Last month, I took my daughter to watch the new Cinderella movie. Fairy tales are beautiful and this one gave out a message that I liked. Cinderella's dying mother said to her, "promise me that you'll always have courage, be kind, and believe in a little bit of magic." My daughter, who will be three soon, asked what that meant. I explained to her in the best possible way you can explain courage and kindness to a toddler that gets distracted with literally anything shiny. Or butter popcorn. Magic though, was easier to explain. She has been repeating 'Have Courage. Be Kind. Magic!' to her toys, so I guess I did okay.
Last month, Saina Nehwal claimed the number 1 spot in World Badminton ranking - first Indian woman to make it happen. She personally thanked a lot of people on Twitter the same day, with so much grace and humility that we only rarely witness in, well, celebrities. What's even more amazing is that she went on to win the India Open title the very next day. You'd think the entire World-Number-One pressure would get to her, and it must be a huge pressure only few of us can comprehend - but courage is what makes all the difference, doesn't it?
Last month, Anushka Sharma was targeted and blamed because Virat Kohli failed to perform in the World Cup semi-finals. The fact that he did extremely well in all the previous matches was just trivia. And the fact that the semi-finals were against a much better team, was just overshadowed by how a girl brought bad luck to a nation. There were funny memes floating all over the internet, enraged cricket fans tweeted pretty nasty stuff like asking for a ban - since we were on a Ban-Spree sometime back anyway - on girlfriends and wives going to watch so-called "important stuff", and downright cruel Facebook posts suggesting that girls jinx a man's performance (no pun intended). The teeny tiny detail that it was Virat who did not do well, or that it was against a better team that then went on to become the World Cup winners, or even the fact that it is after all a game where sometimes you *might* lose - didn't seem to catch anyone's attention.
Last month, a girl animal-activist was beaten up by - get this - the women residents of a Delhi housing society because she tried to sterilize the stray dogs against their will. About fifty women roughed her up, humiliated her and verbally and mentally abused her, while the dog she was rescuing clung to her. All this happened as the friendly and helpful police men stood watching. The fact that the girl actually had a legal document for the task was brushed aside as 'This is India, anyone can forge a document.'
Last month, thousands of bloggers participated in the #1000Speak campaign, blogging against bullying and urging for compassion. Oh, the irony!
While we teach our daughters to have courage, we ridicule the ones who actually do. While we teach our daughters to be kind, we physically hurt the one who actually show kindness. And while we hope our daughters will believe in magic, we act otherwise by saying that a girl can summon bad luck on a nation.
All this led to sleepless nights. What the hell is going on, I wondered, mostly as a mother of a girl child. While all these women showed courage and kindness, and just good sense in general, it made me jittery. It is scary, really. We talk about women empowerment, we outrage over Feminism and we 'Like' the Support The Girl Child campaigns. And then, we ridicule, torment and beat up our girls.
Girls, last month, made me wonder what is going so terribly wrong for us. I wondered what is wrong with us as a society. Is this the kind of place we want to bring our girls in? Before we talk about saving the girl child and women empowerment, shouldn't we first learn to treat them with empathy and respect?
It is a process, I know. It takes time, changing mindsets and patterns is tough. And I believe we can function as a healthy society if we have courage to stand up for what's right, have kindness for those who need it and those who might not, and believe in a little bit of magic that someday - hopefully soon - we will learn to treat our girls right.
And until the big change, let's take small steps and begin by not resorting to demeaning things that we'd never let our daughters go through. Will it matter? Of course it will. Will it change things on a broader level? Well, here's hoping! If the past month has taught me anything, it is that after everything that went down, girls last month were irrepressible. It's a good sign.