I Wonder If My Parents Are Proud of Their Daughter.
I remember travelling to India two years ago, 18 years old. After a long, dreadful flight, getting off of that plane felt like the best thing that could have ever happened to me.
I walked out of the airport into the warm, foggy atmosphere at the crack of dawn, with the sun just starting to rise, and the humid Delhi air crawling ever so gently onto my skin.
I clearly recall seeing a family with a young Indian father holding his son outside of the airport and staring at him like he was a prized possession, the one and only thing he could ever love, while his daughter stood nearby, neglected and without any visible sign of affection from either parent. At that moment, I couldn’t help but wonder why she was being neglected.
Why was she not dressed in lavish clothing like her brother? Why didn’t she receive angelic stares? Unfortunately, this heartbreaking theme kept recurring throughout my time in India. It was remarkably eye-opening. I could finally shadow aspects of my own life through this sequence of events. If only I had come to these realizations sooner.
Let’s start from the very beginning: the glorious, innocent days of childhood, when I was young and oblivious like most children. When I was in elementary school, my family consisted of my older sister, my younger sister, and me. Everything felt equal, and I always seemed to have a push to better myself. I always wanted to be the nice girl that anyone could be friends with.
I was the nerd who did well in school to make my parents proud. What were the highlights throughout my elementary years? Joining any after-school clubs the school had to offer with my sisters. Isn’t it every kid’s dream to be able to go home and tell their parents about their endless hours of fun?
The science club was my favorite by far, I was able to make slime and volcanoes out of baking soda and vinegar. After all, it was all we were allowed to do.
When I turned seven, my little brother came into the picture. Little did I know at the time, he was the soon-to-be golden child. The one who would have endless freedom. The one my family would praise. Just like the little boy I remember seeing in India. I was oblivious.
Things started taking a turn in my life when I got into middle school. I felt vulnerable all the time, unaware, constantly anxious. But why? That was the one question I kept coming back to. Why? I desperately wanted friends, but I could not go up to someone and simply initiate a conversation.
I wanted to present my projects that I spent numerous hours preparing for in a successful manner, but my body became paralyzed with fear. Why? I couldn’t help but envy those who were able to create conversation and light up a room. Oh, how I wish I could, but every time I tried, my heart beat out of my chest, my anxiety pressed its hands against my mouth, and I kept quiet.
Starting high school, I now had the life of my brother’s to compare to mine. Not intentionally, but it just seemed to happen through observation.
Why was he allowed to go out to sketchy camping trips with his friends for several days, while I was restricted to merely the science club in school? Why was he allowed to go to numerous birthday parties and stay out past 12 am while I was restricted to 8 pm?
By the end of high school, I decided to inform my mom about my future plans for university, that the program I wished to pursue was outside of the city. Her rigid, cold, angry eyes immediately gave me my response. I get it, independence is a little bit shaky for anyone at first, but why is it this anger never shone upon boys who ask the same question? It’s totally okay because they’re boys, right?
It was insisted that I kept my studies short so I could get married within the next couple of years. To be “set for life” with a man who would nearly take full control of my life. Married? I am not ready for marriage, I am not even ready to be going to university independently at this rate.
I won’t throw my passion for school away to just get married, for someone who does not deserve to dictate my life while I am blossoming. My mom tied the knot when she was just 19 years old, an arranged marriage. Not to say that my dad is a bad person for her, because he isn’t, but it is extremely visible that my mom was held back from her true potential.
She was always one of the top students in her class, wanted to go to university to pursue her career, and couldn’t because she was forced into marriage. Oblivious, just like me. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful that my parents moved to Canada, but sometimes I just wish they left their heavy baggage of morals and principles behind them.
I can’t bear to be stuck in the same place my mom was at 19 years old just because safety and security through marriage is all she was taught.
Insanity enveloped my mind as these events and conversations were brought to light day by day. I had to start asking questions. I had to find out why I was being treated differently from my brother. I had to uncover these cultural realms I never knew existed. I finally unraveled my long-lost question: Why? Why was I so oblivious?
I had learned that sons are preferred, because culturally, when daughters get married, they live with their in-laws, and when the sons get married, they stay home and act as caregivers towards their parents. Sons are preferred because they are seen as an asset. Daughters? Nowhere near this. They are embarrassments at the very least. Seriously? I was furious.
My love and affection for my parents would never fade just because I got married and moved out because after all, I would not have an opportunity at life without them. It horrified me to also find out that my parents had planned on getting an abortion with my little sister because she was the third daughter conceived and my grandparents grieved over this.
What if they had followed through with their original decision? What if I were to never know my sister because her gender determined whether she should live or not?
The only time I ever felt somewhat free and open-minded was when I started university because it was the first time the heavy weight of restrictions felt like they got lifted off my body.
However, it only felt this way because I forced it upon myself. To this day, I still struggle to speak during social events, I still overanalyze my behaviors because I always think I am doing something wrong, and I still question if my parents are truly proud of me since I am the dreaded daughter.
I have suffered all these years of oblivion while only now realizing that the countless limitations placed on me are what stopped me from determining my true potential and my social capabilities. I am so much more than this, I just know it.
Remember the science club? It was all I was allowed to do. I was to go straight home after. No play-time with my friends. No going out to the movies. No fun sleepovers like every child would long for in their early years. I didn’t even know why.
I am now simply a slow-growing version of my prior unstable self, but I am improving. Day by day, I am trying to force myself to open up to new people I meet, trying to get my parents to stop treating us daughters as though we are not equal to a son, trying to break the cultural barrier that numerous young females continue to face.
I am trying because I refuse to be the neglected daughter whom I had seen outside the airport in India. We are worthy of being praised and admired too.
Rajina Thind resides in Calgary, Alberta. She is studying Health Science at Mount Royal University. She dances in her free time, and also has a passion for writing which she pursues when she gets a chance. She wishes to be an advocate for others who deal with mental health issues as she deals with them herself.