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.