Ganga, The Girl Child

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NImi is a partition baby in the truest sense. She was born in a train carrying refugees from Pakistan to India. Many did not make it. Nimi almost did not. Not because of the savagery of those times. But because of a savagery that exists even now. In abundance. Because Nimi was bundled up in a cloth by her aunt (mother’s sister in law) and thrown out in a Nallah as the train stopped. For her Aunt knew the plight of her Nimi’s mother. With partition, and her husband away looking for a new life and work, , Nimi’s aunt did not want her brother and sister-in-law burdened with a girl child. She told Nimi’s mother that the child was still born. But the mother insisted on seeing the dead child. And found the little baby still alive and breathing. Today Nimi is married with two children, has a flourishing career as a designer, and a beautiful family of her own. She has forgiven her aunt, because both she and her mother understood why. But now NImi wants to tell the world that the girl child is not a burden if you do not consider her one. So she has started a movement called Ganga. It is the name she has given the doll she designed you see above, representing the girl child and her dreams, ambitions and future. Through this doll she hopes to create a movement for the rights of the girl child to live and survive with dignity and hope.
Read further for Nimi’s own narrative titles STILL BORN, some of which was posted earlier on our blog.


The Girl Child : A personal journey by Nimi Khanna
“STILL BORN”.My aunt announces loudly. But she had already kept the gunny bag ready. She hurriedly throws me into it. It’s dark inside. I am suffocating. The bag is tightened.
I struggle to breathe. I am thrown. Into a drain.
My tiny hands cannot move.
My little legs are numb.
The small world I momentarily knew becomes silent.
I am getting wet.I am cold.
I am tired and hungry.
I am now losing the energy to move…..
Suddenly I hear a loud voice. A strong voice. A determined voice saying,”..but I still want to see the face of my still born child.” The bag is lifted. Two gentle hands, soft hands,warm hands reach inside the bag.
The first touch–my Mother!
She screams, she cries…”my baby, my baby”.
I move, I begin to kick.I am alive!
SHE’S NEW BORN ,NOT STILL BORN.” She is a little girl”, my mother announces.
“Yes, a girl and she is a curse” shouts my aunt. My mother’s gentle arms tighten around me. I am safe.
I am Ganga .I am named after the kind river that flows from the melting snows of the Himalayas.
“It gives life to people, animals and plants”My mother says “Some bad people make it dirty but still it continues to flow. May my little girl. become like this river, the ever flowing nurturer” I love Amma. She is so clever and wise. She sings to me. She tells me many stories. From her I learn to knit ,embroider, crochet. She teaches me to cook. My big brother runs around teasing me.
“You are a girl ,so you have to learn these girlie things.”
I stick my tongue out at him and cry. Amma lifts me and puts me on the swing and pushes ir higher and higher. Amma’s happy voice rings in my ears”
“Ganga, go touch the skies ! There is nothing Bhaiya can do that girls cannot”.
Bhaiya later became a chartered accountant. I entered the man’s world too, and became an investment banker. But I continue to knit. One purl, one knit,one purl,one knit,on and on I go… Hey, this is like counting beads. There is nothing girlie about it. Bhaiya needs councillors to get answers for his bussiness problems. I pick up Amma’s needles and go…one knit, one purl,one knit.
Like meditation, it connects me to myself.
Actually,it has even connected me to my Bhaiya. He called the other day asking me to teach his two teenage girls how to knit.
I am Ganga a powerful force of joy and giving. Like that great river I have no prejudices about the past,
nor any fears of the future.
I flow joyously in the moment, only in the moment.
My gunny bag opened and I got a chance to live. Many other bags never get opened.
Continuing the STORY OF GANGA- THE GIRL CHILD. One knit, one purl, one knit, one purl, one knit…the ball of yarn, it moves,it dances, it cavorts, on the carpet under my feet.It keeps unravelling as Amma’s needles that I safely keep,continue clicking….one knit, one purl, one knit.
Soon, the diminishing ball would become a speck.The yarn will finish,and the bag will get completed. Just in time
for my birthday. Y..E..S that little girl Ganga is sixty years now..
‘”Happy Birthday My Ganga”, Amma would shout into my ear every birthday and wake me.Till, I was four, she would
lift me and throw me in the air.Once I became heavy she would lead me into a dance and twirl and twirl me till I
stopped saying “More, more.” My handknitted bag is now ready.The pattern was given by her.Each stitch was taught by her. Sitting on her lap,holding both my hands with the needles she would wrap the yarn around and show me the basic stitch..one knit ,one purl..
It was Amma who had opened the gunny bag for me . I am going to pull the drawstrings on my bag .Wait, till she opens to see what’s inside this one… Will it rekindle memories ? Memories , of sixty years ago, when I was put into a gunny bag.She was told that I was ‘still born’,smelling a rat she opened.Reaching inside the bag,tips of her fingers gently brushing against my alive skin. That first touch, will she remember?
I have taken the rotoundity of the moon.I asked the cherubs to put two smiles on it. One for the eyes ,one for the lips.This, I will frame with wool from the sheep.Thick heavy,warm,jet black,wool.The Sun God crowning it.The sunbeams dancing in myriad colours of reds and oranges.Layers of skirts,blouses in brocades and silks.My finest embroideries. The only ornament will be red silken threads woven into bangles.The jingle,bangle was always Amma. Into the finest gossamer I wrap this story.”
GANGA-the symbol of the girl child.She is a doll and my life story.

44 Responses to “Ganga, The Girl Child”

  1. I read once.
    Twice and I :.|

  2. Chevalier says:

    Shekhar – is this a non-profit she’s starting? I love her story, it’s a total Hero myth/monomyth: miraculous birth, the call to adventure, supernatural help, expansion of consciousness/perspective, and now the passing of the torch to everyone else in the same position. Would make a lovely movie (hint, hint!).
    If this Ganga is a non-profit, could you share its contact details/website etc.?

  3. Mee says:

    This is the second day in a row that I have been exposed to this reality of gender bias. I met the Ladli people day before, spent half a day with them and learnt they do exactly what Nimi has set out to do. Maybe Nimi and Ladli (thru Population First) can connect and find more power jointly, you think? There is so much to be done on this, sometimes I wonder how come we call ourselves developed today when some basic archaic ways of life have not changed?!

  4. ruchi says:

    gender biases are the root to many issues faced around the world.ur post about girls beaten up in banglore is one such example. girls face it even before they get chance to be born, many dont see the light of the day and the one who do every breath is a struggle.
    i do see change and hope but female gender has long way to get their rightous place and male gender is far behind understand that “WOMEN RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS”

  5. hari says:

    Situation in Punjab is still very awkward.The gender ratio would show.Its all interconnected.The weak enforcement of law.Dowry deaths.Rape.
    Probably the female gender should take to the technology more vigorously.This is the Century when physical strength does not count that much. Vernacular Internet could be a big solution to the women’s problems.Maybe they should cut back on “Saas…Bahhu…” serials and strengthen their say through sophisticated means in the society.
    Ultimately self-help is the best and most enduring kind of help.
    May be women collectively could strenghthen the hands of Girija Vyas and Renuka Choudhary and the like.

  6. hari says:

    Pardon Me Shekhar,
    But I still think, You aren’t doing as much as you can.
    I wouldn’t have the audacity to write that if I were not true to my own soul.
    Converting the already converted isn’t much productive,is it?

  7. austere says:

    The doll is beautiful as is the story- yes, have said it before- and it shook me up. This is really what luck is all about, and luck isn’t about winning the lottery. If you’re alive, you can find a way ahead. So much about survival. So much about role models. Winning the jackpot is having doting grandparents and parents who let you be, who let you make your own mistakes.
    Is Nimi-ji associated with an NGO or something?
    Ages ago I shifted schools in class 11 because in the new school, knit-purl were compulsory and I’d never learnt. No one forced me to, either. Yes, that was luck, having my way. Maybe I will learn now, because I want to, this new kind of patience.

  8. Amrita Tripathy says:

    I dont know to put the feelings into words… I read thrice and i am blank from inside.

  9. nimi khanna says:

    Shukriya to all whose heart Ganga has touched.
    Chevalier, I do not run an NGO. Ganga is my living spirit and I want to create a synenergy where people who feel for the girl child cause–GOVERNMENTS,STATES, CORPORATES,COMITTED INDIVIDUALS ADOPT HER IN NOS. AND SPREAD THE AWARENESS.
    Ganga is an organic handcrafted doll symbolic of India.She tells timeless tales of ancient wisdom.A living tradition which all grandmothers and mothers hold in their wombs to pass on to their daughters thru skills.,stories,rituals,arts and crafts.Women are the torch bearers of heritage. This is the role Ganga wants to play.She will bring about the balance with her steadfast power of female energy.nimi.

  10. nimi khanna says:

    Ruchi,
    Ganga in one her stories from India’s ancient wisdom talks about empowering women-as the shakti aspect of man, his other half.When evils like this creep into society women too have to understand their own role and very often it is them who do it to their daughters.nimi.

  11. nimikhanna says:

    Austere,
    …knit one, purl one,knit one…will not only connect you to yourself but will empower you in a way you would never have dreamt!My grandmother never had arthiritis of fingers either.nimi

  12. Ronin says:

    Shekhar:
    We had briefly emailed each other earlier..I would like to bring to your attention abt another partition child. Seperated by an ocean than by freedom.
    Below is a video of bombing scene after Jan 25th in Srilanka..(viewer discretion advised)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7y0_e1fhKaM
    Is it a sin to disagree with someone. That too after you have tried ahimsa and fasting till death..That too after each of you kill each other..I am not politically savvy or voter to vote in srilanka..In this period of self-interest, do you think thousands of people will kill themselves for a cause without genuine grudges or due to fake pride..
    I disagree with whats happening. 14 Indian students are fasting till death in Madras/Chennai. A young man commited suicide in front of govt office today. But there is hardly any visibility in our Indian papers. Obviously they have made their minds already on where they stand..
    Can you please write your view points(whatever it is) on this to bring visibility and possibly empathy to the Indian audience. All I seek is ears to hear to the srilankan tamil opinions..How is it freedom when you kill all opinion speakers and then say we will seek opinions from the meek and humble..
    Regards..

  13. Mee says:

    @ Hari-
    you say “Pardon Me Shekhar,But I still think, You aren’t doing as much as you can.”
    maybe you should find out a little more before you say this honestly. I have spent the last few days working with SK on a cause which is basic to our very existence, and he has contributed all his energy, time, efforts, intellect, ideas, worked tirelessly 16-18hrs daily to make this project come alive. in helping us reach our communication to India and to the world- because this is a cause that is basic to our very survival
    you will soon see what I am speaking about on tv, maybe then too you will only see what appears on the surface and not be able to see the width of the programme that he is involved in. he too is as human as you and me and is doing much more than many of us collectively let me assure you.
    you probably dont know SK well enough if you make that remark on him – that he “is not doing enough”

  14. nimi khanna says:

    Mee,
    There is Barbie–blonde blue eyed,beautiful -taken over India’s culture!.There is Ladli,there is Roop and I am sure a few more.I speak for Ganga who speaks for India.GANGA has no defined skin colour,{all shades of browns- fair and dark skinned}Her spine is filled with mustard seeds[all religions refer to this}she worships the Sun God.Her wadrobes have been worked and derived from ancient Indian textiles.She has many powerful features-I would love the Ladli people to join in this project.India needs to project Ganga’s face on all girl child programmes–just as the ribbon is recgnised for HIV.Ganga is a learning doll both for women and children.nimi

  15. Harb says:

    Dear Mee, in my opinion even by telling about Shekhar’s involvement in your/some project you have reduced him.
    Harb

  16. hari/jimmy says:

    Dear Mee I would be blank stupid If I wrote “He isn’t doing enough”.But Its funny how people read what I have not even written.
    I wrote “aren’t doing as much as you can”.And I still believe after having the recognition he has both worldwide and in India he would do much better to use that rare recognition in a creative way rather than ‘working’ on details 16-18 hrs a day on a single project.Shouldn’t he be looking for worthy people for working in that way?
    His working capabilities are well established.The future might need his organisational or entrepreneural capabilities.
    I am not a judge here but believe honesty used to be the best policy.Birbal was not respected in Akbar’s court for sychophancy and hippocracy,Was he?
    ***
    Nimi and Mee I appreciate the good work that you are doing and would love to see ‘Ganga’ as the symbol for a countrywide campaign for the Girl child.
    If you send me a few of those dolls I will make sure I make good use of them here in Punjab.

  17. nimi khanna says:

    Hari,
    If Punjab adopts Ganga statewide,I will do a special edition of Ganga just for Punjab where Ganga will speak in Gurmukhi also and showcase those wonderful phulkaris of Punjab.Every mother in those days used to embroider a phulkari during her pregnancy and you can imagine those emotions that went in thru the embroidery for the unborn baby–with that energy would she then dare allow anybody to kil a girl child?
    These phulkari STORIES are getting lost,these[mom embroidered} textiles were used to lovingly wrap trousseus, Ganga will heal Punjab.

  18. Harb says:

    A project to save the girl child has already been initiated in Punjab some time back by Harsimrat Kaur, wife of deputy C.M Sukhbir Singh Badal under the name of “nanhi chhaan.” Perhaps hari or nimi khanna should contact her for mutual help. For knowing more about “nanhi chhaan” google it.
    Harb
    PS: Dear Nimi khanna, thank you for reminding me of my childhood enjoyment by mentioning phulkari. I grew up seeing my sisters embroidering those phulkaris in fifties/sixtees. They will be so lost in embroidering them and I in looking at their wonderful creations. There were many other “kadhai” peaces which will then be framed in wooden frames, some of which can be seen even today in some of the houses. More enjoyable were their singing accompanying those kadhais.

  19. Mee says:

    @ Harb- you are entitled to yur opinion
    @Nimi- will figure with Ladli and come back to you
    @Hari /JImmy – your point is well taken. I was merely stating the truth>

  20. hari/jimmy says:

    Nimi could you please explain “Punjab adopts Ganga statewide” and what you think needs to be done on the ground for your project.Then let me figure out how we should move on this.
    We’ll have to keep in mind that Punjab has a cultural problem where sons are more like status symbols and sources of dowry etc. And stubborn village people have taken to this social disease more vigourously who don’t easily give in to niceties.Some unethical Doctors take it as a lucrative business to illegally abort female foetuses.Most probably they bribe the local authorities on a monthly basis.
    But still I have got some vey close well-connected social worker friends and could talk to them to get a better idea about the present ground realities. I’ll share your ideas with them to see what can be done and how.
    ***
    The other thing you could do on your own with a little bit of Shekhar’s help is to get ‘Ganga’ State recognition for the girl child campain at the Central Govt. level.May be even a telecast of the ‘Still Born’ story on national and regional Doordarshan or Lok Sabha TV channel.

  21. nimi khanna says:

    I love the energy pouring into Ganga!
    Hari, the men of Punjab will recognise Ganga when they hear what she stands for .The ASLI PUNJAB DA PUTTAR LOVE THEIR mothers and sisters and I know they will draw their kirpans out to protect the Punjabi GANGA avataar.
    The girl child symbol is graphically designed in a very simple manner–a child can sketch her. A circle two smiles.AND…
    “Open sesame”, she carries with her a culture that will speak to all families–movies,comics, kits.

  22. nimi khanna says:

    Hari, sorry this got left behind..Where we can start is with comitted people,interviews, talks,corporates[AS part of social responsibility} adopting Ganga as a give-away,part money goes to the girl child charity in Punjab.I would like the face of Ganga appearing everywhere so it causes a curiosity and a stir and she becomes protected.Will take up your idea of putting her on tv.THANKS.

  23. nandini says:

    Dear Nimi Ji,
    Your own story and the story of the doll are both so touching. I love her look and the fact that she is handmade.
    Have you thought about publishing a book (or a book series!!!) with Ganga’s story, instructions, and a craft kit (with yarn, knitting needles, fabric, etc.) to let girls make their own Ganga doll the way they see her? I think knit and purl are doable even for small fingers. It would raise funds as well as awareness for your project.
    Out here (in the U.S.) we have a hugely popular franchise, the American Girl Stores /Dolls/ Books /Movies which are all about dolls from different times in American history. It is RIDICULOUSLY expensive, but I do love the concept of the historic dolls.
    One step better would be far less expensive books with kits that girls could make themselves, like your Ganga dolls. It would be so cool to have dolls from different times in India’s past. I would love to buy one for my little girl!
    Best wishes

  24. nimi khanna says:

    Nandani,
    Ganga ,PAD KE”Kush hui”.She can teach the western world ,an ancient culture which would be very relevant in women’s life.There will not be that need to go to PSYCHIATRISTS And Psycoanalysts,like our mothers never did. It was the inner spirit which always had the answers.You just have to tap it.Yes, Ganga will have many kits and books teaching this.If Shekhar decides he would be the absolutely right genius to put it into 3D!
    I would love you to work on this energy and see if there is any way -you can promote her.An Oprah show? A toy company? Remember Ganga is a social cause to spread awareness and therfore she has to be affordable.Some Avataars may be more exclusive and therby a little more expebive.Percentage of her goes into the cause,some into expanding the project.
    Some very known charities have been explored and I want the entire project to be transparent.

  25. nandini says:

    Dear Nimi Ji,
    I wish I had contacts with the likes of Oprah, but I’m just a kids writer. I do think it’s possible that Kahani magazine (an award winning magazine for South-Asian kids in the U.S.) might be interested in doing an article about the Ganga project if you pitch it to them … (www.kahani.com)
    If I can help in any way, I’m happy to do so, but the only industry I know anything about is publishing.

  26. navleen says:

    the story was brillent. you teach us that don’t kill girls just lov her alot. world need girls

  27. navleen says:

    the story was brillent. you teach us that don’t kill girls just lov her alot. world need girls

  28. harijim says:

    As they say “Charity begins at home”.
    Lets say I want to adopt one Ganga doll.What do I have to do?

  29. nimi khanna says:

    Harijim,
    Let me know what your committment to that one Ganga be?How will you help spread this awareness?

  30. sheena chandra says:

    dear nimi,
    i am a mass communication student and came across your story on the internet. i have also read about the movement Ganga that you have started. i would be very interested in making a documentary film on your life and the work that you are doing for the girl child.i would b highly obliged if you could giv us a positive response and some more insight regarding your life and your work ….. waiting for your reply eagerly …sheena.

  31. shabina says:

    nimi can i know your contact and address….. m a mass communication student in jamia millia islamia and want to know more about your life
    thanks
    shabina

  32. nimi khanna says:

    contact nimi:

  33. nimi khanna says:

    the contact is:nimikhanna@yahoo.com

  34. Olga says:

    I am moved by this story. I have been trying to learn about the India culture because I am trying to adopt a little girl from India with some disabilities. I have been fundraising for her adoption with no luck at all. People dont want to give now a days. I feel so overwhelmed with love and burden for this child. I hope others outthere wake up for the need and adopt more little girls from India. If you would like to know about my family and the intent of adoption you can go to adoptinglittlerebecca.webs.com I named her rebecca although I still dont know her real name until I pay certain fees and pass my homestudy all of her information except some medical is confidential. I lost a daughter to a stillbirth this year on January. The clinic I go to sat on my UTI results for three weeks when I go to the doctor for my regular check up he gives me the result and we hear no heartbeat. My baby was already dead.

  35. nimikhanna says:

    Dear Olga,
    I could not access your site.
    nimi.

  36. azam says:

    Dear Nimi,
    Iam so very touched by the cause and the splendid way you have adopted to convert the cause into somethig tangible(a doll), which can be physically present in people’s life, reminding them of how Ganga offers them unconditional love and acceptance, which translates into making people feel powerful enough to go for their dreams.
    Please let me know if you agree with my understanding of the cause.azam.

  37. nimikhanna says:

    Yes, Azam… Ganga through the doll will become a symbol of the girl child.She gives a face and an identity to the cause.She is made by me, a living energy of a girl child who was thrown to die but lives to show the world that she is not a burden, but an equal partner.
    SOON you will hear more on this project.

  38. Swati Arora says:

    Dear Nimi,
    How can i contribute in this cause? I am free on weekends and sincerely want to work on this noble cause.
    Pls let me know.

  39. nimikhanna says:

    Swati,
    for more on this project you can check–livemint.com universal girl

  40. jasmeet says:

    as mentioned previously, the nanhi chhaan initiative is not driver by Mrs. Badal, they have used it to further their political ends… Mrs Badal has won her MP seat on the basis of the foundation which was started by a group of people lead by Mr. Harpal Singh of Fortis Healtcare fame. Why don politicians leave some initiatives outside th gamut of frthering their political agendas?

  41. nimikhanna says:

    Jasmeet I can only speak for GANGA-the symbol that I have created for the GIRL CHILD.
    GANGA stands for truth and nothing but the truth…,It is a project that is completly transparent and speaks for the GIRL CHILD and is determined to win.

  42. Aparna Puri says:

    Hi Nimmi Masi,
    I would love to get involved with this issue. Did you see this: http://blogs.voanews.com/breaking-news/2012/04/11/battered-baby-girl-dies-in-india/. So tragic and shocking. It is amazing what you are doing and we would love to spread awareness about this issue in the US. You can get in touch with me through Darshini and Sanju.

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