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A modern woman’s fascinating journey of navigating loss, love, romance and learnings from the many #NoRegrets women role models in her life.
Let me describe myself from the outsider’s view. I am a modern woman living quite the modern life according to me. English-educated, privileged, having the freedom and opportunities to make my choices including marrying whom I want – that’s me. Technically, I am expected to be living a life with #NoRegrets. But, as I reflected further on my life, the choices that I took as a woman began unfolding like the pages of a book to me until I reached the chapter in my life that was instrumental in shaping my identity as I see it now.
So let’s see, my choices as a woman. Oh, there are some of the supposedly easier choices of being woman. Like choosing the man I wanted to marry, right? No, actually. It felt the easiest thing to do at that time, 15 years back. Fall in love, argue a lot with one’s elders and get one’s way and get married. However, was it a woman’s choice really? From where I am standing now, that was a child or psychological teenager, not-yet-fully-woman making that choice.
This may be a broad generalisation, but I feel that this may be the case with many couples falling in love and getting married young. I think we fall in love with Romance more, in Love a little, and struggle to expand and stay in Love, later. At least, I think this happened to me a little. Although I also feel that I fell in love too quite a bit, and the woman’s heart chose its mate quite unerringly and instinctually. The woman’s primal instinct I think is always trying to act and make itself felt despite all our conditioning, society’s fear of it, and our ego’s self-aggrandising journeys.
So there I was, still a child at age 24 when I got married. Not yet remotely aware that a woman – sovereign, strong, creative, having a mind of her own – was in there somewhere in the deepest, darkest cave. Biding her time, waiting and preparing for the opportunities to make herself known, slowly working her way out through the mazes, cobwebs, and the dense undergrowth of all that we allow to cover the woman inside of us.
I had been a “tomboy” growing up, and proudly so. The man (boy really, to the girl I was!) who swept me off my feet then, loved this about me: that I was “one of the boys” almost, wearing baggy jeans and checked shirts, traipsing all over town, hiking and trekking all over the countryside with them. (Patience, I don’t mean that wearing fitting clothes and being demure whatever that means, is being a woman please).
But just think about it, isn’t this an insidious way in which we are conditioned to glorify being a man and think of being a woman as something of inferior quality maybe? Most well-meaning relatives, well-wishers and friends of the family told us sisters (we are two of us) that we have to be the boys in the house since our father died young and we didn’t have brothers. We have to earn like men do and take care of our mother, that’s what I remember being told a lot. So I hid my curves, cut my hair really short, and unconsciously started searching for the missing father who would rescue me from needing to be a boy and allow me to be the girl I am.
I will cut the story short of gory skeleton details from the cupboard, and just say that marriage became the hell and heaven of the process of finding that woman in me. She did her best to come out in different ways through my growing up years.
This post is one of the selected entries from the blogathon #NoRegrets around Kaveree Bamzai’s inspiring book No Regrets: The Guilt Free Woman’s Guide to a Good Life.
You can also be a part of this blogathon by India’s leading publishing house Harper Collins. Write about the choices that have defined you as a woman. It could be your personal choices or career choices – a decision that you made and accepted with #NoRegrets, whether or not they met with the approval of everyone else. And do tell us what got you to the stage of sticking to it, with #NoRegrets as well!
I look around and realise that this happens to all women. This instinctual woman’s woman who is there in every woman, (let’s call her EveryWoman shall we?), manifests in bits and spurts here and there for each of us. It could be an innate inclination for body-art and decoration, or it could be an ability to stay with sameness over years, or a dynamic exploration of what’s beyond, or a natural propensity to take care and provide nourishment… It is up to each girl to see the signs of how EveryWoman is attempting to manifest uniquely through her. This has been underground knowledge available to women through millennia passed through generation after generation of women, but this is another story.
And if due to various reasons we don’t recognise this, cultivate her and allow her to actualise naturally, she will stage her own coming out, and burst forth through a violent birth if need be. EveryWoman is the complete antithesis of Bunyan’s Everyman. She is pagan, filled with rage or tenderness/disgust or compassion, loves and nourishes like a tigress does her cubs, metes out fatal retribution to protect or give justice, creates and recreates herself and rises out of her own ashes.
EveryWoman led me to embark on the path of yoga and self-enquiry while also taking me through a series of soul shredding life experiences. She burnt me to my ashes so that I can create myself. It took one break-up, one marriage and a couple of almost-separations (all with the same man), and a breakdown of the child’s belief systems and rosy fantasies about love, for me to recognise EveryWoman in me and accord her, her rightful place inside me. I am still learning to allow her to speak and act through me! Allowing EveryWoman, and being the woman that I am, is perhaps a lifelong practice.
I realise today that this woman in me has #NoRegrets about her choice of husband and the course that her marriage has taken and the stronger ground that it stands on today. She hopes! But I realise that I am also saying that she will have #NoRegrets about this choice even if hypothetically speaking tomorrow we, my husband and I, find that we are not on the stable ground any more for one reason or another. What goes up comes down. What falls, rises. This is a law of Nature that EveryWoman knows in her bones. She is that Nature.
My heroes in this journey are all around me, near to me, and in my life. Ordinary yet extraordinary women who inspire me with their being, how they make their choices, how they breathe, speak, don’t speak, and how they manifest passion and love. I don’t even particularly agree with all their choices, but this does not matter for each one of them is manifesting EveryWoman with their unique essence and ways of living.
My great grandmother, Kamakshi Ammal was one such woman and my primary inspiration. I feel that she is in my blood and bones and breath. She passed on from this life 11 years back. Her 88 years of life simply had Strength at its core. Pure inner strength. Imagine a woman who had seen everybody in her family, from her own parents, children, children’s spouses, siblings, grandchild’s spouse, her husband whom she tended in the last days of his life when she was 80! (his bedsores and all), die before her … and after all that could retain: her sense of humour, a voracious reading habit, propensity to pull everyone’s legs and entertain, and her love for new things and knowledge. I know that whenever I feel strong, she is sitting inside me and singing one of the folk-y songs that she loved.
A woman who is EveryWoman personified for me is my Yoga teacher, Smt. Lakshmi Ranganathan. She is over 70 years now, actively teaching and inspiring yoga aspirants and practitioners. She has the longest hair I have ever seen on anyone, almost Rapunzel-like. This long hair got caught in the wheels of a vehicle when she had been in her 20s and snapped her neck. The grit, tenacity and shraddha with which she practiced her yoga and got herself back, is a story of the legend according to me. Her teacher, the revered Guru Sri. Krishnamacharya actually told her that she cannot wear a neck collar if she wanted to learn from him. No crutches!
There are many other women in my life who influence me and I can wax eloquent about – whose choices reflect their quintessential EveryWoman in the ways they live out these choices:
My entrepreneur sister Aparna Nagesh, who charts her fierce path in a patriarchal industry preoccupied with being fair-skinned by putting out dance productions about discrimination and being woman, and grooming younger women to do the same.
My mother, Chitra Nagesh, who raised her two children while being in the sorrow of losing a loved spouse young, with three magical words, “Use your discretion”. Beat that!
One of my yoga mentors, Smt. Sashi Anant, who has fought all odds and a mainstream architecture domain to protect, preserve and enhance the Indian traditional knowledge system of Vastu Shastra and become known as the foremost knowledge holder of this stream in the country, while balancing and completing her roles and duties as a householder, and now mentoring youngsters like me during her Vanaprastham.
My previous domestic helper, Mallika Amma, who became my friend through the years and fascinated me with her ability to simply be available, give and help everyone in her world even if she complained about them, or felt that they hadn’t done right by her. She always separated the two and said she has to do her “dharmam” no matter how they behaved towards her. My conscience brings her up every time I look at someone or a situation with a transactional eye and start thinking about what is my due.
Oh, I could go on but will stop here with this feeling that none of these women has demonstrated or mentioned regret about their lives and choices as a conclusive statement. I feel that each of them would say that all their choices make them who they are, in the ways they carry those choices now. Like unwanted luggage, or wings that lend flight.
As I conclude this piece of writing, I am left with this significant reflection that the #NoRegrets has become about the inner state of being for me – of the woman particularly in this phase, and of the human being generally in the journey of life.
I am quite interested in reading Kaveree Bamzai’s new book, No Regrets: The Guilt Free Woman’s Guide to a Good Life because it will have something that is quite intriguing and fascinating for me, which has not been part of my primary inspirations up until now. A closer encounter with the lives and choices of celebrities and people in the popular public eye. They have much larger families so to speak and have to straddle much. I believe that it will be insightful to understand how much women speak of life and their choices.
Image is a still from the movie Cocktail
Yoga Therapist, Energy-based healing (including Reiki) practitioner, and Poet living in Tiruvannamalai. As in
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