Any Males?



Himalayan Hospital, Dehradun, India

“Who is with Siddiqui?”, an irate voice calls out on the microphone. I flinch briefly at the absence of a respectful prefix before my father’s name. My sister nudges me and I rise from the hard plastic chair in the waiting room and swiftly walk towards the voice.

“I am—Mr. Siddiqui’s daughter”, I hoist myself on my toes to reach the speak-hole in the giant polycarbonate window around the mustached man with the angry voice.

“Any men with you? Brother?Uncle? Who’s going to make the payment for Siddiqui’s admission?”, he says inspecting my face like a detective.I quickly unzip my cross-body purse and hand him my debit card and he diverts himself to the computer screen in front of him.

I want to yell yes, I have brothers but today we sisters are here to take care of our father.The gender discrimination here is going to be stronger than the antiseptic smell but I am not going to complain or challenge. Not here.

If father wasn’t lying helpless in the steel stretcher, his commanding voice would have put this sexist man in place. He had raised daughters like sons against all societal barriers and kibitzer pieces of advice. He had cordoned us off the kitchen and sent us out of town for higher studies—which was unprecedented in the extended family.

*** 

“Room No 309 attendant, report to the nurses’ station”, a woman’s voice thundered on the loudspeaker. My sister and I slipped on our shoes and ran before the “I repeat....”

“Any men with you? This medicine has to be bought from outside”, the tall head-nurse stared at us from her kohl-rimmed eyes bulging out of her oval glasses. I grab the prescription, ask her where it could be purchased and we run towards the sign saying exit.

*** 

“Siddiqui attendant, report to the ICU immediately!” a hurried voice calls out before quickly jumping to the next announcement. We brace ourselves, take off our shoes and enter the otherwise forbidden territory.

We stand face-to-face with a senior resident doctor beside father’s bed. “Any men with you? Someone has to sign this high-risk consent form”, he pushed a paper towards us. I detect some intimidating words with translucent eyes and sign at the vacant underlined space with stone fingers.

He continues to say something we could neither hear nor discern which ends with ‘Understand?’ We nod our heads like puppets and stare at father’s rising and falling chest beneath the stark white sheet.

***

My brother helps the driver ease the stretcher into the rickety ambulance. My sister and I sit on the opposite wooden bench.

“Is Bhaiyya (brother) not riding with you? Any other man?” the driver asks with an astonishment that could be meted out to a road splitting open autonomously.

“Bhaiyya will follow in his car. You can start and drive carefully”, my sister curtly tells him. I am amazed at her mountainous courage to still speak but am thankful she does because my lips are sealed.

We pull the bench close, bolstering our father against the bumps and potholes en route his last journey home.

We were the men he raised.



Linking with #MondayMusings

Editors' Feedback:

Blah blah “show don’t tell” blah. You’ve heard it before. But this essay is exactly what I’m talking about when I say it. Instead of repeating how tiresome it is to be constantly told you’re lesser based on your gender, Sara uses techniques like repetition and time jumps to show the reader how tiring it really is to hear that on all sides, when you’re just trying to live your life and take care of business. Ultimately this is a story about grief, but one about power, too, about what it takes to get through a day when you should be supported by the people who instead constantly question your worth and ability, what it takes to prove, again and again, that you can do simple tasks like buying medicine even when you know that you’re a perfectly capable human. By the end of the essay my jaw was set and my teeth were gritted in a real, physical reaction to the constant stream of microaggressions she laid out for us without asking for sympathy or telling us what she was writing about. And that’s what we want to do as essayists: put our readers so deeply in our own shoes that they share our emotions without us having to explain what we’re feeling.



Comments

  1. Stunningly powerful writing. Some of your phrases packed immense punch.
    This line, in particular, stood out for me:
    "The gender discrimination here was going to be stronger than the antiseptic smell but I wasn’t going to complain or challenge. Not here."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Ram, sadly the story is true.Wish it wasn't.

      Delete
  2. This is so touching. the last line summed up Mr.Siddiqui's character. He has raised his daughters to be strong, independent yet caring and emotional.
    Instead of raising kids as males or females , isn't it right to raise them as humans ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are right Kalpana. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Delete
  3. Anonymous8:55 AM

    Translucent eyes and stone fingers... beautiful yet haunting comparisons. A very powerful piece.

    -Larisanjou

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Lari, I loved your early morning bus ride!

      Delete
  4. Such a powerfull impact it has.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Your father must have been an amazing man. I'm sorry for your loss, but so glad you had someone like him. You were heroic in your persistence to care for him. You told this beautifully, dwelling just enough on the grief. My one suggestion would be that you didn't need to name the gender discrimination because it came through so clearly with the details of the story. Well done.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes,you are so right! I should have omitted the line,its unnecessary.Gotta be more careful next time.
      Thank you so much taking out time to read and providing feedback.

      Delete
  6. Sara, this was really well structured. The time/place jumps were smooth, and separating the story into different sections worked really well to emphasise your thesis. Your attention to the details -- the polycarbonate window framing the moustached man, the lack of a respectful prefix to your father's name, the removal and donning of your shoes, the bench seats in the ambulance -- all worked so well to show, not tell, your powerlessness in the situation.

    The strength and courage your father had imbued in you and your sister was very clear, so the last line felt a little out of place. The rest of your piece had so vividly showed your insistence on being recognised despite not being a man, and it felt somewhat antithetical to resign yourselves to being the men your father raised. It would have been so powerful to see you claim that strength as women - be the women your father raised instead.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is brilliant advice,Asha! Yes, we were the women he raised.Why din't I see it?This is what happens when you have another set of eyes on your work.I edited a couple times, modified lines but totally overlooked the last one.Thanks a ton for teh valuable advice.

      Delete
  7. Your Father must be happy reading this Sara. I am sad for your Loss. You brought out this in an intense way. Some powerful phrases here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Upasna aka minimalist!

      Delete
  8. I remember everything so vividly.

    ReplyDelete
  9. This is absolutely brilliant writing! I came across this piece thanks to the editor's pick and it deserves every bit of praise. Stunning and fluid piece where even the time jumps are worked in so evocatively! Yeah Write brings out the best in writers.

    So very very sorry for your loss. The grief is so palpable here as is the simmering anger at the inequal treatment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Shailaja, your feedback means a lot to me!

      Delete
  10. This is indeed a wonderful example of 'show, don't tell'. I loved the way you utilized time jumps too. Looking forward to reading more fiction from you.

    And I am so sorry for your loss. I hope you and your family find the strength and acceptance to deal with the loss of your father. He seemed to be a wonderful man, and I am sure he must have been so proud of you.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Wonderful Sara and as an Indian woman, I can completely relate to this.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Oh Sara I am so sorry for your loss. The hospital is traumatic during this time and I laud your strength to go through it with such equanimity.

    As for the sarkari attitude over being treated like third class citizen vis-a-vis our sex - this is a standard case of every where in India, not just relegated to small town or villages. Its annoying and pissing off and someday the next Gen of women is going to create a palatable furore over it right then and there.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Your writing is powerful. I could not just see you and your sister but also imagine what a wonderful person your father must have been from that one line about him. So very sorry for your loss.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Your thoughts resonate strongly in this post Sara! Powerful yet heart felt post. Great write-up i must say. I am so sorry for your loss. No doubt Mr.Siddiqui raised a brilliant woman. I am sure he would have been proud of you. Loved reading your post!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Beautiful! I could relate to this on so many levels

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment