Premature Gilead

Margaret Atwood had suggested that the occurrences of Gilead were in the future. Apparently, we’ve skipped to that dreaded future already. Or it has arrived prematurely.

I was faced with a racism related question this week. I was asked to talk about my academic accomplishments. Not that I have many, but a major chunk of it has its roots in my home soil. The question was whether I would be comfortable not talking about my roots to appeal to, well, probable racists. The rationale was that, since I was enumerating my achievements to charm possible donors, my nationality may put a damper on how this success would be perceived. They were worried it may spark the “job theft” fury. Of course, I was given the option of mentioning my nationality nevertheless. I chose to not. The short story below provides the reasons, voiced by a character rather than myself. The story below talks about how risk-taking is difficult. The story, speaking more for women’s rights than racism, ties into the “choosing to not participate.” Like the character below, I am in no position to make statements. I am one of those who would prefer acquiring stability and then leading a rebellion. Given the times, I would prefer diplomacy in my agenda to voice my opinion. Call me a hypocrite but accountability comes with high stakes and I do not have much to wager.

Disclaimer: Purely fictional yet horrifyingly real.

“You should have come. It was thrilling!” said Sophia.

“Hmm,” said I, rummaging the drawers to find my keys.

“The women are really going to hold you to it this time, Maya.”

I looked at her with disdain. “What happened to being supportive of each other?”

“That’s exactly what they’ll say! Why weren’t you there at the march to support us?”

I ignored her, still searching for my keys.

She sighed. “Listen, I tried to tell them about your work. They insisted this was going to help you get the pay you deserve. This is a step toward it. Every woman counts in these marches.”

“I understand. I really do.”

“Then why aren’t you doing something?”

I rolled my eyes. This was pure torture. Women, a support system at one end of the spectrum, can also be bitches at the other end.

“Listen, I need my car keys. I have to go pick Avi up. Can you stop berating me for the past and help me find them?”

She moved to check my bag then. I could tell it wasn’t only the support group but she too, who wanted an explanation for my absence. I missed a rally they organized outside a member’s workplace because she was fired due to budget cuts. You may think that’s completely plausible but here’s the catch and the cause for suspicion. They were the only two women in a group of ten and they both lost their jobs. The remaining eight men stayed on and also received bonuses. “Right under their nose” was beautifully exemplified by this incident.

I missed because I had a work call. On a Sunday, no less. But I had to attend. My livelihood rested on my attendance. In these trying times, a minor mistake was a major excuse. As you can see above, the lack of a penis was excuse enough for being sacked.

“Look,” she said. “I know it’s not easy. I understand. You have a family to support and hence can’t take risks. But we must take risks to be heard! We have the support of the men too in this. They understand our oppression. They can see it is a proportion of their own kind who are doing this. Is it too much to ask for you to support in this united agenda?”

“Sophia, do you think I’m against feminism? That by not showing up, I am pro-sexism?”

She grew quiet.

“Do you think I do not support equal pay, don’t speak against harassment or support anti-abortion laws?”

She was simply looking at me now.

“Do you think leaving the scumbag I was married to wasn’t a step toward being an independent woman? You know how he abused me. I’m there for any woman who wants to escape. I’ll urge them to do so. That’s our support group for, you know. Isn’t that something for now?”

“I go to work every day and put up with shit for a lower salary, for what? Do you think I like it?”

“I never said you didn’t have problems, Maya..that is what we are trying to do, can’t you see? We are hoping that our voices are heard and that we make a difference,” she opined.

“I want to be heard, I honestly do. But I have two kids to feed and educate. I can’t lose my job. Hence, I choose to not make a display. I can’t afford to do so.”

“We could all lose jobs over this, you know,” she said.

“I admit, that’s the difference between you and me.”

We had both stopped searching for the keys now. We were simply staring at each other, hoping to make the other see her own side.

“I’ll be there the next time. I’ll fight for equal pay, for abortion, for women empowerment. I will. But the abortion laws won’t change in the next six months and I will have to have this unwanted third child, Sophia. I can’t lose my job, even if it’s less pay than the work I do. I can’t. I just don’t have the security I need or the financial backing in case things go wrong. I am trying to do my bit. I didn’t let my kids and myself be abused by my ex-husband. I didn’t sleep with my boss to get the promotion that’s coming. I will make sure my baby girl knows her rights. I’ll make sure my baby boy understands feminism. I’m hoping to lead by example, Sophia. That’s my bit. That’s all I can do for now.”

And I walked out.

It was the least we can all do.

P.S. When I was a kid, I learned many lessons in history. I was taught about the evolution of women in society. It spoke about how women had no rights and we can vote today because we fought. It spoke about how women weren’t allowed to live if their husbands died and how the act of ‘Sati’ has more or less been eradicated. It spoke about how women can work and juggle profession and family. It spoke about how society is now accepting divorce or women from broken marriages.

The truth is that we are still being stereotyped. It is still a man’s world. I see no difference in the times past and the present. It has improved for a section of the society, true. But the worse continues. Even the “improved” section faces discrimination. The rate of progress is appalling.

I am a woman who needs no man to tell her what she must do, how she must live and what she must say. I do not need a man to direct my life. The flaw in the system is that it is an accepted norm still. Either men are unaware of their oppression or they prefer having the upper hand, or the women are simply unaware of their rights and hence fail to fight for them.

I may earn more than my future partner. If this upsets him, he won’t be my partner for long. I may have to move for work. If he chooses to not adjust even though he can, we will have to rethink our relationship. If I must choose to either work or handle a household and all my partner decides to do is impregnate me? Well, I’ll find a new father for that child. I have only ever asked one man for permission to do something – my father. I do not intend to extend that list. He too has always allowed me my freedom. A new man in a nascent relationship has many years to go.

And it is through this mentality of mine, which I will pass on to the generations ahead, that I am contributing to the feminist movement. I may not be joining marches or naming names, but I am calling BS on what is appropriately so. Women need a platform to express themselves in the trying times today. That is the need of the hour. An entire half of the world is facing oppression. That’s not progress for mankind. Women need security to do so. It’s easy to say, “risk it for the greater good.” I thought ten times before putting up this post! I was worried about making a statement because of possible Gilead-like consequences! Women are scared. Some of them are. For victory, I know we must all speak up but the complexities need to be acknowledged.

A big thank you to all the women and men who stand for us and represent us all in the best way that they can. They are using their positions of power to do the right thing. A pat on the back for all who, like me, try to do things in the best way that they can. I understand, safer options may not sound grand, but every little rebellion counts.

 Premature

 

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The Plateau Rebellion

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Vrksasana – The Tree Pose. Promotes balance and centering. #YogabyCharles

I am 23 years old. Coming from a supposedly self-aware species, I’m becoming a more self-aware person, in the sense that now I can recognize and verbalize certain aspects of my character. For example, given the constant struggle that my life has been (a struggle that may not necessarily qualify as such in the eyes of the society, mind you), I’ve become oblivious to achievements. I used to think it’s the struggle that takes the charm out of things for me and hence, nothing surprises me nor gives me immense joy anymore. Apparently not. I can now say that I am a realist with a touch of indifference. It’s no longer incidental and I am beginning to realize it is a genuine trait.

Similarly, anxiety is a part of my character. This again hinders any possible “moment of relief.” I’ll explain how. My anxiety prevents me from enjoying the fruits of my hard work because as soon as Lady Luck favors me, I begin to wonder what’s next. The next, in my anxiety-ridden mind, is always bad because life’s a roller coaster ride. If I’m at a crest, the next must be a trough. I’m usually calmer when things are going wrong because I know you can’t go lower once you hit rock bottom. But as soon as things begin to look up – SH*T. Something bad is about to happen.

Oh no no no, you don’t need to worry. I am a stable human being. I take calculated risks, I’m calm and collected most of the time. If always anticipating and preparing for the worst-case scenario makes me a pessimist, then I am one. I’m neither sad, nor depressed. Currently, I am quite content. I know I am content because apart from a small buzz at the back of my head, reminding of my never-ending to-do list, I’m aware that immediate danger has been thwarted.

You may wonder why I’m not taking a tiny vacation, but honestly, I am! My procrastination is quite a vacation. My procrastination includes walking around the beautiful city of Boston, yoga by the Charles, reading A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, solving the Metro crossword (I’m terrible at it) and beating Dad in the game of Words with Friends. This is my vacation!

So, I am happy, I am content (cue italics for emphasis – or is it bold?)! But remember the ‘small buzz at the back of my head’? That does more than remind me about my to-do list. It tells me the future. The bleak future. I’m happy now, right? So, it is the trough next. This is just the calm before the storm, baby.

I am a stable human, though. I crave stability, the lack of drama. I like the steady-state rather than the ups and downs. I’m addicted to consistency in life. I know the thrill is in the unpredictable. Change is good and welcome, they say. I like change too, but on my terms. That’s something nature won’t allow, of course. Hence, I am battling nature constantly. Let nature take its course, they say, but I have been working too hard to pave my own path. Hence, I am constantly battling nature. I am looking for my plateau in the constant up-and-down. I was always a rebel. I’ve always rebelled for balance. Not too much of anything, nor too little. Just right. Always. Hence my search for the plateau. Hence my rebel against this unpredictable life.

Rebel

P.S. Forgive the grammatical errors. I only speak code now…

P.P.S. Food for thought – happy brewing, happy reading! 😊

Mind’s cacophony, paper’s poetry

Presenting my collection of amateur rhymes suited to a host of images that had, once upon a time, made my mind chatter endlessly!

Cacophony

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Turbulence defines me
It emanates in the sea
And while turbulence I be
The steady water I see
It winds around, joyous and glee
It teaches finding a path where free
Now in this new tenacious stability
And between the ripples and the silent sea
Balance, I find thee.
Now, it’s the warrior defining me.
-DH, on yoga by the ocean

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The calm sea, before the storm brews
“How feisty!” murmur even the shrews
Childlike wonderment and yet wisely aware
I am all the drama one needs; I am a play, stare.
-DH

What do you see,
When you look at me?
See my mind, I tell thee.
What would you get, objectifying me?
Talk to me, listen, that is the key.
Argue, converse, challenge me.
I could destroy you, but bear with me;
Be a man, like I can be.
-DH

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Staying within the four walls?
Not confinement, I say.
Braving the weather outside?
Cowardly? Nay!
To each their own
In the moment, stay.
I have this, my happy place;
I stay in and wander away.
-DH

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A world beyond
The scapes that surround
She looked with dreamy eyes.
Her struggle though
With mediocrity
She looked away, steeling her life.
It’s always today
Just for tomorrow
Selfish, at times, even cold.
A momentary lapse
In the today for her tomorrow
Forced her to write the psychedelic an ode.
-DH

She looked,
As baby steps she took.
The experiences she had,
She was glad.
This was the city that helped her craft;
The first to the many starts.
-DH, on Boston

A long week past,
A longer week ahead.
To work that lasts,
While stories are shared.

To home away from home and
Similarity in difference.
It’s a paradox, my friend.
It’s a transient smile while on the fence.

It’s experiences you never think you’ll have.
It’s growing up, while you already feel old.
It’s the quiet in the bustle you can nab.
It’s about today, though you work for tomorrow’s gold.
-DH

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You think it’s a blank stare
You think she wouldn’t dare
But she sees the bigger picture
She believes she isn’t the preacher.
You think she’s lost
You think it didn’t cost
But she knows what she had to do
She knows it more than you.
It’s not blank
It’s a reverie
It’s not naivety
It’s the momentary
It’s a break
It’s to make
It’s for the whole from a piece
It’s a breath, please
It’s the race against the norm
It’s the quiet before the storm.
-DH

If I look beyond I see,
I wonder what might I find?
The future, so unpredictable
Or the past that I left behind?

If I ask you to look through my eyes,
Do I mean, “step in my shoes”?
Or to peek inside the product
Of the fate with whom I called it a truce?

Many lives I’ve seen around me
Many nastier than mine
So shall I complain
Or thank the divine?

But there doesn’t exist a soul, I believe.
It’s all the self-awareness that breeds.
Look, you’ll see!
It’s always you, it’s always me.
-DH

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I still need idlis and dosas,
I still need the Sunday Carnatic.
It’s the violin that forms my lullaby,
The kaapi that makes me tick.
It’s the potu that makes me feminine,
The mayee that makes my eyes pop.
It’s the nine yards that I’ll adorn one day
That’ll make someone’s heart stop.
I speak Tamil but am from Kerala,
The best of both worlds, if you may.
I’m southern in my heart and mind,
Home’s where Amma-Appa stay!
-DH

Cacophony

Happy brewing, happy reading! 🙂

Life comes a half circle

me!
Me, smiling away at age 2 or 3!

I look up at them, knowing they are the two people I see the maximum – everyday or on most days. I know not who they are, but if they aren’t around, I feel something inexplicable. Or rather something I can’t explain. I do not have the words or the understanding yet. After all, I am but a few months old. I just began supporting my own head. One of the many firsts in life. Still, I know not the significance of the task. It will be eclipsed by other tasks I will accomplish in life; the list of significant tasks written to humankind.

Shush brain, my chatty friend, you wandered off. I still look up at them. This man would pick me up at the nursery and I would feel something else, something I can’t explain, again. Then this woman would return home late and feed me. The feeling of a full belly is something I will continue to appreciate throughout life. This man would someday sit down with me and explain how I’ll have to work toward a full belly forever. Well I do not know this just yet. I am but a few months old.

But for everything this couple does for me, it makes me something that I will learn eventually is called “happy.” And the only way I know to express happiness is to flash them a vibrant smile, the significant half of a circle.

I look at them now. I am older. I know they are Mom and Dad. I know that if they aren’t around me, the feeling is called sadness. Sadness which is caused not only by their absence but also when they do not give me what I want. I do not know why that makes me sad. I just know that it does. After all, I am but a few years old. I flash them a despondent smile, the symbolic half of a circle.

The man I learned to call Dad would give me what I want, without question because I am that important to him. I do not know why. I do not know what it is called, affection? Maybe that. He does this to turn that half circle upside down, and it works! I learned that “happy,” comes from being what you want.

I look at him now. A lot wiser, and yet, not really so. I know what the names for all those things I have felt over the years are. I know why my parents give me everything, why their absence makes me sad. It is something called “love.” I still don’t exactly know what that is but it exists. I know the feeling of wanting something. That’s more than needing something. It’s more possessive. Though, there is a fine line between wanting and needing. I do not know this just yet. I am but a teenager. I look at him, a man who is not my Dad. I look at him, wanting him, I don’t know why, just yet. A sense of possessiveness engulfs me. The same way that I wanted an object, I want him, to be all and only mine. He has something that made me “happy.” He does something that makes me smile.

I look at them now. A smart woman that I am, presenting my knowledge and opinion via a PowerPoint presentation. And yet they question my ability. The politics of this I may not know now, but will feel later probably. I look at the work I’ve done and I know if they aren’t the takers someone else will certainly be. This is a pivotal moment, you know. I begin to feel self-aware, aware of my worth. It is, how do you say it? Yes, an uplifting moment. The need for approval diminishes as I begin to understand it all. The feeling of sadness at not being recognized is replaced with confidence of walking out when not given the importance I deserve. I do so. And I go elsewhere. And they take me on as though I belonged. And I wear my pride and my smile, the beginning of the half circle of my life, on my face. A glitter in my eyes. And if I could do this, I knew I will be able to do what comes next.

I look at his number now. On my phone. I am aware it was lust, not love. Love would last, I know it does, when I call my parents everyday. I know there is love in the world. He wasn’t it though. I know about the fine line between want and need. I had crossed over. My want had become my need and when he couldn’t be there, my need just choked me. I know a lot now. After all, I am twenty. I delete the number, feeling the symbolic half circle on my face and the water that delineates it. The sadness of loss, of comfort, of trust, of affection. I know what every feeling is called now. I am not a child anymore.

And because I am not a child, I know how to change the half circle. I am self-aware. I know my strengths, my weaknesses. I am human, I know human. I know how to deal with everything. It takes time, courage and will, and I know each of these words with their practical meaning. My dictionary is appreciably big and I can frame sentences now. I am no longer confused. So, I prioritize. I decide. I don’t let life take me places, I make sure there’s been my hand in it. And I feel the dependency ebb, joining hands with a prefix I didn’t know had the power that it does. The “in” in independence is the “in” in the constant feeling I work toward – happ“in”ess.

It makes me happy to wake up every morning, to ready myself for the day. It makes me happy to do a set of tasks, to keep myself healthy, to keep problems at bay. It makes me happy that I can deal with the ups and downs that come along the way. It makes me happy that I am needed and I do not need, that I can give myself what I want, and do not have to ask for it. It makes me happy that I am the master of my life. It makes me happy that I can pamper myself after a long hard day. It makes me happy that I can intimidate those who come my way.

All through my infinitesimal time on earth, I have been learning and I continue to. It all started with feelings toward others and has finally propagated toward me, myself, I. Call it narcissism? But it’s not! I have to take care of myself so that I can transfer that happiness to others. It has taken me years to understand. As I reach the half circle of life, I learn the secret to the half circle on my face, something only in my hands. My decision, my actions, by the people I choose to keep in my life.

And I am sure, as my life reaches a full circle, which I shall define by saying, the situation in which someone else might look up at me, maybe, someday, not knowing who this woman is and why does she want a half giggly circle on his or her face, I will help them on the path of independence-defined happiness. That will be my full Circle, but for now, I shall happily flash a half! 😊

Circle

P.S. I know this is the most disorganized blog there is! Nevertheless, I hope the above makes sense. Happy brewing, happy reading! (insert your half circle) 😉

Three sins.

Disclaimer: The use of “she” is not symbolic, just poetic. I am one of those who believe that women are capable and powerful enough to destroy anything and anyone who deserves being destroyed. It is not to deprecate nor to degrade womankind because in doing so, I would be implicating myself as well, being a strong and independent woman. Hence, it is just poetic and in fact, empowering, that it is a “she”.

#1
How could I ever say no?
I had spent an hour without her.
My desire worsening,
I looked up again,
Trying to find an escape,
But I couldn’t.
All I could see
Was her.
In front of my eyes.
All I could feel,
Was her.
On my lips.
All I could think,
Was of her.
The scent I took in,
The flavors that I always tasted.
I needed to get out.
And then I did.
I got up, I ran.
I ran faster, then just fast.
Then I couldn’t.
I couldn’t breathe.
Her thought was suffocating me.
Her constant presence was killing me.
And yet I craved for her.
I knew I had to let her go.
But she was what I needed most.
She was my need, my want, my reprieve.
But I couldn’t run anymore.
I began coughing.
But I reached where I was headed.
I removed the pack out of my pocket.
I lit her, she was on fire.
I put her between my lips and let her fill me.
I had reached where I was headed.
Or so I thought.
I was close to reaching where I was ultimately headed anyway,
Because she was Disastrous for me.

#2

How could I ever say no?
It wasn’t my fault, you see.
She came to me.
Exquisite, to say the least.
She remained long after she left the room.
Almost indefinitely.
She remained in my mind, my thoughts.
I woke up to her.
I slept to her.
I wept to her.
I touched, to her.
And yet I slept next to a beauty.
Every night I slept, her hand over me.
She was everything I needed and yet,
My want overshadowed my need.
My love didn’t bleed,
For nine months or more.
And yet my lust..
I bled for my lust, albeit, differently.
My love cooked for me,
Yet my lust burnt me.
Alive, I craved.
Dead, I craved.
My lust took over one day.
How could I resist?
She came to me,
Her undeniable beauty.
Her lashes brushed her cheek,
Her bosom came up and fell deep,
Her legs wrapped around me,
And I let lust take over me.
I returned home then.
My love, waiting for me.
What had I done? I couldn’t believe.
Beauty so real, I’d reached an end, in my family.
I knew she was the forbidden fruit,
Because, ultimately, she proved Disastrous to me.

#3

How could I ever say no?
If she asked, I gave her.
I would give her everything.
I would give her my surface, my core and everything in between.
She used to ask me though.
Ask and I would provide.
But now she doesn’t.
She takes what she needs and a lot more.
She uses me everyday and I let her.
Do I say no?
I show her my pain.
I show her my anguish.
I show her my rage.
She understands but doesn’t act.
She sees but she never reacts.
She uses me, every inch of me.
She has begun giving back.
But her needs have become wants,
Her gifts have become ever small.
It won’t help, I know.
I won’t last, you know.
She knows and yet she uses me.
All of me.
From the top to the bottom.
From one end to the other.
I am a full circle.
She has gone around using me.
From my deepest to the farthest from me.
She has explored and continues.
She looks, learns and does more.
She is brilliant but careless.
It won’t help now.
I won’t last for our future.
I’m exhausted.
Yet I continue to give.
While she experiments to replace me.
But I’m irreplaceable.
It was great while it lasted
But if one ever asks,
Earth, how did you meet your end?
It was because the human was Disastrous for me.

P.S. Three acts – smoking, we kill ourselves – adultery, we kill two – global warming, we doom us all. Hope that came through to those who read! Happy brewing, happy reading! 🙂

The Caretaker

“It’s time to wake up!” she said to her. “Come on! There’s warm milk ready for you. It’s a big day today!” she continued and prodded her awake.

She continued looking at the face she knew so well. But her optimism for the day ebbed as a frown replaced her smile. She suddenly couldn’t bear to look at the all too familiar face. She turned around and left her, half awake, half asleep and headed to the kitchen to prepare their breakfast – porridge, as usual.

“Are you awake? We have to get you ready, bathed, dressed and ready to go!”

She went back into her room to check that she had packed everything. She had laid out the clothes she was going to dress her in. It was a big day indeed. She was worried about leaving her alone. Mother’s anxiety kicked in, and she began worrying a lot more.

Despite the melancholy creeping into her day, she pretended to be all happy and smiled while she went through the motions of a usual day. She fed her, bathed her and dressed her. Maybe she can do this, she thought. Maybe separation wasn’t the answer. But she had to let go. She had to live her life.

“So, you are all set for your first day! You’ll have a good time there, I promise. They will take very good care of you,” she kept saying, probably to console herself, more than anything else.

She looked at her; two sets of brown eyes met. Tears dripped from both.

“Don’t cry! I’m sorry, it’s all my fault I know. I am a terrible person. I’m sorry,” she said and she went to hug her. She felt her hand touch her head and felt as though she was making her look at something. She couldn’t speak much anymore.

She directed her gaze to the couch, around herself. The area around her seat was darker than the rest of the couch – it was wet. She had Soiled herself.

“Oh Mom..it’s okay,” she said, looking at her mother.

She had been taking care of her mother for years now. She soiling herself was nothing new, nothing she hadn’t always cleaned up. Her mother was an old woman. But a woman who had taken very good care of her. She could never come to let her go. But lately, it was getting very difficult to juggle her own life and that of the caretaker she was while at home. She felt terrible about entering her into a home, a facility that could and would do a better job of taking care of her.

She cleaned her mother up and helped her into new clothes. She drove her to the old-age home and checked her in. She sat with her until they were ready with the room. She put all her mother’s belongings in her room; put photos on the sill and her clothes in the closet.

She couldn’t bear to stay there any longer. She crouched in front of her mother and said, “I’ll visit often, I promise.”

She left her then. On her way out, she saw many others there, laughing, playing board games, sharing stories, reading books with their glasses perched low on their noses. She hoped her mother would have a similar time, a good time. She hoped they would take good care of her.

She drove back home. She had been worried about the stress of separation triggering an episode but she had made it through the morning. She dialed her doctor.

“Hi, it’s Zoya here.”

“Hi Zoya, how are you today?”

“I’m alright. I can come in anytime you want.”

“Oh, that’s great. Has your mother settled in?”

“The place looked great. I just dropped her there. Thank you for your suggestion, Doctor.”

“They will take good care of her, don’t worry. I’ll have your chemo scheduled at the earliest.”

“Thank you. I’ll be there.”

She hung up then and sat there. She allowed her concentration to waver for the first time in the day; allowed her brain to grow fuzzy. She looked at the nearly dried up spot of her mother’s urine, on the couch. She wondered about her own impending incontinence. At thirty, she wondered whose attention would she direct to the fact that she had soiled herself.

Soil

P.S. A short story after a long time. Happy brewing, happy reading! 🙂

To the women in my life

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Source: images.penguinrandomhouse.comcover9781101911761

 

To the women in my life,

There are those who are remembered for their memorable work; work which has gone down in history. Frankly, history was never my forte. I am writing today to commemorate, to praise the memorable work of those whom I will always remember. I do not need world history for that. They are those who are a part of MY history. And that’s all that matters most. Knowledge is subjective; one can choose the information they want to assimilate. It is, hence, vulnerable to filtration. Perhaps that is why education at its earliest stages is consistent – to ensure you do not overlook the basics in your search for the specific.

I always complained to my Father about what the school thought was the necessary basic education. I had different views. As much as I wanted to study that water has the molecular formula – H2O, I wanted to be taught how to write a check (cheque). As much as centrifugal force intrigued me, I wanted to learn how to drive. As much as I wanted to learn how to invite a friend over for a birthday party, in both, English and Hindi, believe me, I would have appreciated being taught how to write a follow-up email after giving a job interview. I am unsure if I wasn’t paying attention at school but I know that all of the above, I learnt outside of it. My idea of schooling was different. It still is.

So, what did I learn and from whom?

The person I am today is either because of society or because of my stance against it. There are always two sides and you take the best from both. There are many things I find unfair and hence my disapproval toward it. That brings me to all the teachers in my life. We learn through our senses and I learn through observation. I have been observing my Mother, my teachers, my friends. I have seen what they do under an array of circumstances, emulate and improvise upon that. And I am glad that I had/have them in my life to teach me.

One of my teachers is my dear dear friend Ms. Apoorva Mandhani. And the other, who is a part of the same breath, the same heartbeat, Ms. Darshana Mishra. Their opinions matter to me, in a way that I can’t describe. I was once told that friends and family differ in importance. I understand. But importance is not the common measure here. My parents are first in rank under a different category altogether. I know that ultimately it is a joint discussion between the three of us – my nuclear family – that leads to most decisions. Also, many a times, I have done what I’ve felt is right because my family has given me the freedom and my friends have shown me how. I am not talking about importance or who comes first. I am saying they are important. Period.

Why the sudden confession of deepest admiration? It is because of a short story Apoorva insisted I read. By Chimamanda Agozi Adichie, “We Should All be Feminists”, is a story that not only explains the term “feminism” but also tells you how to incorporate that. And I would like to thank Apoorva for the same. Also, would like to mention how much I admire her for introducing me to such things.

You know what’s funny? She herself was introduced to that text by a man. So, awareness exists! Oddly consoling. The fact that that’s a consoling idea is ultimately sad. Equality should be a norm, like calling morning, morning. It should come naturally.

If I ever am asked about the situations I felt I was treated unfairly, was spoken to derogatorily or treated condescendingly, not because I deserved it as a human, but more so because I am a woman, the ear the interviewer would have to lend me should have to be a Nobel Laureate – a recipient of the Nobel Patience Prize.

Yes, I have been told it is my fault that I was looked at. I invited it all upon myself. Apparently, telepathy exists but has been wired to interpret a mental “no” as a “yes”. I cringe at the thought of who has told me that it was my fault. I am disappointed that I have never been able to correct their perception. I failed them because even though I have learnt a lot from them, in other respects, I could not impart a concept I believe in, to them. They are my friends, but I did not do my job as a friend. I apologize.

Yes, I have been told that I am 22 years old and that I should start looking to settle down in a couple of years. Yes! I have been told that if I want to continue studying, I should look for a man who will allow me to do so. I cringe at the thought of not only having to possibly share the bed with a human, whose “permission” will decide my future, but also at the thought of who has told me that that is what marriage is. I failed them because even though I have learnt a lot from them, I could not impart a concept I believe in. It is always my choice, my wish. If I have to take my future husband’s permission for anything, and I say permission, not opinion, then it will be ME who will either allow him or ground him to or from going to a party. I will decide if he can continue working or not. I will decide if his mother can stay with us or not. I will decide if he is allowed to be satisfied or not. Unfair? Who am I to control him? Well, who is he to control me? I am thankful to my parents for showing me that marriage is a two-way street and it is a mutual compromise. I am not saying I am all about the “I”; I understand it is a “we” but I prefer “you and I”.

Yes, I have been told that my bill will be paid for me. The actual phrase is, “the one who invites should offer to pay.” It so happens, that is almost always the case. So, I don’t pay. I will always offer to split, but the choice is actually up to the other person. You take the offer or you leave it. You offer to buy me a drink, I’ll say yes if I please, no if I don’t. If I say yes, don’t bring feminism into the picture. It was a question, respect my positive answer. I was never going to judge you for not spending on me. Come up to me and talk. The conversation is what I will remember, not the bill you paid; not the money you flaunted.

Yes, I have been told that it is easy for me. After all, I can get married and that should take care of me – financially or in any other way. Isn’t that sad? Apparently, I sat with the boys in the classroom to different end results! One shall receive a bonus at work, but my future financial security is the  gold that the bonus will buy. I went through the grind of education to see a man with the same degree, off to work, and to see my degree on the matrimonial resume, being evaluated if I am worthy enough to be ground, albeit differently.

I must admit – I do not know what feminism exactly is. I must admit, I utilize my femininity as a mean to my ends. If I call myself a hard-core feminist, you will tag me as a hypocrite. But what you fail to realize is that I do so because it is hard to be a woman in a man’s world. It is hard to stand up for yourself, with the fear of being abused. The day that changes, I promise, I will too.

And that is why this post for the women in my life. I know I have company when I rant about the troubles I face due to gender inequality. My company is the group of women in my life. And I am glad and grateful that they are there. They support me and introduce me to ideologies worth holding on to. They show me how to do it and that’s how I’ve learnt.

The conclusion is, there isn’t a conclusion. There is only a solution. A lifelong debate, the competition of men v/s women, requires a solution, not a conclusion.

“I went to play hide-and-seek.”

“I read this book today.”

“I nearly slept in the history class.”

“I took the GRE, I’m going to America.”

“I met this person and I think I like them.”

“I got the job!”

“I think my boss hates me.”

“I lost the promotion to the other contender.”

“I am getting married.”

“I must take care of my parents.”

“We’re pregnant!”

“I’m considering taking up teaching.”

“The baby is crying, diaper change?”

“It is time to give our daughter away in marriage.”

“I spoke to the Doctor, they said I have Cancer.”

“I’ve had a full life.”

Did you guess which gender spoke the above lines? Are the primary experiences different? The path of life, different?

“She should not wear such clothes.”

“He touched her? She should not have been alone in the room with him.”

“Why was she out this late? No doubt she was gang raped. She invited trouble for herself.”

“You need not go abroad to study. We’ll find you a suitable boy to take you there.”

“Settle down, your biological clock is ticking.”

“Do not enter the temple, you are impure.”

“You are not a virgin? Oh, I ‘made love’ to 10 different women, but you are not a virgin?”

“I lost the promotion to this guy at work.”

“I feel like my presence in the creative team is just symbolic.”

“I think you should resign and take care of the house.”

“Why do you want to eat out? Didn’t you cook?”

“I don’t think you should take this job, I work here and can’t move.”

This is how a woman’s experiences, on the same path of life, are different.

This is still about the women in my life. I see them deal with this and succeed. I have nothing but pride in my heart and mind, for them. I am in awe. I admire them. They have broken the norm and have taught me how. My Mother was the breadwinner of her own family. She earned more than my Father once upon a time. My Father taught me that there are real men in this world, because he was okay with that. There wasn’t an issue at all.

I am the son and the daughter in my small nuclear family. But why be two different things? I am the offspring, the ward, the child. No need for a gender classification. I will take care of my parents, settle down in life and live. Boy or a girl, this is what a human actually does. I’m human. I’m proudly a human woman. That does not change anything. The sooner both sexes understand this, the sooner everyone becomes a feminist, sooner we all become anti-sexist, the better for humanity, as a whole.

Dhwani Hariharan

P.S. Happy Mother’s Day to all the beautiful, strong WOMEN out there. Happy brewing, happy reading! 🙂