To Be Or Not To Be A Feminist : A Short Story

Posted: September 24, 2019

“Now what wrong did your bra do to you? Your nipples are popping out,” Pratima Siddhesh Prajapati , the 63-year-old widow of Lt. Siddhesh Prajapati, Ex-Vice President, UFLEX International, raised her eyebrows by inches when she saw her 33-year-old daughter Naina get ready for her  school alumni meet, her jeans distressed and her carrot pink scoop neck bling top way too relaxed, falling off from one side of the shoulder, revealing the fair, young skin and something else too. As Naina walked across the room, Pratima noticed her breasts juggling inside the flimsy material, her nipples erect due to Delhi’s chill in the air.

“Amma, CHILLL. Our ‘Gutsy Gang’ decided this time, we’re going to kill it, nail it, shake it, go ooh la la and show it to the world – ‘Girls have arrived’.

“But you arrived 33 years ago,” Naina could sense the sarcasm in her mother’s voice.

“Ahaa Amma, jokes …I like it,” chirped Naina adding a dash of heavy gloss on her lips, matching the sparkle of her sterling silver hoops.

“Naina, I am serious. Why are you not wearing your bra? I don’t think this is looking proper.”

“Amma, after what is happening around our community, our country, we decided to show our mettle to the boys today. Actually the men. We are also putting up a skit around feminism where we would let each of these demigods know where they stand. Women have had enough. Did you see the movie Kabir Singh? Huh, toxic masculinity. We are done with the chunni, they need to know. We are liberated.”

Naina did a dab, a cross, a skip and a loud ‘yoo-hoo’ before hugging her mother. “I am so excited”.

“Excited for?”

“For doing this skit, to say ‘behen****d’ in front of 1500 people, openly, to shake from everywhere and to announce to the world – judge us by the content of our character and not by our boobs.”

“By not wearing a bra?” Pratima raised her eyebrows.

“Of course!”

“By saying behan***d?”

“Of course!”

“And who gets abused when you say behan***d?- a woman again.”

“Oo ya! Mom, you are right, oh f*** why didn’t I think about it …yes, O S***, hmmm …how about Baapd? Bhaid? Chacha***d?But nobody f**** one’s own father? I mean you know right?” Naina said nonchalantly.

“No, I don’t know and I feel scandalized listening to your plans. You are not going anywhere like this,” Pratima voice grew stern.

“Amma, times have changed, we are in 2019, and I am 33, doing…Ummm”

“Doing what Naina?”

“Standing up for so many things, and doing my bit. Don’t start your age-old traditional bunkum, the age-old talks about sanskaar? We are done with it.”

“ Great. Hearing you talk the way you do, of course, I cannot talk about sanskaars. Huh!”

“I didn’t mean it that way? It’s just that we realize that we have been suppressed for so long, each one of us has to wake up, stand, shout, fight and tell the world – f*** off. We are no longer doormats, no more an object and no more just a vagina and boobs. We are empowered…we make choices for ourselves and live life on terms set by us and the standards we deem fit. We follow no rules, no rules which you have set to govern our lives. No ritual, no traditional that shackle us. We are free.” Naina posing like Martin Luther King Jr gave the royal speech in one breath.

“And that to me is flawed, inherently flawed. We have had this conversation before and I witness the outrageous way you lead your life but today you are crossing the boundaries. You call this empowered? What is empowered Naina?”

“You will not understand Amma, you have lived so long being Pratima Siddhesh Prajapati, I wonder if you ever cared for, tried to wonder, reason, what means to be just ‘PRATIMA’. You will not know what empowered is. Women today are raising voices against everything- giving themselves the freedom of choice- be it a career, be it marriage, live in, be it children or be it giving orgasm to one’s own self. Sorry, Amma, I know I shouldn’t be talking like this but now when two women are talking, let’s talk transparently. What choices did you get to make in life? We can’t cook, we are not ashamed; we have the courage and finance to go on travel solo, we don’t change our name after marriage, we don’t indulge in men who can’t cook or do household chores, we can marry someone much younger to us, we can leave someone with whom we don’t get along, be it a boyfriend or a husband, we choose not to have a child if we don’t feel up for motherhood, we can give back to our mom in law and not suffer in silence, we are positive about sex, we can talk about it , discuss and not feel ashamed, we know how to separate sex from love and love from lust and one night from a week nightstand and from a month-long stand and a lifelong stand, we are not coerced into commitment unless we feel it is required and we don’t tolerate, we don’t endure, we don’t take shit. Amma, we live in a diff world where we did what you couldn’t even imagine. So this bra revolution is just a sneak peek at defining ourselves. The world is replete with stories of suffering.”

“Your world is replete with one heartbreak story and you are on an expedition to teach men a lesson. Yes, today’s world also gives you a wide platform to stand on and shout and raise your voice and crusade a battle. There is a difference between being a crusader and a vigilante. You have forgotten to differentiate Naina. Transgressing the way you are doing is not a befitting reply.”

“Are not women suppressed? Each one of us, I was date –raped, some go through dowry death, and some are choked in the womb itself,  the list is unending. Men! Huh!”

“Naina, one man did something to you and I understand your grudge. Many men do it to women around you, I understand their suffering too but do not generalize. You have stopped your life because one man wronged you and you have made it your agenda to avenge on each man. If you don’t want to wear a bra because you feel uncomfortable in it, don’t wear it. But please don’t make a choice of not wearing it to prove a point to someone else. Your body is sacred to you, you have to take care of it, respect it. Cussing, swearing, boozing and acting like men, rowdy men, I must say does not subscribe as empowered. If you think that way, then, you are hugely mistaken Naina. Drink if you want to but do not drink to prove that you can also drink like men and therefore you are a man. You cannot be a man just the way a man cannot be a woman.  That is damaging in the long run. You have nothing to prove to anyone Naina. You have to accept yourself, realize that whatever you do, be it persevere a bit to let a relationship intact or wear a panty to a party, it a choice you have to make knowing very well that it is for you and not to prove somebody else. ”

“That doesn’t sound like the voice of a feminist.” Naina looked at her mother with silent fury.

“Feminism is not about hating men but this generation has made it exactly that. Don’t forget there is a bit of sacrifice, a bit of suffering, a bit of life, real life with travails and tribulations whatever you do, which relationship you choose to live by- even if you are just in relationship with yourself. It can never be a perfect life.”

“And what happens around?”

 “I am no one to judge Naina. Each woman knows it for herself the moment when she has to rise. Yes, patriarchal society like ours has done damage, enough, I am cognizant but we are stretching the line way too far. Male bashing is not the answer. Strive for equality and you should know what you stand for and why and remember, I say again, it is not about men vs women. There are men, some amazing men who…”

Naina interrupted, “Amma, not sure but I will think about it. Though I wonder if you have seen the other side of life.”

Silence gnawed at the moment that passed between them, the mother and daughter both lost in the sea of thoughts.

“Naina,” Pratima’s voice rumbled like a storm inside.

 “Yes, Maa.”

 “I know you are hurt. We can continue the conversation, just one thing before you leave…”

“What?” Naina continued her gaze into the emptiness that stood before her.

Exhaling a deep sigh, Pratima continued, “I know exactly what you mean. I have been there and I know the burden of proving a point. Come back home and then we will talk Naina about my rape, your biological father who is serving life imprisonment in Yerwada Central Jail and your foster father Mr Siddhesh Prajapati who made me realize the difference.”

 Image is taken from the movie Main Hoon Na

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