The birth of a daughter spells doom for a father. Or so the cliché goes. Women are still held responsible for the sex of the foetus despite scientific evidence that clearly shows that it is a father’s genes that determine the child’s sex.

Modern techniques like ultrasound make it easy for the parents to determine the sex of the foetus. It is still not uncommon to find families who advise the husband to abort the female foetus. Though they may tout equality of the sexes, the principle seldom applies to their own family.

I confess that I wanted a son when my wife got pregnant. But I was not averse to the idea of having a daughter either. My only reservation was that a daughter would place additional responsibilities on my head. And though my wife underwent ultrasound a couple of times, I never wanted to know about the baby’s sex. Most of my family members, including my mother, wanted a boy. I tried to convince them that the birth of either a boy or a girl would bring equal joy to our family.

The day of reckoning soon arrived and my wife had to be hospitalised with protracted labour. While I waited outside the hospital under the chilly sky eagerly waiting for some news about my wife, a man by my side cursed: “If it is a girl, I’ll get another wife.”

Another butted in: “I cannot trust a woman...not even my mother.” While a third offered a thundering rebuttal: “All relationships depend on trust. How dare you demean women like that?”

But I was much too occupied to focus on their petty talk. Unable to rein in my enthusiasm, I hurried up to my wife on the fourth floor. A young nurse emerged with a baby in her hands: “She’s a Laxmi!” I cannot explain the bliss that descended upon me as I held the little thing in my arms. It was an added relief to know that both the mother and daughter were in good health. This was the start of the most amazing day of my life. I recalled the conversation among the men outside. How silly they were!

On the day my spouse was discharged, the man who had questioned women’s fidelity accosted me: “Dai, my wife has not given birth yet. The doctor says she’s having complications.” I could not help but pity the poor fellow.