Back in 1991, when we got the Santa Clausian gifts of liberalisation and globalisation, a loony tycoon encouraged his daughter to flee the mandap, where she was set to marry an unfaithful film star, and go into the arms of her journo lover. The film was Dil Hai Ke Manta Nahin, and it was Anupam Kher who tempted Pooja Bhatt to follow her heart and shock the hell out of a conservative society. Four years later, the walnut-like Amrish Puri (hard outside, soft inside) went a step further when he told Kajol in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge: “Ja Simran ja, jee le apni zindagi.” Life, in this case, was an all-expenses-paid holiday across Europe, with an alpine romance being the unexpected icing on the cake. In their own ways, Anupam and Amrish kick-started the Beti Bhagao movement. Wildly empowered, India’s reel/real daughters haven’t looked back since then.
Cut to 2015. The spoilsport NDA sarkar believes that girls have had enough fun and it’s time to bachao (save) and padhao (educate) them. The saffron brigade is fast turning pink. The government, left red-faced by controversies, is right now busy saving its own beleaguered betis —Vasundhara Raje, Sushma Swaraj and Smriti Irani — who have provided much-needed colour to the disunited Opposition’s cheeks. The bigger objective is to ensure that girls outnumber boys in our male-dominated country, with Haryana chief minister ML Khattar being especially keen on Beti Badhao. The BJP has probably got hold of some putrijeevak beej that can turn the skewed sex ratio on its head.
Superstar Salman Khan, a Modi-cum-Hanuman bhakt, has done his bit for the mission by playing the guardian angel to a Pakistani girl in cross-border blockbuster Bajrangi Bhaijaan. The irony is that Sallu and Khattar are wearing their fatherly feelings on their sleeve, despite both being bachelors who have long resisted the marital trap.
My nearly-six daughter is not amused by the turn of events. Such is her male-child fixation that she has given her mom-dad two years flat to get a brother for her. I tell her that it’s politically incorrect, socially unfashionable and medically suspicious to produce sons in the current scenario, but my multi-syllable words are like water off a duck’s back. My insistence that a sister is good company too is met with Baahubalian resistance. Thank God there’s no Shakespeare in her UKG syllabus; otherwise she would have cited King Lear, who had only one loyal beti out of three. My kiddo is no less cartoon-crazy than her peers, but she doesn’t want to keep tying the rakhi to Doraemon all her life. She has a point: a soft toy doesn’t give anything in return.
Even as my Nanhi Chhaan’s ultimatum is giving me sleepless nights, I lament the fact that nobody is sparing a thought for the poor, pampered sons. Considered inferior to girls in India today, the boys have been written off as a lost cause, beyond redemption. The general impression is that these misguided missiles can neither be bachaoed nor padhaoed. I fear that if the NDA completes three-four terms on the trot, finding an Arun Jaitley-like damaad within the country might get as tough for me as looking for hair on Anupam Kher’s head. It would be terrible if my daughter goes about stealing her friends’ husbands one day, simply because she wouldn’t have one of her own. Can’t let that happen, folks. After a hearty lunch (burrrp), I’m launching a hunger strike in support of the BBC (Beta Bachao Campaign).Wanna join me before dinner?