The World Daughter’s Day is celebrated in different parts of the world mostly in the last week of September and in some countries on October 1st. International Day of the Girl Child is also celebrated on 11th October as marked by the United Nations Organisation. Every year, in fact every now and then, I am reminded of one of the most precious acquaintances of my life whom I actually couldn’t meet ever again. I met her in the post-op room in a Pakistani hospital after giving birth to my youngest child. I somehow started crying in a post-anesthesia condition, may be due to post-natal depression. One of the ladies from the janitor staff of the theatre consoled me. She tried to facilitate me by engaging in a little chat about my kids and congratulating on birth of a healthy son. She got to know that this was supposed to be my last cesarean section. When she found out that I had two sons already, she patted me and said, “Don’t cry ma’am! I also don’t have a daughter”. I have never forgotten her. This was an unexpected consolation from a woman who belonged to the lower stratum of a patriarchal society where the birth of a boy is always welcomed, and that of a girl, almost never. I have come across people from apparently educated background, many a times women themselves, showing their ‘grief’ on birth of a girl. A usual response is, “Don’t worry, you can always hope for a boy next time”, implying that a daughter’s birth is essentially a reason to get worried, a burden to be borne. To depict someone’s helplessness a convenient remark is, “Oh, he is so poor and has daughters”, implying that daughters are an indication and reason of added poverty. Even the street beggars upon seeing a pregnant woman would pray for a baby boy instead of wishing the birth of a healthy child. And here was this friend of mine whom I met for the first and the last time in a post-operation room, who could relate to the agony of a mother for not having a daughter. She understood what I was going to miss in my life because she too missed the blessing. I sometimes think of starting a hash tag in this social media era of #metoomisshavingadaugthter. Let’s celebrate our daughters, their birth, their presence, and their personal, academic and professional achievements. They don’t need our sympathies; they need our love and trust. Their future is in good hands; their own Don’t some of us often ponder why we despise having a daughter and cherish the birth of a son? Even mothers want to give birth to the gender different from their own. A popular response to this question is that it’s not the daughters who are ‘feared’ but it’s their fate. There’s this essential phenomenon of departure associated with a daughter’s birth, since she is supposed to move away from her parents’ home one day, and culturally the sooner the better. Therefore, a most forlorn cultural phrase in many parts of subcontinent is that daughters may not be given much of the love because they have to depart. One of the popular wedding songs in Punjab addresses girls as “chirian da chanba”, a flock of birds that migrates, and theirs is a permanent migration. They are wedded off with an advice that the home where they settle (or try to) after marriage must be left only after death. The option of returning to their birthplace is not open to them, the known becomes alien and the alien (bigana) has to be known and adapted. Another verse of the song conveys the message that the courtyard where a girl played with her dolls does not belong to her anymore –it actually never did. The brother and his children are now going to have the ownership, in fact by virtue of being the male child; the brother had the ownership right at his birth. This song depicts a conversation between a bride and her beloved father. She tries to make a symbolic excuse that it may be difficult for her palanquin to pass through the gate of her father’s house and he responds that he can always get a few bricks removed to let it through. The fathers are traditionally expected to accept that they have to carry this responsibility of sending off their beloved daughters to an unseen future, how so ever difficult it may seem. Departure is inevitable. The ‘good daughters’ were expected not to visit their parents’ home quite often for it may disturb their brothers’ settled lives and the ‘good parents’ don’t visit their daughters’ home very often for it was against the norms and it belittled a daughter’s status in her new home. Another Punjabi folk song, that I have always found beautiful but a bit too dreary, depicts a conversation between a daughter and her mother. It refers to the wheat harvest season in Punjab that is traditionally a celebration time because it means economic output of a tedious labor. It also is a time for a family bonding for everyone participates in different stages of harvesting and storing crops. A daughter misses her own family in such times of collective celebration. The verses reflect a meeting of daughters and their mothers. I have always wondered why essentially such a meeting has to be based on talk of grief and gloom (mawan tedhian galankarain dian dukhandian). Perhaps a mother is the only solace in the world with whom you can share your inner most feelings and sorrows, and all that a married daughter was supposed to have to share was sorrow. The daughter complains to her mother for giving birth to a daughter (dhian kyon jamian ni maye). She talks of her visit to her parents’ home and how the wife of her brother locked up the rooms for her, the very rooms where she once belonged. She has no ‘dawa’, claim anymore on the place where she was born and grew up (bhabian saran jandrey ni mai, mera hun koi dawa vi na). The last stanza is particularly deeply melancholic. Mittida butt main banani aa nimai, Ohde gal lag keroniaan, Mitti da butt naboldanimai, Main rorohaalganwa, Kankan lamian dhian kyon jamian ni o mai (I try to make myself a clay statue for I am desperate for a shoulder to cry on, and I share my feelings with it, but it doesn’t speak, O mother! my heart aches this harvest season. Why were we daughters even born?) This is a popular song with deep strong lyrics and is sung in an even more beautiful tune in almost all of Punjab. It is one of my favorite songs, though I never want it to be sung. It portrays a very dismal picture of womanhood. This social conditioning regarding suppressed position of women has to change. Maybe these verses should remain as a symbolic part of our cultural heritage to reflect the strength of women’s empowerment movement. With decades long effort, women have carved their way out of that mode of helplessness. They have surpassed their vulnerability identity to an enlightened and empowered status. What needs to be remembered is the grace with which the ladies in the past struggled to behold the balance between the traditions and development. They paved the way for empowerment movement to be launched. Any human rights campaign must consider the plight of those counterparts who have still not benefitted from the accomplishments of such movements and continue to be considered ‘curse’ for being born a woman. Let’s use our education and privilege to empower and emancipate others. Let’s write new songs of legacy of love and compassion with an added flavor of independent thinking and self-confidence. My consoling friend in the post-op room was not very educated but she was wise enough to know what a blessing a girl child is. A daughter’s birth is to be rejoiced. She remains the strength of her parents wherever she is, in their home, in her professional environment or as a strengthening pillar of her new family. Let’s celebrate our daughters, their birth, their presence, and their personal, academic and professional achievements. They don’t need our sympathies; they need our love and trust. Their future is in good hands, their own hands. Let’s stop fearing for their fate and help them decide and make it themselves. Published in Daily Times, September 30th 2018.