On Being A Woman – Year End Post


It has been over a month now since I wrote anything here. I am not really in right frame of mind. Anger and pain has made me numb. Excuse me for this rambling and just ignore the errors for now.

kuch alfaz ab bhi seene me hain uljhe

kuch girahen abhi bhi khulni hain baki

hain sawal kuch jinke dhoondhne hain jawab

hain jawab jinhe ab bhi hai sawalon ki latash

Sometimes I feel my life is like an exquisitely embroidered shawl. Richly embroidered in vibrant hues which people see and appreciate but it is I who feels the inconvenient knots and tangled threads of its inside.  When anyone says “I understand how you feel” I say “No you don’t”, you possibly can’t imagine how tough it is to be a woman in this country, to struggle each day, to fight for survival. To live here is an act of bravery and then you see what ultimately happens to the brave hearts who dare to dream of living a life on their terms. What are these terms? you will ask.

 

The terms are – Dignity, honor , equality in all spheres of life, a right to LIVE as a fellow human being.

 

” Ha!, you say, don’t talk about these philosophical  terms that feminists quote. You have all that you need –  security, food, shelter, money, a husband to” look after” you, what else do you want? What is this about dignity and crap? Your dignity is within the four walls of this house. It is in your hand to preserve and protect it. Don’t listen to these so-called “committed/progressive women” these “feminists from women’s Organisations” they will try to lead you astray, they will break your home and fill your head with shitty ideas that will only take wrong decisions.  Dress”modestly” . It is because of these “dented, painted disco going women” that all these cases of rape and molestation happen.Stay within your boundaries, follow traditions and norms set by society for their women, know your duties and follow the moral code. If you do all this then only you can give good values to your children. God has been kind to you and given you two boys. Thank God for not burdening you with a daughter. Don’t talk to the neighbors, make only a few friends (although we don’t see the need of it) and mind you they should not be men. You are a married woman and your commitment is only towards your husband, children and in-laws. Your parents? Their son will look after them, it is his job not yours. Now you are part of this family and nothing else matters. Remember that silence and patience, tolerance and abiding to the wishes of your husband is the utmost priority in your life even above your own self for that self is also now His and not yours anymore.

Do you get what I am saying ?”

 

“Well,  yes I do see it. I followed it like an idiot for a major part of my life and screwed it. Now I intend to trash your “Codes for an Indian Woman” and chart my path make my own rules, take my own decisions, Live My Life.”

 

“What? Then you are not a good wife, daughter, DIL, and mother, you are not even a good woman. See, this is what happens when women are let loose. When they gain access to public spaces and get exposed to things like Internet. This is what corrupted you. Now your head is filled with all those lofty notions of independent living and all the crap about women’s rights. Mark my words, you will suffer, realize your mistake within no time and come back on your knees.”

 

***

“If that is what you think, Shame On You.  I do not wish to be labelled as a “Good woman” by Your Standards. I will sell myself if I have to and live under the open sky if push comes to shove but I will not give in now and will not come back to this prison with invisible bars and barbed web of rules designed to keep me in hold all through my life, that’s a promise.”

2011 saw emergence of a new Me.

Many women are not living their dreams because they are living their fears.

 

Isolation, restriction, guilt, humiliation, denial, continuous controlling and criticism and  lack of empathy, love, companionship, shattering of a dream of ” a life long relationship based on mutual respect” breaks them. Emotional, mental tortured is hard to explain due to lack of  ” solid evidence” . 
Emotional Abuse comes silently most of the times camouflaged as “love, betterment, moral duty, guilt, emotional blackmail, and marital rape. Silence helps it breed and dig its claws deeper.
In our country ‘thinking’ for oneself is not encouraged. It’s always conformity & herd mentality. The  moment a woman begins to voice her thoughts she is condemned, ridiculed & told to shut up. If she rebels , her condition is even worse.
Does that mean we keep suffering ?
NO.
 Trust me it is better to raise your voice and make your life worthy than suffer and reinforce the fact that women can be used as objects and treated like an old newspaper.
Two years have passed since I cut those silken chains and  moved out to rediscover myself as a woman , as a person, as a human being. I had to pay the price. I had to leave my boys behind.
“What kind of mother is she? So insensitive and unconcerned, so selfish.”  I still hear it but in hushed voices.
Emergence of new woman who can defy everything that binds her and yet be happy is a painful, uphill task.
Today when I sit and look back I know I was privileged. I had friends who stood by me like a rock, I had patronage to be economically independent in some way after a gap of 22 years. I had a family to go back to though it was a halfhearted acceptance.
It is easy to say what took you so long? It is easy to say ” Hang in there, everything will be fine”, it is easy to sympathize but it takes immense courage to hold the hand of someone who is defying and rebelling against the system. I was privileged in more than one ways to have people with such strength.
I owe it to them as much as I owe it to myself .
 If anyone thinks it is selfish to think about oneself, to dream, to have desires then so be it.
I am selfish. I can’t deny the love I am supposed to give myself. It would be utterly dishonest to do so and if I am dishonest to myself how will I ever be honest to others?
I believed and hoped my boys understood. They stood by me.
They did not have a choice.
They said nothing.
It is tough to be separated in such manner. The guilt ate into the fiber of my being  day and night. It still does. But I had to make a choice – To live or to exist. I chose the first.
I have a lot to thank for, lot of people to offer my gratitude for helping me be myself but the battle is not won yet. Even after two years I   have one foot in the past and one in present. Sometimes I see myself at the periphery of a void at others I feel absolutely thrilled by what I have achieved in last one year. I have been able to break many mental barriers. It has been a productive year in many ways but still something is amiss. I have not been able to completely shake off the layers that hide the real me stirring and quivering underneath in want of  release. A lot remains entangled and knotted not just due to the rotten system we are part of but also because of my own failing to regain the confidence and courage. I am still a sucker of emotions, still vulnerable to the core, still seeking approval when I shouldn’t.
I took the step in direction of change but it seems like a move from a smaller prison to a larger one. A little more space to breathe and move about but still confined. It makes me question my decision. I lose my footing and begin to slip back. It scares me to venture into a society where every moment women are violated, sometimes so brutally.
Physical rape is just one aspect of VAW, the society we live in and are part of strips the female of their species  of a dignified life from the time she is conceived. Some live through the horror of it till they cough last and some are spared that trauma by getting  murdered in the womb itself.  There is only a small percentage that breathes the free air and lives as desire.
As we step into another year my thoughts are with all the women who are facing a challenge to free themselves of the chains that bind them, who are daring to break the silence despite of the risks involved, who are struggling to make a place for themselves  within the culture of violent subjugation and male dominated power structure around which everything revolves and in which women die many times over every day. Most of the times unheard, unsung. There voices stilled. I am thinking about the lack of a support system for those who have the spark to stand up for their rights and fight against the system.
I am not just thinking of women’s rights and gender violence but also about  gay rights, racism, casteism and coexistence which doesn’t exist in our society. I am thinking of equal opportunities, paid employment for women ( just 14.5 %paid employment as compared to men speaks volumes about the structure of our society. 2 million women lost their jobs in last five years), basic education,  basic hygiene and medical facilities. I am thinking of children and the crimes against them. Earlier too there have been catalyst who have shown harsh light on the stinking rotten interiors of our society. Earlier too there have been movements against every damn issue which is shoved under the carpet, How many more ? ? How many wake up calls, How many lives cut short before the change finally occurs?
Will there ever be one single day when a woman will feel safe in this country and breathe easy? When her security and self-respect will not be ground to dust? Will we ever be rid of our sexist culture? Unfortunately when I ask these questions the city that comes to mind is the city in which I have lived for more than forty years – the national capital Delhi.  Not a single moment of my life I have felt secure here. Fear has been a constant companion since I began to move out in public spaces. Fear of those so-called “protectors”. It started when I joined school and continues till now.
As I write this last post of this year I am wondering what lies ahead for the women of India, for me as an individual.  I know it will take a lot of effort and time to completely overhaul the mindset of people to bring some much-needed positive changes but I can begin with myself and my life. It is a rough path that I have chosen but am not giving up. Ever.
Here are two brilliant articles for you to read and ponder upon as I take your leave.
He says among other things,” Men abuse women in every society, but few males do it with as much impunity, violence and regularity as the Indian male.”
(TRUST ME IT IS TRUE)
And
The problem is us  by zigzactly
I have not been regular with my posts but I know you will understand. In a struggle to find my footing I have to sometimes give priority to other important issues that I am dealing with. Thank you for supporting me in all good and bad times and for encouraging me by reading and commenting. I appreciate it very much.
Do something constructive in the coming year.
Have the moral courage to Defy what in Unjust. Don’t be a performer.
You can view all the Previous Entries about being a woman and other social issues HERE 

2011- Courageous risks are life giving ( A New Ending Post )


You have given me wings with which to fly
Now I breathe in deep and spread them wide
as we lift off from the silken petals
into the wind where the butterflies glide

This is not a year-end post or may be it is.  A requiem for the past  and a song of  courage for the future.

I wanted to wrap up this year and all those before them and bury them for good. 2011 has been a year of extreme highs and lows in more than one ways. We lost some of the most loved, immensely talented artists/musicians and many other luminaries from diverse fields. Let us say adieu to those who left us in 2011. Bhimsen Joshi , Jagjit Singh, Dev Anand, Shammi Kapoor, Satyadev Dubey , Bhupen Hazarika, Anant Pai, M.F.Hussain, M.K.Pataudi,  Hargobind Khurana, Jehangir Sabavala, Mario Miranda, Steve Jobs, Elizabeth Tylor, Amy Winehouse, Ustad Sultan Khan, Navin Nishcol, Gautam Rajadhyaksh, Indira Goswami and football player Socrates and Gary Speed.. the list seems endless.

Year 2011 also took away the fierce tigress Shehla Masood, Nighamanand and RTI activist Nadeem Sayeed. Any voice that rises against the rotten corrupt system, the age-old orthodox so-called values and norms  is silenced. Sometimes one pays with one’s life and at others one has to take courageous risks to stand for one’s dignity, pride and right to live as a human being , as a woman.

When a woman decides to break the shackles that chain her to submit to the will of others, when she walks out on a relationship that smothered her for years , when she decides to be fearlessly herself , to not be a “trophy wife” , when she shows the inner strength and moral courage to defy submitting to what society defines as ” excepted rules and code of conduct for women” then she is born again and trust me this is a difficult birth. This metamorphosis from a caterpillar to a butterfly is a slow painful process. A process which for some means shedding layers and layers of borrowed hurts and burdens. This journey from darkness to dawn requires an inner courage  which is unmatched and unbreakable especially when one is economically dependent. It is difficult to take that first step and say ENOUGH. Difficult to leave behind young children and  a large part of one’s life but when relationships stagnate  they rot and it is better to cut the rotting part before it infects and kills. It is difficult to stand for your dignity and face the filth flung at you by the society for whom a woman is merely a “puppet that can be fit into various roles with strings pulling her from all sides deciding when she should do what “.

A forgotten species not allowed to dream and live the life she imagines. Always subjected to ridicule, contempt and told to shut up, she is supposed to adjust , compromise, suffer, make peace, forgive the offenses and injustices inflicted at them and go through difficult marriages with ” patience and tolerance. She is “not allowed” to follow her dreams, aspirations and put them all on a back burner to make sure ”  a peaceful happy married life” and if she rebels against the established conventions and charts a path for herself then the situation is even worse.

But,

Courageous risks are life-giving. 

2011 changed  direction of my life. Sometimes it just takes a tiny spark to light a flame within.  I have already written about what made me step out and start afresh.  It took me many years to find my lost confidence, my voice that was stilled. Change is uncomfortable, new beginnings scary for someone like me whose world was confined.

I have so many friends to thank for this transformation, for instilling this strength in me , for believing in my potential and for making me love and believe in myself as a woman, as a human being irrespective of the roles assigned by the society. Each word, each gesture made me stronger than ever. Friends who showed me the mirror, who spoke their minds to make me see the reality as it is, who helped me get out of the closet and express through my writings, each one of them played a significant role in making me who I am today and my heart is filled with gratitude for them. The reason I write about me is again to be a spark in someone’s life , to light a flame of change in some woman’s life.

I realized that after that initial fear is conquered there is no turning back. At  the end of  2010  the embryonic plant encased in the seed coat was beginning  to prepare itself to break the sidewalk and  blossom into a flowering plant.  I have come a long way from the time I wrote ‘  The time has come to be fearlessly myself  ‘.

I took some bold steps just as Tara did.  For, If it hurts it is not love  .

It wasn’t easy for me to leave but I knew that nothing could be worse than what I was going through. Separation from my boys cut me deep. They put up a very brave front in standing by my decision. It was I am sure their energy that made me spread my wings and take a flight into the vast open sky through the tiniest crack in the walls that were closing in every moment. I know I could not have done without their never-failing love and support. They taught me some very fine lessons in life. The period of nine months since I stepped out were filled with extreme emotional upheavals but the fact that I did what was right for me  as a human being , as a woman , kept me going. It is not that the guilt of  leaving behind the children did not gnaw at my heart  but sometimes to survive and live one must take the most painful of  steps.

Now at the threshold of a new year , I find myself  heading towards a new ending, a much-needed closure that will be the new beginning for me. The road is rough and full of uncertainty but I know that the wind beneath my wings is strong and I won’t fall.  It is with this unsurpassed trust and confidence that I greet the new year. There is still a lot to be done and having taken this first step all I see is the summit. I know that to climb steep hills requires slow pace in the beginning and I am taking one step and a time.

There is no turning back.

I have the gift of life again and I want to cherish and nurture it with respect and love. There were times I cribbed about life being unfair and people being unjust to me but now when I look back I thank the universe for all those hardships and all those people who made sure I suffered for it is due to them I am stronger and sharper.

Life never gives you anything you can not handle , it is just that some flowers take time to blossom. Nothing goes waste. Those years gone by were my rooting years. Now with strong roots and stronger heart I am ready to take on anything that life offers.

I thank all my readers, my friends, everyone who helped me open my resilient petals. To all of you I owe my new self. Thank you for enriching my life.

Wish you all a very happy New Year. 

The two important things I did learn were that you are as powerful and strong as you allow yourself to be, and that the most difficult part of any endeavor is taking the first step, making the first decision.

 

This post is dedicated  with love and gratitude to a very special person. 

Butterfly picture courtesy Google Images

When she dares to dream of a life she imagines …


 

Amrita Pritam writes,

society attacks everyone who says its coins are counterfeit, but when it is a woman who says this, society begins to foam at the mouth..it puts aside all its theories and arguments and picks up the weapon of filth to fling at her.”

We are the forgotten species not allowed to dream and live a life we imagine. You may disagree but truly however she may rebel against established society and conventional morality a woman is compelled to compromise with life.

However independent, aggressive and powerful Indian woman may be she still has  to go a long way before she is truly liberated.

In our country  ‘thinking’ for oneself is not encouraged at all. It is always conformity and herd mentality. The moment a woman begins to voice her thoughts she is condemned, ridiculed and told to shut up. If she rebels , her condition is even worse.

In today’s society where many women have crossed the threshold of their home and become economically independent, they continue to face oppression and gender discrimination in some or other form. Crime against women is rampant in the form of eve-teasing, sexual harassment, domestic violence, dowry,marital rape,  workplace discrimination, rape, molestation, honour killings etc. She gets out of the hold of one master into the world of many masters. this kind of independence is a relative concept.

Many women feel it’s better to stay put with the known enemy instead of  an unknown one. Women continue to struggle in our traditional patriarchal society from the time they are born. She  remains bound by the silken chains,dominated by her parents, in-laws, husband ,boyfriend etc.

Emergence of new woman who can defy everything that binds her and yet be happy is a painful, uphill task.

what does independence mean for today’s woman?

Is it freedom from oppression,  self-rule or doing whatever one wishes to without any hindrance? Is it a life of dignity where she has her ” own space” and is considered capable of analyzing and  using her own mind neutralizing the age-old male domination which is so rooted in our collective unconscious .

To me it is a simple life of dignity and respect, of acceptance as part of human race and not some scum of the earth.

Isn’t it time to raise voice against this symbolic violence of male domination ? A violence that  manages to perpetuate itself easily through various channels and is often possible for the most intolerable conditions of existence to appear as acceptable and even natural.

Women in our society, especially married women and among them those who are economically dependent on their husband’s income suffer the most. Their life concentrated between the four walls of the house , their boundaries set. Anyone crossing the proverbial rakshman rekha is doomed . It’s not just an ancient story of Sita it is the story of millions of Indian women. Sita suffered because she crossed the line of control drawn by her brother-in-law and any woman who dares to as much as think of stepping out of the LOC will meet the same fate  – A life full of tragedies. This deeply ingrained belief  keeps many women caged to their ” limited world cage” – frustrated and helpless. Mostly resigned to their fate.

These women seem like cold embers. Seething from within but docile and fearful from outside, living their mechanical lives day after day, rotting away with religious rituals, social, moral bonds, customs and duties.

Who will find this life respectable?

The whole personality of her being is stunted.

Most of them don’t revolt and those who do , cut their chains and try to soar in open sky, mostly find it very difficult to come to terms with the dazzling ever-changing world outside. Not all women have choices and some who are privileged either sacrifice them for emotional or  any inner reason. What roles are these women playing – flattering men , please them in order to survive only to be played around with and finally kicked out of houses they call homes.

I feel personally that women like me who are self-aware and have managed  to take that first step towards a dignified life still lack confidence to take on the society. Years of being home bound shred the self-confidence and gives rise to deep feeling of distrust.

The very fire that burns in them consumes them.

Social taboos and limitations , even if the women are  educated and living in urban society, makes them suffer emotional torture they are subjected to; of the verbal – or in the worst cases even physical violence. In many cases the reluctance and resentment with which their economic independence or earning power is accepted. They face rejection, envy, jealousy, subtle contempt and ungratefulness, they are not allowed to hold their opinions or exercise their rights. The sword of Damocles is always hanging on the heads of even the most powerful and independent of women.

The life of a woman, however progressive, educated or modern  is in first place under control of her parents and then in her husband’s home which becomes her permanent address for the rest of her life. She waives off her rights of the maternal home and if the new home doesn’t welcome her she is cheated of her basic rights there also. In any case of distress she is left hanging in an abyss as family structure is the only welfare sector that our society offers. Parents shrug their shoulders and under social pressures don’t  support her and she is already an outcast in her married home. Most parents wash their hands off their daughters the moment the ” burden” is off their heads.

Women are expected to adjust , compromise, suffer, make peace, forgive the offenses and injustices inflicted at them and go through difficult marriages with ” patience and tolerance” .

Their aspirations, dreams, priorities are nothing and should be put under lock and key to ensure a  ” peaceful happy married life“.

Often in lack of  a support system these women carry a heavy inhuman burden and the relationships crack up under pressure.

Is it that the moral downfall of our society turned many women into insecure lot continuously looking for support and appreciation?

Is it this what causes them to turn selfish and leave their sensitive feminine nature .

In this competitive world some women no doubt who get life in packaged deal with attractive bonanza understanding family  and great career, love support and stability but then there are a huge number of those unfortunate ones who suffer continually and their life is nothing but a struggle to survive.

The male dominated Society wants women who  sinks their individuality and drown their dreams and aspirations.

When she dares to dream  most women are caught in catch 22 situation of submission and rebellion . To free herself from the so-called ” safe and secure environment” of family and home  is a tough choice for most of women in India. Those who dare to break away are at loggerheads with the society. It is no cake walk for them.

Indian women , a major section of them, live a subjugated life devoid of any soul. They are humiliated, used , abused and preserved in stinking jars, they are flaunted as trophies, made to obey the commands like marionettes and barely a few break the chains and escape to live a life of dignity.

Then there is the other perspective . The male perspective which is deeply saturated with years of conditioning and domination of women. They do not see any flaw in a woman living within the four walls doing what she is ‘supposed” to do . Even if reluctantly they “submit” to her ” rebellious emancipated ways poisoned by the  ‘feminist ideas” she is always a butt of ridicule.

One can see why.

Mainly because they can’t think otherwise. Their thinking is limited , they are repeating only what they have seen and learned from the women in their household and community but that doesn’t make it justified , does it ?

Does it mean that the woman should be sympathetic and understanding and even after all her efforts for a healthy dialogue  fail she should continue to be humiliated?

We all know women are being oppressed , we know the reasons What then is the solution?

Is the institution of marriage losing its importance in the fast paced society ?

Is marriage essential ?

Is it not more like a relationship problem ?

What about single unmarried women , widows, single mothers? Are they liberated ?

What needs to be done to the sick society we are living in?

Are all these orthodox rituals, customs, codes of conduct , so called moral values  generated by the double faced society worth anything for the growth of human race ?

I ask these questions to myself and to all my readers .

What change is needed individually and collectively that will ensure a dignified fear free life for women?

Looking forward to your responses on this rather long post.



Diary Of A Woman Interrupted (DWI) : Introduction


I recognized her even after a gap of 25 years. She was the only friend I had and one day she just vanished. Frankly I also did not try to find her. I was going though my own problems and she just slipped into some remote corner of my mind.

The restroom of a swanky mall was not the kind of place to meet an old pal but what the heck I was ecstatic to see her.

I waited for her to finish. I remembered some common friend mentioning about her unsuccessful marriage but I never knew the sordid details which I was about to discover about her life.

Our eyes met in the sparkling mirrors and obviously she did not recognize me. 25 years is a long time. She felt uneasy of my stare.

” You aren’t doing a good job in concealing Sonya ” I remarked.

She turned crimson.

“Sorry? How do you know my name and what do you mean not a bad job in concealing ?”

The only other thing that had not changed in all those years apart from the mole on her chin was the spark in her eyes though it seemed to have dimmed over the time.

“There is always another rainbow my dear ” , Reminds you of someone ? ” I smiled again.

“Tikuuu , Oh my Gawd girl” and we hugged. We were filled with emotions so strong that they held us together for a long time.

“I need to go sweetheart but we will catch up this weekend .I am in Delhi these days.” There was an urgency in her voice or was it some fear I wanted to fill the gaps but held my curiosity.

We exchanged numbers and she left after giving a quick tight parting hug.

I kept looking at her slim figure scurrying past the mall mongers until it vanished from the eye.

I knew something was not right.

She didn’t call.

I was itching to dial the number she had given but couldn’t muster up the courage. I had seen her failed attempt to hide the marks on her face. Was she going through domestic violence or was it something else. The thought came like bile in my throat. Why is it that some of us go through a lot of hurt and disillusionment in life and yet can’t find the door to freedom. Is it that we search too hard and miss the opening. Maybe we look for doors and miss the window or the fire escape. We grope in darkness and feel the walls and still don’t see the faint light streaming through that one escape route.

why?

With brimming eyes and heavy heart I made my way down the accelerator and made a brave attempt to look good in front of kids. We collected the stuff and came home. They filled with happy thoughts and I with a whirlpool of emotions and questions to which even I had no answers.

Last month , after a gap of two months, I got a courier. A diary. Sonya’s diary with a note which said –

” Hey tiku,

You were right about me not being good in concealing. Even the practice of so many years has not made a pro. I had to rush to meet a client. I am at the threshold of a life changing decision and had no time to explain it to you and I know you wouldn’t have been satisfied with short answers. So sorry buddy, hope you understand. I am sending you my diary and by the time you get it I will be gone to another town.

I know about what you are going through ;). Surprised ?

well ! I read your blog and discovered an old pal who poured out all the details about you.

To tell you the truth you yourself are no good at concealing.

😦 Be brave.

Wish I could do something for you. I think it is time for you too to look closely at your life and move on.

Maybe reading my story will help you heal. Share it if you wish. Maybe some other woman will get courage to live her dream by reading it.

I know you write about issues about women even though you were never a feminist.

I wanted so much to sit down over a drink and catch up with you but I knew it would have been a traumatic experience for both of us. Also I had no time.

Will get back to you when I find a foothold in my new life.

Lots of love sweets. You are in my heart always .Terribly missed. Keep writing .

S*

I stared at the crisp white sheet till the blue letters became a blur. Neatly I folded the letter and ran my fingers on the smooth leather surface of the diary wondering what lay inside the hard covers.

I will be sharing some pages from Sonya’s diary with a hope that it will maybe light up some heart somewhere and maybe just maybe some woman will find courage to break the chains and fly free.

All names, places have been changed to respect the identity of people involved.

By the Way Sonya was a name she used while writing poems as a girl. ;).

I will try to bring it all to you as she shared with me. I will report incidents which I think are relevant to share.

I know she will be reading it too.

So here is to all the caterpillars and the butterflies within them.

Diary of a woman interrupted

I will name the posts with DWI page 1 – 2-3 or something like that to keep it connected.

Trust me It has been hard for me to do this. Very hard.

Looking within always is difficult and this has been a kaleidoscope of memories, dreams, hopes and much more.