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I am many things – as defined by societal expectations, but I am also myself. A woman with limitless possibilities. I am a woman. I just am.
A girl. I am a girl. It’s alright they say, since an elder brother is already there. Alright, not outstanding. I toddle. I am changed in private. Even when little boys prance around naked.
I am taught to sit ‘properly’. To not show my knickers. I crouch down after pushing my best friend on the field. I shriek. Excited, I forget to press my frock on my back thighs. I show my knickers. I get berated. It’s not enough that we won in kho kho. I am ill-mannered. I am.
I cycle to school. I slow down at the roundabout exactly like my father taught me to. A man on a motorbike does too. But the wind doesn’t. The man asks why I am not letting my skirt blow up with the wind. Would I mind if he helped me? I act as if I didn’t hear him and cycle ahead. Exactly like my father taught me. It was my birthday present – a silver pink Atlas Pearl.
I ride it again that evening. Another man cycles beside me. I am still scared of riding with one hand. The man isn’t. He shoves me to the floor with his hand and zips away into the dark. Why did he do that? I am clueless. I am bruised. I am.
A month away from teenage. I am bewildered to see the blood. I am told it’s normal. But I must never talk about this to my father or brother. I must stay out of the temple when this happens every month. No ice-creams or colas. School makes me wear a snow white salwar kameez. Since those legs could titillate. A white dupatta too that can be used to hide any spots.
I should know how to carry it well along with my greeny-blue Duckback bag. I must always be careful. Ask my friends to check if all is clear at the back when I stand after sitting for long. You see, the white of my clothes between ribbon-ed plaits and black school shoes, is pure and must remain such. I am mature. I am.
I am fat. I should sit and study. I can’t participate in the Latin dance at annual day. I will look funny if I did. I take a rickshaw home. A man on the road asks the rickshaw puller if he is carrying a truck in his rickshaw and laughs away. I tell everyone I don’t care and slam my door.
They tell me guys these days want their wives to look like Shilpa Shetty. My eyebrows join at the center. Right where I have acne. Even a bindi doesn’t look good there. I will never have a boyfriend. I should never have one. I am not beautiful. I am.
I live in a girl’s hostel. The common room phone rings at 2 AM while I am studying for my exam. I pick it up and hear some prankster talking about genitals. His and mine. We don’t know each other.
I take a train when I go home to see my parents. It’s always crowded. An uncle next to me folds his arms at his elbows. I suddenly feel a hand going under my armpit. I shift in my seat. The hand doesn’t stop. I stare. I stand up. Uncle falls asleep.
I go to the Sulphur Water Springs with friends. We float on plastic tubes fully clad from neck to ankle. The water is sacred. Some bare chested guys are swimming nearby. One goes under water and disappears. I startle. Someone just pinched my bottom. Of my friends too. I collect myself and get out of the water. I must stay away from men. For they will be men. But I am a woman. I am.
I am my weight, my skin. My anatomy and my estrogen. I am my choices and the lack of them. I am a bit of everyone and everything around me. Even that uncle, that motorbike man, the underwater swimmer, the school that made me wear white, that cyclist who felled me – for all of them are drilled into my head with an everlasting anger. A permanent chip.
I am all of that and much more.
But underneath it all, I just am. Sans labels. Mine or anyone else’s. Those labels are mere clouds. Hidden behind which lies a sky. Limitless. All absorbing. Of the reality that is me – an individual.
No suffix required. It’s a sentence more complete than any other. A sentence more correct than any other.
Dear world just let me be. Will you?
Image source: I am a woman by Shutterstock.
Shivangi is the author of the hilarious yet compelling book 'I made a booboo', published
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