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If all women showed the same confidence as the author of this piece, feminism will have achieved its goal. Do read this personal account of a life well spent.
I have always been a rebel. No, my family is fairly progressive, and enlightened, and liberal. No dogmas were imposed on me. However certain social pressures and norms were tough to uproot.
Adolescence was the time when I emerged as a rebel. At that age most girls sport long hair, flaunt their cascading tresses. Not me. I always kept my hair short, at best up to shoulder length. Not beyond.
A bone of contention was CCA (co- curricular activities) or SUPW (socially useful productive work) I was keen to take up electric gadgets or instrumental music; much to my chagrin a few pompous female do-gooders of the neighbourhood brainwashed my mother to make me discard my ideas. (I detested my mom’s blabbering to such worthless creatures). They cajoled me to pursue needle work & embroidery which was highly feminine graceful and useful as well.
However I would have none of it and finally settled for commercial art. The jibes and barbs continued: ha ha so you will be painting hoardings and billboards in the future..” I turned a deaf ear to all that, which stopped only after I left high school.
Being an only daughter, I had a pampered and over protected childhood, and consequently had little self confidence. To erase that, and make me worldly wise and self sufficient, my parents decided to get me admitted to the hostel in my college. Many people were aghast. To them hostel life was synonymous with going astray, indulging in all sorts of vices and blah blah.
I was glad when my Dad finally marched me off to the hostel. Today decades later I can l boast that my hostel stint did not leave me depraved!
I graduated in literature and obtained a master’s in the same area. Being a language lover I learnt French with great effort. I opted for two residential schools for teaching stints. Again the social censor board was back with a bang. Were there not enough day schools to join? An old crone cackled, “French padh k kya fayda hoga” (what will you gain by learning French). I dare say I cocked a snook at them and went right ahead.
Most of my female cousins demurely settled down in negotiated alliances; a few others found their ‘princes charming’ and lived happily ever after. I was the odd one out, busy with a career in journalism. A few failed relationships later I was cajoled by the parents to consider an arranged match.
But I put forward two riders. One I would meet the guys privately without families hanging around and two: it would have to be a civil /court marriage because I had no faith in religious rites and rituals including ceremonial weddings.
I did have blind dates with several youths. In certain cases when families accompanied the ‘boys’ I stubbornly refused to play the ‘bashful girl’ marking my entry with tray loads of beverage and snacks. My mother did the honours.
Many of the eligible bachelors could not reconcile to the idea of a court ceremony; a few Smart Alecs suggested both. But I was adamant. I was nearly 28 before I met my present husband – via newspaper ad – who readily agreed. That was not the end of it. On the day of the wedding reception one of my maternal uncles threw a major tantrum in full public view. For him an alliance minus the saat pheras was invalid. Hence he refused to join the celebrations. My spouse’s aunt who lived with us branded our alliance as zilch and kept nagging for years.
While most people in our social circles smugly display their male children, the two of us are proud of our solitary girl child. We educated her to the best of our abilities. She is now a doctor with a solid career.
No, marriage is not on the cards sometime soon! We have no qualms if she opts for either a live-in arrangement or a late wedding. After all it’s her life. She gets our blessing even if it is an intercommunity /faith alliance. Take my word for it.
Since childhood my parents encouraged me to read, garner information, think independently and take independent decisions.
I made friends with people from divergent communities faiths and regions, celebrated their festivities and prayed with them. The fundamentalists would be baying for my blood in case they learnt that I have consumed ‘forbidden stuff’ whose mention makes them shudder. I have no regrets whatsoever.
I have never observed religious fasts. I don’t understand the link between planetary positions, moon phases et al and physical fitness achieved by scientific fasting. I have scant regard for gurus/mentors and the rest of them. My rationale: when a mortal human can hold a direct communion with his creator why and how do (largely) self proclaimed god men come into the picture. How many of such spiritual guides actually possess unblemished characters or are devoid of a shady past? I have my doubts.
What about you?
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