You Go, Girl!

One aspect of Nepali/Southasian culture that I find unsettling is the unequal treatment that many parents give to sons and daughters. To generalize: little boys have attention and funds lavished on them, little girls are expected to keep quiet and help mum with the washing up.

When I was 18 I spent 4 months living with an Indian family in Tamil Nadu. I was often woken up first thing in the morning by the dulcet tones of their small son, Mughil, screaming his head off about something, and being comforted by his mother. Also the brisk thwack of a chappal on the head of Sudar, their daughter, followed by a little murmur of protest. Or sometimes nothing at all. Sudar was smart, affectionate and well behaved, but her parents often lost their tempers with her. Mughil, although lovable in his own way, was a little shit most of the time. I say this from bitter experience because he once tried to throw my passport into the septic tank behind the house two days before I was due to go home to England. His wickedly glinting eyes seemed to say if I do this, you will have to stay in Chenglepattu for ever and ever and EVER. ‘Small boys are like this,’ said his mother, looking on indulgently, as her son brandished that all-important burgundy-red booklet above his head. Maybe she also wanted me to stay in Chenglepattu for ever and ever and ever.

Navaneeta Dev Sen’s essay ‘The Essential Orphan: the Girl Child’ in the recent anthology In Search of Sita:Revisiting Mythology, suggests that a traditional patriarchal family set-up makes orphans of all girl children because their parents know that she is destined to be married into another family and that her loyalty will lie with them (see earlier blog post here). However, when she becomes a daughter in law, her new family will never quite get over thinking of her as an outsider.

I know that there are plenty of Indian/Nepali families who would never treat a girl child like this, but in general let’s just say that life can be pretty grim for daughters in these parts.

This is why, whenever I see little Nepali girls being naughty or acting up, I smile a little bit inwardly. And sometimes outwardly too.

'I'm about to do something VERY naughty'

'Want to interview my Mummy, videshi? Well, we are gonna sing REALLY loudly in your ear while you try!'

Yes, you go for it sano naniharu of Nepal!


2 Responses to “You Go, Girl!”

  1. chris gutkind Says:

    I hope you smile mostly outwardly for them so they know it! πŸ™‚

  2. I will try to do so in future πŸ˜‰

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