Stories from our mothers’ and grandmothers’ times routinely remind us that daughters faced constant hurdles in the not-so-distant past, even in families that today rejoice in the birth of every child, boy or girl. It is then refreshing to find this poem written in 1938, by parents in Kolkata who celebrated the birth of their daughter at a time when such hopes and dreams were normally reserved for sons. The poem appears in A Space of Her Own, a riveting collection of essays by women writing about their lives in the historical context of their mothers and grandmothers in 19th and 20th century India.
Unspoilt and tender like freshly opened petals,
Our darling baby girl, forever, smiling, forever matchless,
Sparkling with the purity of a morning-showered flower
You’ve stepped into our home and lit it up with joy.
In you like all our auspicious hopes,
In you is fulfilled the love that conquers pain,
My priceless jewel churned out of life’s tears and laughter,
You’ve opened up in my chart a deathless spring beyond words.
The ideals that I had cherished all through,
The boundless desires and visions that remain
Unfulfilled, and find no meaning in my life
My auspicious girl, may it all bear fruit in yours.
Flying high the colors of life, unvanquished, Daughter,
May you make your birth meaningful through your hardships,
May the whole world pay its homage some day
To the magnificent moment of your life.
Daughter, dearer than life, at this blessed moment,
Projecting our visions far into the distant future,
Your loving parents’ hearts have just one single prayer,
Death-defeeating life shines forever in service offered.
That is where we wish to see you, in the hearts of people,
In the seat of imperishable love.
That is where we wish to see you in the wide, wide world.
The hymn that remains unsung deep within our soul,
May it find a clear voice in your life, be a full bodied tune
Like the lotus in the sun opened out in its full flory.
May you love this world and may the whole world fall in love with you.
May you travel at waste on your life’s journey through sufferings and ecstasies.
May bright lights shine all the way on all your future roads.
Poem written by Radharani Devi and Narendra Dev, in the invitation to the Anna Prasana of their daughter born in 1938, quoted in Nabaneeta Dev Sen, “The Wind Beneath My Wings,” in Leela Gulati and Josadhara Bagchi, A Space of Her Own (Sage: 2005) p. 31.