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“Do you think you are the daughter of some king who will keep you in his palace forever? We are women. We don’t dream."
“Do you think you are the daughter of some king who will keep you in his palace forever? We are women. We don’t dream.”
Our Muse of the Month series this year focus on stories that pass the Bechdel test, and are written on inspiration from a new prompt every month. This month, the prompt was “I’m not weird. Just a limited edition”, and the story should pass the Bechdel Test, that is, it should have at least two well crafted, named women characters (we differ here slightly from the classic Bechdel test, in that we require these characters to be named),
The fourth winner of our July 2018 Muse of the Month contest is Anshu Bhojnagarwala.
“Maa, I am home.” Rashmi announced as soon as she entered home. She checked her clothes thoroughly for any stains on her clothes. She always put on a jumpsuit at work, but one could never be cautious enough while puttering around in a grimy and greasy auto repair shop.
“You are late as usual. Wash your hands and then sit down on that computer of yours.” Her mother, Krishna shouted from the kitchen where she was stirring the dal with a ladle.
A few minutes later, Rashmi was sitting at the computer while Krishna was reading from a sheet of paper in her hand. Krishna was recently diagnosed with age-related short-sightedness and had these new glasses made. She was uncomfortable reading through them and kept adjusting them again and again.
“Write Name: Rashmi Negi. Age: 24. No, no. Write 23 only. You turned 24 only last month. It still counts as 23. Complexion: Fair.”
“But maa, I am not fair. I am brown.”
“People will throw this biodata in the bin if they read that the girl is brown. Who wants to marry a brown girl? Even our Neelu is brown but they wrote ‘very fair’ in her biodata, and see didn’t she get married to the first boy who came to see her. Write fair.”
“Hobbies: Cooking, sewing, playing with kids.”
“Maa, whose biodata is this?”
“Roshni, your friend who got married last month. We need to send these biodatas to all our relatives so that they can start looking for a good husband for you.”
“But Roshni cooks, sews and plays with kids. These are not my hobbies.” Rashmi complained.
“I know. So what do you want to write – zooming on the motorbike all day. I am sure there will be a line of suitors standing outside our home once they read that.” Her mother said calmly. Krishna never raised her voice, but her words laced with sarcasm were more potent than any shouting. Their family members tried not to argue with Krishna; they could never win an argument with her even if they tried. Even Krishna’s mother in law was a little scared of her and her sharp tongue.
Rashmi fumed with anger but chose to stay silent. What would her mother say if she came to know that Roshni was not teaching students but was a car mechanic. An image of her mother’s face turning red with anger floated before her eyes, and Rashmi’s lips inadvertently broke into a smile.
“You think this is all funny. You are 24 and still unmarried. Your cousins younger than you already have two babies.”
“Let them have. That’s what they want. I don’t want marriage or kids.”
“Then what do you want? Run off to Kashmir on that phat-phatti of yours.”
Yes, that’s what she exactly wanted to do. But how could she admit that?
“It’s not phat-phatti. It’s a Bullet.” Rashmi retorted but her mother ignored her as usual.
“Do you think you are the daughter of some king who will keep you in his palace forever? We are women. We don’t dream. Now let’s finish this biodata. I still have rotis to make.”
Rashmi had forgotten all about the wretched biodata when two months later, her mother broke the news to her one evening.
“Rashmi, listen, there are some people coming tomorrow evening to see you. Take a leave from work.”
Oh no! She groaned inwardly. She didn’t want this stress. At least not now when she could see her dream materializing.
Her parents didn’t know that and Rashmi could imagine the fight and drama that would ensue when she broke the news to them. Her father might probably understand, but her mother would throw her out of the house in rage.
The next evening, the boy’s family came to meet Rashmi. As was expected from her, Rashmi wore a saree and served them tea and snacks. Later, the boy and girl were given some privacy to talk and know each other.
Rashmi grabbed the opportunity and told the boy in clear terms, “Listen, I can’t cook, mend or take orders. I am not wife material. So just go outside and refuse to marry me.” She more or less threatened the boy.
She heaved a sigh of relief and thought the whole affair was behind her. But, her father came home the next day with bags full of sweets. The boy’s side had accepted the proposal and the wedding was fixed for the middle of June.
“That idiot!! He did just the opposite of what I asked him to do.” Rashmi thumped her head in frustration. And to add insult to injury, they had picked up 15thJune of all dates.
She went to her mother.
“Maa, can we push the wedding to another date, may be somewhere in July?” She broached the subject hesitatingly.
“Why so that you can hang out some more with those good for nothing friends of yours?”
“No maa, so that I can go to Khardung-la.” She finally confessed.
“What? What is that?”
“Khardung-la pass, the highest motorable road in the world. The event is taking place in mid-June. You know, if I go, I could be the first woman to have driven there.” Rashmi’s face was flushed with excitement. And Krishna’s was flushed with anger.
“Listen girl. Everyone in this village knows of your reputation. They think you are a loose girl because you work till late hours and are seen in the company of males. This boy’s family agreed to this wedding because they do not belong to this town and so luckily for us, didn’t know about you. Now, if you do anything to jeopardize this wedding, I am telling you Rashmi, either I will kill you or hang myself.” Krishna announced. There was no scope for argument.
The entire Negi household got busy in the preparation of the wedding. New clothes and jewellery were bought. Wedding cards were printed. Friends and family were invited. Her parents were happy that Rashmi had accepted her fate and had started taking interest in her own wedding. Rashmi didn’t burst their happy bubble, it would have been useless.
The wedding day finally came. It was a big day for Negi family. Their good for nothing Rashmi was finally getting married. The house was full of guests, dhols were played, tea and snacks were served and her mother was in her element conversing with the guests and catering to them.
In the evening as everyone was busy getting ready for the wedding, Rashmi finally found herself alone in her room. She was decked in the bridal finery. The red bridal lehenga, gajra in the hair and bright red lipstick made her look very different. She liked this beautiful girl that she saw in the mirror. But she knew this beauty was only for a day. The next day she would be cooking for her new family and sleeping with a stranger in a strange bed.
Some girl would have shivered with excitement, but not Rashmi. The prospect of a kiss did not excite her, what pumped adrenaline through her veins was her motorbike and the dream to see the world on it.
Her family called her weird. But she knew she was not. She was different, a limited edition.
She heard the whistle from the street outside her bedroom window. She knew what that sound meant and what she was supposed to do. She got out of the bridal clothes, pulled out the gajra to free her short hair and wiped off the lipstick. She changed into a pair of denims and a chequered shirt. She hid her long hair with a cap. She pulled out her duffel bag that she had hidden in her closet. She opened the window and found two friends waiting for her with her motorcycle. Throwing her bag, she jumped from the window and landed safely.
“Rashmi, have you thought this through?” The concerned boys asked.
Rashmi nodded. She had never been more sure of anything in her life.
She felt safe sitting on her bike. Together they were going to create history.
Anshu Bhojnagarwala wins a Rs 250 Amazon voucher, as well as a chance to be picked one among the top winners at the end of 2018. Congratulations!
Header image is a still from the movie Sairat
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Anshu Bhojnagarwala, is a popular parenting blogger. She likes sharing her thoughts on health and parenting on her blog, Firsttimemommy, which is one of the top 20 First-Time Mom Blogs. She also likes to read more...
Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views, individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times.
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Darlings makes some excellent points about domestic violence . For such a movie to not follow through with a resolution that won't be problematic, is disappointing.
I watched Darlings last weekend, staying on top of its release on Netflix. It was a long-awaited respite from the recent flicks. I wanted badly to jump into its praise and will praise it, for something has to be said for the powerhouse performances it is packed with. But I will not be able to in a way that I really had wanted to.
I wanted to say that this is a must-watch on domestic violence that I stand behind and a needed and nuanced social portrayal. But unfortunately, I can’t. For I found Darlings to be deeply problematic when it comes to the portrayal of domestic violence and how that should be dealt with.
Before we rush to the ‘you must be having a problem because a man was hit’ or ‘much worse happens to women’ conclusions, that is not what my issue is. I have seen the praises and criticisms, and the criticisms of criticisms. I know, from having had close associations with non-profits and activists who fight domestic violence not just in India but globally, that much worse happens to women. I have written a book with case studies and statistics on that. Neither do I have any moral qualms around violence getting tackled with violence (that will be another post some day).
Gender stereotypes, though a by-product of the patriarchal society that we have always lived in, are now so intricately woven into our conditioning that despite our progressive thinking, we are unable to break free from them.
Repeatedly crossing, while on my morning walk ̶ a sticky, vine-coloured patch on the walkway, painted by jamuns that have fallen from the jamun tree, crushed by the impact of their fall, and perhaps, inadvertently trampled upon by walkers, awakens memories of the mulberry tree that stood in my parents’ house when I was growing up. Right at the entrance of the house, the tree caused a similar red and violet chaos on the floor, which greeted us each time we entered the gate.
Today, as I walked by this red-violet patch, I was reminded of an incident that my mother had narrated to me several times. It had taken place shortly after her marriage and her arrival in this house from her hometown.