Years had passed since Hye-jin last met her housing complex friends. Everyone had become older and wiser, but the most substantially changed person was Hye-jin. Without Jie-won by her side, she no longer indulged in fun and frolic; she seemed to be serious with a mission. In this very welcome meeting, she tried to set an agenda for the year. She’d returned to the call of the instinctive spirit Jie-won had unleashed with these couples.
She said: ‘I request you all to continue the battle Jie-won started against traditional boundaries. I have to fight one more battle for me, the battle of women in the patriarchal society’.
She continued, ‘Recently, I’ve listened to Smriti Irani’s speech in India’, said Hye-jin, ‘In one public gathering, Smriti invited a speaker on the stage and introduced her as a woman, who was arrested for attempted murder of a 3-day old baby.
The audience was furious; one and all, everyone in the crowd wanted to bring her down and beat her to death. The speaker calmly said, ‘Yes, you have correctly heard – I was arrested, because I did try to kill my 3-day old daughter, my third daughter. Please listen why -
When I went to the hospital to give birth to my baby three days ago, my husband said, ‘We have two daughters already; we must have a son this time. If you don’t get a boy this time, don’t bring the newborn home’. I knew everyone in my in-laws family had the same wish as my husband had.
Still I came back from the hospital with my newborn, my third daughter. My husband went on insisting ‘kill her before she lives more days with us and demands affection’. So I did; on the second night after my return from the hospital, when the baby was just 3-day old. I breastfed her with all my love, then laid her on a mat, with no warm clothes on, no blankets protecting her from cold. I put the mat, with my daughter on it, in the lawn before our hut. I wanted her to die. You might have some ideas how cold winter nights are in Punjab – often less than zero degree.
Next morning, at 8am, the police knocked at our door and threatened to arrest me for killing a 3-year old girl. I begged to take the girl off the mat, before hand-cuffs were put on my wrists. As I touched the girl - she cried. I took on my baby girl and in front of everyone – the police, my husband, my in-laws and the neighbours who came to see me arrested – I bared my breasts and fed my daughter. If she could fight 10 hours of cold winter in Punjab, with no protection, she can survive against all odds against women in her life. I was still arrested, but I took my daughter with me, and promised to make her strong and educated so that she survives in the male-dominated society.’
‘We often demand equal opportunity for women’, Hye-jin continued. ‘I want to build equal capability in women, so that they can earn as good a remuneration as men do. I want women to be physically strong so that they can defend themselves. You have boys and girls in schools. Let them be trained in self-defence, karate etcetera, as well as in professional education, so that when they attain marriageable age, women should be on a par with men. Let women choose their partners in the same way men choose theirs.’
The women of the group admired Hye-jin’s proposal. Each planned to become associated with the schools of their kids and organise changes to make women self-sufficient.
Hye-jin entered Jie-won’s study and felt the warmth of his heart. She looked at his libraries, both on his desktop and his bookshelves. She found that Jie-won was working on his post-PhD thesis on Minimising Exploitation of People by Preventing Misuse of Age-old Traditional Rules and Regulations.
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