Excerpt from my story, Maya

Maya, the seemingly physical force of nature that is borne out of nothingness, wove her spell under a starry night. A girl of inexplicable beauty was born in the shambles of an Indian village hospital. Wide open eyes and hypnotic features spoke of wonder, but as she was a female child, her entire family was gravely disappointed by her. After a moment of awe and inspiration, her mother turned her head down in shame. Her father heard the news and felt assured of his wife’s poor reproductive abilities. He sighed and went on with his work, as there was no need to rush to his wife’s side.

They belonged to a class of people who relied on sons for their lineage and their work. They were farmers. A daughter gave them no continuity, no dowry, nothing but burdens. A daughter needed to be married off.

The mother, Kajal, came home quietly with her child, to the small house where she lived with her in-laws and their two sons. They had daughters in other houses, which they had been married into by paying a dowry so that the women could work as servants, cooking and cleaning, without wages and without the simple freedom to go out, work, study or do anything that required showing themselves to the world. One daughter’s husband gave her money and the freedom to run the household, so she was content in her role. The other daughter, however, had no say in finances and neither did she have authority in the home: her in-laws dictated everything from what needed to be cooked, to what clothes her children should wear. She could stand up to them, but she was sure that if she did, she would be thrown out of the house, bringing shame on her family.

So when Kajal came into the house with her first-born, a girl-child, she was afraid and disappointed for her child and for herself. “Nevermind,” said her mother-in-law, who clearly did mind. “Let me see the baby”. Kajal handed over the bundle, and her grandmother looked at the creature with curiosity. “Oh she is beautiful,” said the old woman. “She would be easy to marry off in a good family.” Kajal nodded and took the baby into her room to be fed. Since no-one was interested in the child, she took the authority in naming her baby. She called her ‘Maya’, the Hindu name for illusion, which is often used to describe something beautiful but inherently unreal.

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