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Don’t forget who you are, even if everyone else fails to recognize you, says this beautiful story.
One of the top 5 entries for August’s Muse of the Month writing theme, with the cue “I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am”, taken from Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.
Gayatri was in the process of wrapping up the invites and other arrangements just before the launch of her new book. She looked forward to similar gatherings as she felt nice in the company of like-minded, creative people.
The organisers though had made a special request this time; because the subject of her novel was so women-centric they wanted her to share some personal anecdotes with the attendees, in order to make a connect, whatever that meant. Gayatri was learning the tricks of the trade gradually, and it wasn’t easy when one had started at an age when most others begin to plan a retirement.
Till about five years ago all Gayatri had written all her life was her diary, that eventually became her first bestseller and there was no looking back since then, this novel was her fourth, in addition to her highly successful blog about women issues and her poetry collection.
Gayatri felt that the first autobiographical novel had made her life an open book; what else was there to share, she wondered. It had ample details of her early life in a liberal educated family, her promising career, her love marriage, the terrible divorce, and the tumultuous years of single parenthood.
Ashish, her son, was now an entrepreneur in LA, and requested her time and again to move in with him permanently, but this time she knew better. She had been a single parent to him for almost 20 years after her bitter divorce with his father, and had moved with him when he had first settled abroad.
She had a doctorate in Literature but had given up work when Ashish was born. Back then she believed in the happily ever after, and despite her education and liberal upbringing was patriarchal enough to believe that her husband, and later her son, would take care of her.
The marriage fell apart, and when Ashish grew up she felt she had turned into a mere utility and eventually, a liability for him. Just like his father he would often brush away her opinion, if at all he listened to it. How could a mere Indian housewife have a valid opinion…? Using fancy terms like homemaker didn’t make much of a difference to the apathy and disregard. Gayatri found it very stifling that in Ashish’s case too patriarchy had once again defeated all her upbringing.
The only good thing that happened in those years was that she returned to reading and started writing more regularly. It was a momentous decision to come back to India and start living alone once again. Luckily her blog and books found readers.
Well, at this book launch she didn’t want to talk about marriage because she believed it was still a hugely biased institution that valued the male and his heirs much more than the woman. She didn’t want to take up a parenting episode as she felt this was a personal issue and, to each her own.
She had reached the venue the next afternoon, still undecided about the anecdote. While signing the copies she noticed that one of the attendees was carrying Plath’s The Bell Jar. Gayatri smiled, she had found her anecdote.
After the customary pleasantries, as she moved to the dais, she began her speech, and moved to the anecdote excitedly –
It was a bright day in LA, where I lived with my son for a while, and I had just come back from a public library. My son was discussing leaving his job and starting a new venture with his friend over the phone. Being a typical Indian parent, I brought up the topic with him later and was advising him against it in the global economic meltdown scenario. He suddenly snapped at me, “Mom what would you know about investments, even dad never trusted you with money.”
It was epiphany; I made a decision after many years – thinking only about myself. I had to go back to finding myself. I could no longer survive only with reference to context with other people.
I planned my return to India and in my final mail to my son explained my reasons to leave. The final lines were from Plath – I am, I am, I am.”
The auditorium was reverberating with her words and a loud applause. She wasn’t sure whether this anecdote was in sync with the women-centric writing and issues that she took up, but she knew it had taught her a valuable life lesson. She signed off by saying, “Never forget, Aham Braham Asmi – I am the universe.”
Pic credit: AshleyRosex (Used under a CC license)
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Pooja Priyamvada is a columnist, professional translator and an online content and Social Media consultant.
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