The SMS That Wasn’t

It was fire on the floor when Shalini Mishra and Joy Shenoy performed. They were two bodies, but virtually floated on the stage as one form, resonating with the symphony of the orchestra.

They were students at Jubilee State Medical College. Shalini was the first person in her entire extended family to join medicine field. Her childhood memories of her family’s struggles during health crises had inspired her to be a doctor. Joy was a year senior to Shalini. Apart from being studious, he was the unofficial choreographer for college functions, due to his dancing skills.

Their onstage magical connection seeped into their personal life. They were about to get engaged in a few months. One day, Joy gifted Shalini a silver bangle with SMS engraved on it.

“SMS… does that denote the scores of messages we exchanged?” Shalini was curious.

“No, it’s Shalini Mishra Shenoy!” Joy declared.

“Wait, you mean you would like me to change my name. Why would I do that, Joy? Give me a good reason.”

“Obviously; you are going to be part of the Shenoy family very soon.”

“Not that obvious. You are also going to be part of my family. Would you call yourself Joy Shenoy Mishra―JSM? This matches with our college name.” Shalini quipped.

“Stop joking, it’s a tradition. Every girl does this.” Joy was enraged.

“But you know it’s a sick custom of our patriarchal society.”

“Come on, Shalini. It’s the father who determines sex of the child. So, naturally the lineage or surname is patriarchal.”

“Bah, my medico! OK father determines. Then why your same patriarchal society has been blaming the mothers for baby’s gender all along! Moreover, is baby’s gender the only thing? What about mother’s nine months of genesis, lifelong love, or the infinite care?”

“Hold on. I agree on mother’s supreme sacrifice for the child. But look, all of us are bearing our father’s surname. Isn’t it?” Joy wore a cryptic smile.

“Well, I am going to drop this tag very soon. People say it’s a family identity. I have great respect for my family. I joined medical to be an asset to my family first. But my identity is and will always be my hard work, not my lineage. You remember our first lesson in medical science: It’s one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

“Don’t preach me those classroom gospels.” Joy was getting impatient.

“I’m being practical Joy. What about the lineage of family with only daughters? How do we come out of this terrible son-preference syndrome?” Shalini sounded assertive.

“Is this your final say?”

“Rather, if this SMS mindset is not final from you, you may come back to me. On the stage, I have danced to your directions. But, on life’s stage, I’m my own choreographer. I’m not going to fall for this music of male prejudice.”

The bangle rolled down from Shalini’s palm. She knew many bangles would roll before change could come. She was willing to be one of those change-makers.

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