Bijayalaxmi Nanda


As I Negotiate my way through the narrow lanes of Jhansla
village of Patiala District with Surinder Kaur, the ASHA
(Accredited Social Health Activist) of the area, I am anxious
about my ability to elicit responses from my research group
participants. We stop at the high and formidable gates of a
double storied house. A slim, well dressed woman about 45
years of age opens the gate. She is Usharani. She warmly
welcomes us inside the compound of her house. Five to six
women sit on charpoys in the enclosure. A new–born infant lies
swaddled in blankets on one charpoy, watched over by an
emaciated young girl barely in her twenties. The ostensible
purpose of my visit there is to look at the beautiful phulkari
chunris embroidered by the young girls in the village as part of
a skill development programme of a local NGO. Usharani is
one of the coordinators of the programme. The chunris are
exhibited and I take the opportunity to do an ice-breaking
exercise by appreciating the intricacy of the embroidery and
making small-talk with the participants. In way of
conversation I nd out that the little infant is Usharani's rst
grand-daughter born to her rst-born son. I gently prod
whether she was happy at having a granddaughter and she
replies in the afrmative. 'What if the next is a girl,' I ask. She
looks worried at my question, but remains calm 'We will
welcome her', she says. 'And the next?', I ask again. This time
her daughter-in-law the emaciated young girl in her 20s looks
at me with fear in her deep-set eyes. I was speaking the
unspeakable, questioning the unquestionable. What if she
gave birth to no son? She looks as if her life is hung in the
balance on my question. Usharani's polite demeanour slips at
this point. Her voice became menacing 'even if she has to give
birth to 10 daughters, she will, so that she nally begets a son.
'Do not', she warns me. 'frighten my daughter-in-law with such
ideas.' The young daughter-in-law becomes panic–stricken
and the other women around us shift uncomfortably in their
seats. An uneventful lazy afternoon is suddenly transformed
into one of frightening and uncomfortable truths....

Full Text:



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Datta, Nonica, Violence, Martyrdom and Partition: A Daughter’s Testimony,

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