Her fate was sealed the moment she was born. The Chador that wrapped her, grew with her infant body. Layer after layer it hid her slow painful journey into womanhood, chained forever to her home and hearth, by norms of society and religion. She was born to serve and submit.. Serve and submit to the omnipresent men of her clan. In silence.
She was one of the few who survived birth but her voice was stilled for life. The muffled cries of her infant sister dying a forced slow death still woke her up in the middle of nights. Unlike the so called emancipated, literate, liberated urban women, her life was tied by invisible ropes that rubbed against her soft flesh and left wounds that scarred her being.
She ceased to be human the moment she “came of age”. The menstrual blood brought with it emotional and physical abandonment. It also brought a sudden realization of turning into a “woman” who had, a body “to be kept hidden”, tongue which was just a purposeless mass of flesh, heart which would in long run become a vault for unmet dreams and desires and a mind which was considered “non-existent” and which only worked behind a camouflaged screen of darkness.
Suddenly she shrunk under the chador which had taken monstrous proportion since her infancy days. Her life was no longer hers. A marionette whose strings were pulled and pushed by the men in her household and extended family. Shrouded in mystery of her gender, modesty, pleasure, shame, pain and drudgery she carried her body through the lonely barbed web of rules designed to keep her in hold all through her life.
She was still in better position than her aunt, barely a few years older than her and a widow, who had to continuously protect her “unguarded, dangerous” body till she is lowered into her grave safely, a daunting task in a society of vultures ready to pounce on any slice of flesh that they can lay their eyes and hands on.
Deep buried and hidden under layers her body and voice stirred and quivered in want of release but never reached the climax. Considered unfit for any function but marriage, childbearing, housekeeping her entire being came out from the hidden depths during the dark recesses past the midnight silence. Lying next to a snoring satisfied husband or alone, she freely roamed around the courtyard and beyond the threshold into the unnamed, unknown lanes and streets like a alley cat.
Suddenly the landmines erected by society to prevent her from deviating from specified gender roles forgot to explode as she stepped on the prohibited terrain.
Not swathed in black from head to toe in the age old dirty chador that hung near the main door, she set the woman in her free. Reclaiming herself. Night after night.
In those intimate hours with herself she would try and familiarize with the contours of her body, feeling that fervent rush which knew no outlet in her forsaken life. Many times she would slip into the veranda, dressed in nothing but a thin duppata, which made her a bit comfortable with herself, throw her bare arms in the air and watch the night sky with two bright starry eyes, letting the breeze flirt with her.
Imagination would thrown open the doors and windows which usually remained bolted. Walls that had risen brick by brick around her segregating and secluding her would collapse in a heap, making her vulnerable and alive. She would create and recreate the stories told in the midst of giggles and laughter by her city cousins.
Before the first light of dawn, hidden in the safety of the darkness she would dare to live a life she imagined. Strange that the very darkness that engulfed her in daytime became her saviour at night.
This post is written for GBE2 WEEK #64 (8-5-12 to 8-11-12): Hidden
Inspired by Tamil writer Salma’s book and Kamla Das( one of my many muses)