at least get fresh first and change your dirty clothes before you hug her. And you should run to the market quickly to bring samosas for the guests. The boy’s family must be coming in an hour. And you need to get dressed too.” Mom asked me to do a lot of things in one go.
My other sister Madhu was annoyed with me as usual. She said, “Look at your loving son, Ma. The guests are about to come, and he is arriving now. Will your prince be able to get ready in time?” My mother started at Madhu and said to her, “He is a kid. These are his days to play and have fun. Don’t tease him.” Madhu didi remained silent after that.
So after that, what happened was nothing unexpected really. There were like 20 guests in our home, and my sister Madhu and mom were at the doorsteps to welcome them. And the moment they arrived, they began to evaluate how good our home and family is. But most importantly, they were here especially to test Shikha didi. She had a tough test to pass!
“You have a very big home, sister. But you haven’t taken a good care of it”, boy’s mother said to my mom almost complaining. “Don’t worry, sister. Once this relationship is forged between our families, we will make this home shine like a palace”, my mom responded.
That’s when Shikha didi came with a pallu over her head. She was carrying samosas for the guests in a tray. And she began to give a plate to each of those 20 people. She looked nervous and shy. Who wouldn’t be?
“Well, it’s your home. You can make it shine anytime you want. Who are we to say otherwise?”, the boy’s mother said as she took a plate of samosa from my sister. “By the way, have you made these with your hands at home?”, she asked Shikha didi. Shikha didi began to look towards mom in nervousness. “Oh! no, no. We got this especially for you from the famous shop in our town. We wanted you to taste the best that our town has to offer”, my mother tried to save the situation.
“Is that so? Does your daughter know to cook anything? You see, we are a family of 12 members. And she will have to cook for them every morning and evening. I had been doing this for several years and now I want my daughter-in-law to do it for me”, the boy’s mother said again as a matter of fact. Both the mothers were talking while others were busy enjoying their delicacies. They didn’t even care about what was going on.
“Shikha is really great at cooking. You don’t need to worry about that. But when she starts to work for some job, she won’t be able to cook everyday. Isn’t that right?”, my mother said in a nervous tone.
“Job? We can’t let our family put to shame this way by making our daughter-in-law to work, sister. She will be taking care of the elders of home. That’s it.”, came the response.
The happiness suddenly vanished from Shikha didi’s face. My mother noticed that on her face. But still that drama continued for another hour. The guest family continued to ask about what homely things Shikha can do and cannot do. And to my sister who was doing B.Com., no body bothered to ask her anything about her studies. They didn’t even let that boy and my sister to talk at all.
And what was I doing? I was silently eating the samosas in my hand.
Soon everyone was gone, and we were the only ones left to wonder about what happened today. I being the nonchalant one, looked at Shikha didi, and as a habit of mine I teased her innocently, “Didi, are you ready to handle cooking and cleaning for 12 family members? Looks like you will have to do the same thing as other girls do in their new homes. Imagine what it’s going to be like washing clothes for 12 people family everyday! That’s what the girls are supposed to do anyway. Cooking, cleaning and taking care of the house. Am I not right?” I was stupid to say the least. I don’t know what I was thinking but I laughed.
I was not bad from my heart but I didn’t realize the gravity of the situation when I started teasing my sister. I thought I was making a light joke but Shikha did stayed quiet. But her eyes said everything. There was a tear drop in the corner of her eye. I didn’t want to make her cry, but that’s what I had done to her. My words hurt her. But before I could say anything to correct my mistake, my mother intervened.
“Stop it, Sonu!”, mom said angrily to me. She had lost her temper.
“Please forgive me Shikha for I talked to an idiot family like this for your marriage. I realize my mistake now and the injustice I had been doing for years with my daughters. I never spent money on your studies. I never took care of you. But I am going to correct my mistake today. You and Madhu will go to a good college and study as long as you want. I will work harder to pay for your studies. I will do everything possible for me to do. You two are going to be successful and independent girls. You won’t be housewives and won’t depend on anyone in your life. And as far as your marriage goes, you two will find a suitable husband yourself when the time is right. And I am going to support you in everything. And this is my decision”, my mom said firmly.
This was a matter of happiness. And Madhu was definitely happy listening to this, as she was much smarter than me. And yet, she had to study in a free government school. I wanted to go ahead and hug my sister Shikha to tell her that I am glad that she is not marrying into that idiot family. But before I could be happy for her, my mother looked at me in a great fury.
“And you, my son Sonu? You think a woman’s only job is to cook, clean and take care of the house! Don’t you see how your own mother is working hard to raise three children on her own? And still you said something like this? I feel ashamed to call you my son today. You proved it today that you have the genes of your drunkard hapless father inside you. You are an animal just like he was”, my mom said in anger.
“Mom, just let him be. He is just a kid. He didn’t know what he was saying.”, Shikha did tried to calm my mother.
“You don’t come between us Shikha. If I don’t teach him a lesson today, he will destroy the life of some girl just like his father did, when he grows up. From today, my son is dead to me. Now on, I am going to raise not two but three daughters, and Sonu will be my youngest daughter.”, mom’s anger kept on rising. She was getting madder and madder. Her face turned really red due to anger.
“Wait! What? Raise Sonu as daughter?”, I thought to myself.
“Shikha and Madhu, it’s your duty to study harder from today. And Sonu will help me in taking care of this house as my daughter. She will no longer study in a private school, and she will go to a government school now on wards. She is a dumb in studies anyway. There is no point wasting money on her private education any more.” I just stood there trying to understand what was going on there. I could understand why my mother wanted my sisters to study and flourish, but what was she planning for me? She was already addressing me as a “she”.
“Madhu, go bring one of my home-wearing sarees and a blouse, and drape it on Sonu. From today onwards, my youngest daughter is going to learn what it means to take care of home. Enough play for her. It’s time she starts her learning.”, mom said to Madhu.
Madhu was definitely feeling happy inside at my ordeal, but she was a little scared in front of my mother’s anger. I was scared too. I had never seen my mom like that. After all, I was always the loved one.
Madhu came rushing with a saree in her hand. She laughed at me and said, “Come Sonu! Let me drape this saree on you like a girl!”
“Don’t come near me!”, I shouted at her with anger. I was always ready to fight with her.
“Madhu, don’t tease him.”, Shikha didi intervened to save me.
“Mom! Look your youngest daughter is not listening to your order.”, Madhu complained to my mom. At that instant, I noticed a familiar wicked smile on her face. A smile that indicated that there was something evil she was going to do against me. She said to mom, “By the way, mom. You need to think of a name for your new daughter. Don’t you? Why don’t we call her Sonali?”, Madhu came up with my new name.
I was really angry inside with what Madhu said but I stood there helplessly staring at her while she smiled. And afraid of my mother’s wrath, I walked with Madhu to another room where she put on a petticoat, blouse and a saree on me. And a little later, she brought me out for everyone to see. If I have to be honest, I was not feeling any humiliation that day. It was not the first time I was dressed in girls’ clothes. I had two elder sisters who during their fun time, had dressed me in their clothes 3-4 times since my childhood. And I didn’t care much about that as I loved playing with them. Though not humiliation, but there was a fire raging inside my heart.
Mom looked towards me and said, “Sonali! Now, come with me to the kitchen and help me wash all the dishes and cook dinner. From now on, you will be doing this every morning and evening with me until you become an expert to do it on your own.”
“Mom! Have you gone mad? He needs to go to the school as well. Are you going to send him as a girl there?”, Shikha didi almost cried as she pleaded to my angry mother who seemed to have lost her mind.
“She can go to the school the way she likes. But when she is at home, she will be my daughter. Do you understand? Madhu, give all your old salwar suits to Sonali which no longer fits you. And donate all her boy clothes to poor people on the street.”, Mom ordered. I could not believe my mother was doing all this to me. Still, I had a faint hope in my heart that this is only a matter of day until my mother cools off. And everything will go back to normal once that happens.
“Sonali, what are you doing standing there? Go to the kitchen and start working”, Mom ordered me, and I walked behind her silently. That was the day I started my life as a woman. That day, my mother proclaimed that her son is dead to her. And for me, I stopped having a loving mother, in stead, she became Gitadevi or only Gita for me.
It has been several years since that day. And I still remember all those taunts my mother Gita had made over the years when she would make me work at home. I tried forgetting all those taunts, but today once again when I am Sonali at Shikha didi’s home, I am being restless in a bed. I can remember all those events once again. I wish I could forget all those and leave it behind me.
That fateful night after finishing all the chores with Gita, I went to see Shikha didi. I wanted to ask her for forgiveness. “Didi, whatever I said today was wrong. I never intended to hurt you. Please forgive me didi.”, I said to her while I managed my saree uncomfortably as a new girl. My Shikha didi embraced me with love and said, “Sonu, I know you never wish anything bad for your sister. It’s mom who made a big deal about this. I will talk to her tomorrow when she is in a better mood.” Shikha didi was sweet as an angel even after I had said those hurtful words to her. She only showered more love upon me. I put my face on her lap and cried all night.
Next day, my mother Gita made me cook breakfast for everyone, and then broom the whole house. And later when I went to school, she visited my school a few hours later to take me home. She had transferred me to a government school. I was a 13 years boy then, and my own mother was doing this to me. I came home hanging down my face. And when I reached my room and opened my closet for my clothes to change, all my clothes were gone. In stead, there were old salwar suits of my sisters Madhu and Shikha. I knew at that moment that I will have to live the life of a girl from now on. With a pain in my heart and a deep shame visible on my face, I took out one salwar suit to put it on. I covered my chest with a dupatta and walked towards the kitchen, where I was destined to take care of my homely duties as a daughter. I was becoming a daughter who I never really was.
To be continued …
This story has just started. There is so much more that is going to happen in the coming parts. Stay tuned!
Image Credits: Indian TV shows