Anupama writes a letter to her 18-year old daughter. Read what she has to say.
She had known all her life that righteous anger is a male prerogative, not meant for women. As a girl, she was told to keep her eyes down and voice lowered. She was never given what she wanted, was always handed over what was conveniently available.
Old habits die hard.
Decades ago while going to catch the College Special she used to walk to the bus stop with her friends. They had developed a game – catching and matching the snippets of conversations they heard while walking, from the passer-bys and making a poem out of it. Their favourite was ‘She is coming’ and the counter ‘No, no she is going’. They could never decide which was the correct version and it became a standard joke “Aaa Rahi hai, no, no Jaa Rahi hai”.
Traversing college, job, marriage, kids, empty nest, now she was mulling over her beloved Oscar Wilde’s quote – ‘With age comes wisdom, but sometimes age comes alone.’ She still loved hearing and storing snippets of conversations which she heard during her evening walks in Bhabhi Garden.
“Mmerray teen bahuawaay hain. Do mmeray sath rahati hain, ek alag”(I have three daughters in law. Two stay with me, and one separately) boomed the loud voice from ‘Buddho kee Bagiya”. This corner of the garden was so named by her because all the old men sat there tooting their own tired bugles. No one had taught this man the collective noun or pronoun. ‘Mmery, mmerray’ had defined his whole life. No ‘Hamari’, no ours! He had never felt the need for such words.
She smiled to herself on this train of thought because she could hear her Ph.D. guide Dr. Roy’s voice directing her, “Analysis, Mrs. Jhamb, analysis! No simple narration. The simple narration is for simpletons.” And like an obedient student, she had followed the lead and fallen in what she called now the ‘rut’ of analyzing. She could not simply watch the things going around her. She had to examine them, scrutinize them, catch their nuances, evaluate them, slot them, reach conclusions – a habit which people around her found irritating. So, what should she do? She just shrugged! Let those around her think that she had a superiority complex, was hyper, was trying to show off. Maybe! They all cannot be wrong, no? But she couldn’t silence, “Analysis, Mrs. Jhamb, analysis.”
Right, maybe she was indulging in attributional error or confirming her own biases. Okay if she was, she was ready to err on the opposite side of being a simpleton. She was confirming her own bias against patriarchy in which the male gets the best deal and the woman a raw one, a bleeding one, a sucking one – always at the receiving end. Don’t worry she also knew about the false consensus effect – the illusion to assume that most people think and feel the way we do. She silently cheered the bahu who had dared to live ‘alag’ from this suffocating know-all patriarch.
She has been a fan of the romantic approach. Not ‘romantic’ in the way popular fiction means it, but ‘romantic’ as in a ‘novel’ approach – a new way of looking at the familiar. Ideas always appealed to her. Sometimes they turn the familiar into unfamiliar and vice versa thereby helping you to grasp reality in a better way. But of late she was losing the jest for them also. Has she mellowed down? Maybe.
She came across an article on Soraya Chemaly’s book ‘Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger’, which explores women’s anger and how society seeks to eliminate it. She did not order it. An older version of her would have ordered it, or at least juggled the budget to plan to order it; her generation did not have the kind of disposable income that the present one has. But yes, she would have procured it and devoured it and would have started on the path of analysis and from there to writing.
Nowadays she found that even writing couldn’t bring any therapeutic relief, any sense of contribution to social change by sharing her crisis because human nature is what it is, adamant on repeating the same mistakes, refusing to change. The printed word was definitely more effective before the advent of the digital world. An army of writers/bloggers – some talented, some merely equipped with the paraphernalia of writing like a laptop, internet connection, have diluted the effect that writing had in bringing a social change. She wasn’t thinking of geniuses – they can and still do. She knew, she possessed the lowest/mini ‘c’ of creativity, she did not want to add to the babble of voices, so she did not order the book.
Also, she did not want to think about women’s anger which would merely depresses her, because she would look askance at her maternal family, husband, in-laws, children, extended family. Some of those who had hurt her and earned her anger were long gone. And to take out her anger on her septuagenarian husband would be of no use. He needed care. In the sunset years, she does not want to ruin what she has for what she never had. She had already decided to be non-interfering in the lives of her children.
She was familiar with anger from neglect. It had been born early in her life and has steadily grown due to further experiences in the succeeding years. Nothing blatant, very subtle emotional neglect which if she was childish enough not to overcome, was her problem – get it? She was familiar with passive aggression. Resentment, sarcasm was part of the narrative she was in the habit of telling herself. On the surface, her text tended to be mild as if having no subtext. It was bland so that the others could get the meaning convenient to them.
She wanted to forget, did not want to fan the ashes of still smoldering unresolved issues. Oh, yes, everyone has them – the open loops. If they do not have them, they have achieved nirvana and do not belongs to the ordinary mortals.
Silencing, sublimating, denying her inner anger – she had been doing it her whole life. Letting go, coming to terms, forgetting – these are all mere words. When you are the one who has ruled, exploited, enjoyed others’ rights at their expense – the above-mentioned words make sense. You are ready to be magnanimous, to make grand gestures suggested by the current lingo of self-improvement initiatives. But if you have been the victim, these words are a mere jumble of sounds sans concept because you cannot turn back the clock, you cannot press ‘undo’ and of course, ‘delete’ is meaningless because everything that happens is forever, can always be retrieved. The maximum? You become a fence sitter – victim or victimizer, till you breathe your last.
Long ago, in her early thirties, she had realized that her conditioning had made her the queen of rationalization and she had proudly balanced her crown throughout her life. She was a good girl trained to take the path of least resistance, silently obedient. She was a successful wife, mother, grandmother. She now knew the version of their standard joke which applied to her. It was not ‘Aaa Rahi hai’. It was ‘No, no, Jaa Rahi hai.’
She does not need validation. Dear reader, she leaves it to you to decide whether she simply aged, or her age brought wisdom, or she is doing what authentic people never do.
Image source: a still from the movie Badhaai Ho
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