Call Me:

If heard out of context, the sympathy I get for not having a brother would make you think that it is a deep sin or a grave disease. I, a woman, without a male sibling? How unnatural. My mother, a woman, without a male offspring? How wrong. It is as if we must validate our family unit with the presence of a brother, a son. The lack of a brother here takes on the shape of a metaphor for hopelessness, vulnerability and social constriction. It is assumed that if I had a brother, I would be more secure and the household, more stable. When my mother, now in her 50’s, is asked if she has a son, she replies in the negative calmly. She is met with, however, an unsolicited heap of pity and “Koi nahi, Allah de ga.” Don’t worry, God will give you one. It’s funny because we’re talking about a proud mother of three lionesses, a mother lion who never sought a lion cub after us.

I had brothers, though. Two. They passed away when they were little. Their absence surely wounded my parents. That said, there has never been a day in our lives when they tried compensating the death of two sons by relegating us daughters to the shadows. We were as important as our brothers, if not more after their deaths. Not once has my father lamented the loss of two boys. Not once has my mother yearned for the return of her two little ones. It is a gash, after all. I don’t know how it feels to lose a child, let alone two. But have they ever shifted the burden of this intimate loss on their daughters? Never.

Which is why it just doesn’t make sense to me when people – people who have no familial connection to us, people as significant as the passerby on the corner of the street – take on the righteous role of letting us know: “Those daughters? Yeah, they’re alright. But sons? Now, if you have Sons, Mr and Mrs Son-less – with a big S – you would be better off. Take my word for it.” God bless my parents; they brush these comments off with a variant of retorts, some funny and some rightfully offended.

In our society, a family without sons is viewed as a body lacking some of its most important limbs. Extend a bit further and this should tell you how we view our daughters, our girls. It’s been said to death: We’re not happy with the female presence – be it mother, daughter, wife, what-have-you. A woman’s radical presence has to be subdued by a male unit in whatever capacity possible. So when you see a woman like me, Brother-less and Still Content as Hell, it’s an anomaly and to the more clogged in the head, it’s an offence to be happy without a male excuse.

Sometimes when the inevitable is about to happen during a conversation where someone is three seconds away from consoling me on being Brother-less, I let them know some basic facts: You’re right. I have no brothers. It’s a pity you would think I am in any way left weak by the lack of a brother. I am whole and so is my family. I am my home’s backbone, my mother’s wings and my father’s joy. I put the bread on the table just like my father and my mother have. I am the arms that hold my sisters and I am the strength that pushes them forward. Above all, I am my own fort and I am my own momentum.

The Nation’s Call Me column is an anonymous piece of writing, where writers can  relate deeply personal stories.

Any feedback must come via Letters to the Editor.  Your pieces can be sent to

and must be between

500-800 words.

All pieces will be printed anonymously, and the identity of

the writer will be protected under all circumstances.