"Ha,ha!" we flute back, eager to please Father. After all, it's only a joke, isn't it? Father is a nice man, and we must have a sense of humour. Humourless hoors are loved by nobody. Smile. Swallow the smart.
"These women should watch how they dress. After all, provocative clothing, you know, and boys naturally...," says Uncle.
And we nod in agreement. Uncle will be pleased with our womanly acquiescence. After all, it is "not done" to contradict elders.
"You're a woman, my dear; learn patience!" counsels Aunt.
Quite. Aunt has had more experience of the world than we have; she has learned, in the American idiom, to get along by going along. So we learn patience of Aunt.
"You women! None of you can think logically!" Thus a rational colleague at work. Our response? Silence. For who would we go to for redress of this form of sexual harrassment? Who would call it sexual harrassment? The even more rational male boss? The self-rationalized female boss, who might pull an Aunt and tell us to "learn to take things lightly," "learn to adjust"?
Sometimes it's just a look. The look of joy when the long-awaited male heir finally puts in an appearance. The look of disappointment at the birth of yet another accursed female. The strained smile with which demands for more dowry are met. The glance, the gesture, the sigh. In such things are our stories told. In such things do they remain untold.
Want to list more instances? Be my guest. Write to me your stories. I bet there are trillions - sorry, can't think of the next bigger number, but trillions will do to start with - trillions of such stories that you could tell me if you spoke, sister women and any brothers courageous enough to face the truth. So tell them. Break the silence, for one woman at least can speak no more. And though we walk and talk and move and breathe, our continued dishonesty about India's misogyny makes us more rotting corpses than she will ever be.