Silence, Objection! : A Short Story
The first time someone told me 'hush, girls don’t shout!', was when I was five.
I was at the park with my brothers, my friends, and we were on the ring-a-round. I was screaming, happy, gleeful peals of laughter that only children get away with. My skirt flying, hair messy, knees dirty, I came back to my disapproving mother.
“You’re not a boy,” she said. “Girls must be quieter.”
At five years old, innocently and unknowingly, I nodded and bowed my head. “Sorry, ma.”
The second time was when I was seven.
The class bully had just yanked off my best friend’s hairband, thrown it in the sand, stomped on it and rendered it broken and useless. I was raging. I remember screaming, pulling his hair with such violent force that my teacher came to intervene. She dragged me off, scolding me, “Are you a boy? Girls don’t behave this way!”
Today will be the last time anyone will tell me to be quiet. Today I earn my voice.
I stand on this stage, the first female lawyer of my town, the only girl in my class of ninety-seven, and lift my chin up high.
“Thank you, sir.” I bow to the chief guest handing out graduation certificates. My male classmates hoot and holler for me, having learned to respect me, not despite my lack of a penis but because of it.
My valedictorian speech is at the end of the ceremony, and I can see my mother as I walk to the stage, seated in the corner with her dupatta pressed to her eyes.
“My daughter never shuts up,” She used to say with disgust when I was a child.
Now, she says it with pride.