Some Hindu mythology terms used in the text...
Kanjka ...a name given to the young girl avatar of the goddess Durga.
Devi ... goddess
Halwa poori and chana ...the traditional dishes made as an offering to the Godess.
Maha astami ...a auspicious date in hindu calender
Navratra...a nine day period in hindu calender when Godess Durga is considered to visit the worldly ...
The day of maha ashtami during Navratra is considered special for worshiping the kanya roop (young girl avatar) of the Devi. Young girls from all over the neighborhood are invited and worshiped, their feet are washed and they are seated on a decorated place and offered the traditional halwa poori and chana. They are worshiped like any other God, in this case Devi (goddess). In the northern parts of India, young girls are called Kanjka on this day, Kanjka is the name given for the young girl avatar of the Goddess.
I witnessed something very obvious which has happened in our society recently. Still it remains oblivious.
Early in the morning i saw a middle aged lady searching for kanjkas in the neighborhood and muttering how there are no kanjakas 'available' these days.
What i see in my neighborhood is that people call the daughters of maids and other workers to perform this pooja which is considered to bring good luck and prosperity (all kinds of worshiping is done with a sole purpose), the maids bring a group of young girls with them, often all the young girls from their locality, and they visit the apartments one after the other.
Now , don't get me wrong as i do not have anything against feeding these young girls(from slums) and offering them some gifts on this occasion. I myself used to invite many of my friend's daughters and some maids' daughters (and sons too) for maha ashtami pooja some years ago and it used to be a great picnic for all the kids. For me it used to be a nice get together of kids which my daughter also enjoyed and many kids would refuse to go home.
I would come to what came upon me today seeing that middle aged woman asking for the kanjkas .... Aajkal kanjkan milti hi nahi hain ( these kanjakas are not available these days)... I was reminded of a day when i overheard this lady advising another younger pregnant lady , asking weather she has got the 'tests' done. She was saying ...hamare zamaane me to ye test hote nahi the to humne kuchh nahi kiya, ab toh mauka hai , beta hi kar lo .....(these tests were not available in our times but now you should try for a son as there are options).....A quick flash back flickered before my eyes and i have been thinking about the morals we have as a society.
Incidentally , the trade and practice of sex determination and preferential abortions has picked up in the last decade only , may be a little earlier Although there were other practices like killing the girl child after birth in some parts of the country but this particular 'sex determination test' thing has made it more convenient for the people who think that aborting a female foetus is not murder and there is nothing wrong in doing that. I will talk about this mind set a little later, but this sudden unavailability of kanjakas (young girls during navaratra) is a recent phenomenon. I guess girls aged below 10 would be even lesser in numbers than the already skewed gender ratio.
Interestingly , the gender ratio doesn't seem to be affected amongst the slum dwellers . Is it due to the unavailability of means for them or ignorance of such 'divine facilities'. Or it is due to the fact that their social fabric is different from the mainstream society . The woman is often the sole bread earner and worker by all means. Or just more working hands irrespective of gender. They seems to be the providers of Kanjkas of maha ashtami for a long time to come. Idols for worships come from the most unlikely places and go back to the oblivious life they live.
How the same people who worship the kanjakas whole heartedly are the same people who advocate those 'tests' and advice young couples to abort a female foetus . Isn't that shocking? I wouldn't be surprised to see the couple who chose to abort a female foetus , inviting young girls and worshiping them for the prosperity they thought their own daughter would have hindered.
I am talking of my own experience...
I have seen people of my generation (earlier i used to think our generation is the one who would bring change)
justifying sex determination and female foeticide. It was numb shocking for me to see a friend of mine whose family includes 4 doctors and a lawyer, choose to abort a female foetus...which would have been her second daughter. Yes, i am ashamed of that friend of mine. It was even more shameful when she tried to convince me how there is no life in the foetus till.....
I will tell you something even more shocking. This was a person who used to talk like an activist, talking about women's rights all the time in our college days and rebelling against every restriction she thought society is putting on women. The question is , how these people turn deaf and dumb when it's their turn to act. They want everything from the society, condemn the society when their own conveniences are denied and bend the moralities in their own favor whenever required , for their own convenience. Are we a nation of self centered people? Pointing a finger to others when norms are inconvenient for us and keeping our eyes shut when we ourselves do a crime....
And we worship the kanjka.....
And i question the activist types more.....just because i have seen more fake activists in my life.
Do we use activism as a means to make the societal fabric convenient for ourselves only ?
Do we work from our own side to make the societal structure conducive for overall growth , including equal rights for women and children and for other people deprived of human rights?
Do we know that demanding for equal rights and working for equal rights could be more result oriented if we would have worked for self empowerment and awareness (i would call it awakening) ?
I was just thinking if today being maha ashtami , some people might have performed this pooja first thing in the morning and went on to do this business of sex selection as their 'job' .
Or in some family the discussions of aborting a female foetus might have been hush hushed just for today or they might have gone ahead with their plans after performing the pooja at home...
I am wondering.....