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Yes, I have to create my own happiness, no matter what happens around me or how people treat me. I have to shed this mess off and mark my path.
People say, I speak very less these days. Frankly speaking, I have cut off a lot of loose end friendships intentionally. Some acquaintances who speak to me at different levels, follow me through their curious eyes and remark, ‘Hey, Sulatha, why are you not talking to him these days?’ ‘Why are you not seen with her now?’
Well, I really don’t have a clue. I haven’t pondered over it seriously, on why I am acting like this? My thoughts have possibly lost back to the race of my actions. And I think, it is better to sit for a while and introspect on what really is happening in my life right now.
Am I repeating the old mistakes that put me in this mess? It is too scary to think that I am in the same form, which I’ve been struggling to shed off for a long time. Am I too lazy to tread a lone path?
Wait, am I asking these questions for self clarity or to be able to answer people around me? It is true that we are always concerned about being right in public eye.
Seriously, my life has been a roller coaster ride so far. No clue, as to why I exposed myself to immeasurable absurd adventures, and butchered my life piece to piece without respect for my ‘self.’ Please god, let the rest my life be boring.
When left alone, people tend to make mistakes one after another, with no one guarding them. One has to pay a huge, indeed, a very huge price for being independent. Yeah. I have paid a huge price. And am still paying for it.
I detest people who ask personal questions. ‘Who is your husband? How many kids do you have? Do you own a house?’ To be honest with you, I feel tempted to tell on their faces, why can’t you mind your business, I mean, your life? Nevertheless, we treat all our relationships like business transactions. But we fake it. Why do people poke into others’ lives? Is their life so stinky that they don’t want to look at it, and avoid it by focussing on others life?
Some seemingly genuine souls ask me, ‘Come on Sulatha, why can’t you be normal like others? Has this playfulness to life given you any joy? For heaven’s sake, close your eyes for a few minutes and reflect. You are already in you forties.
‘Thin silver lines on your head are becoming more and more highways now. In a few years, you will become physically weak and emotionally lonely, and that too without too many savings. One day, you will realise that, you have played recklessly with your, life a buffoon. It will be shoonya, a big fat zero. Better late than never. Wake up, at least now. There is still a little time and energy left in you to mend your ways. Will you give a chance to life, so that you can end your journey with a positive sigh? Wake up!’
I stirred up with beads of sweat on my forehead. Oh. One more shudder of loneliness. But, why am I sweating like this, in this cool weather? These faceless voices are becoming louder day by day. I searched for my mobile to see what time of the night it is. Still 2 am. Four more hours to go before saying ‘good morning’ to the world with a fake smile, while swallowing sighs within. Still sleepless nights, but drowsy days at work.
One day, my colleague Pramila teased me, “What Sulatha, sleepless nights like a newlywed bride, even after ten years of marriage? Lucky you!” I smiled at her, half opening my eyes, pushing back words inside. Let my story stay with me, till I am laid to rest.
People say, you should have a circle of true friends to keep you sane. Sadly, I don’t know whom to trust. Maybe, I failed hopelessly in crafting a meaningful friendship. A great friendship needs a lot of care, time and sacrifice as well. But then, I fail to connect with anyone around. I sense, I hardly know anyone well. All I speak to them are ‘hi’ ‘bye’ and a few time pass commentaries in between.
I despise these folks. They look like blind cocoons of traditionally constructed beliefs, who dive within illusory boundary, too lazy and timid to look beyond it, till their last breath. So, how good is opening myself before them? Besides, why should I offer my life for their time pass casual discussion and gossip? Do I depend on anyone for my happiness? No. A big no.
Then why do I strain myself to look appealing in their eyes? I mean, through my behaviour, I don’t mind a well toned beauty and its attached attention. It is pure fun. At least, it invites some jealousy among my female friends.
On a serious note, many women I know, don’t like my presence around them. I feel, they are jealous of my independence and my toned form even in my forties. Of course, motherhood disfigured them and made them look older. But I have prodigious respect for mothers. It would be nice, if they feel the same for single woman like me, who stays alone, facing the storms of society. Come on! Is it the time to reflect on others at the cost of my sleep?
‘Life is calling, where are you?’ alarm woke me at 7am. Ohh. Again. It means, not much time before logging into the office. No time to cook breakfast. In a way, I like eating outside, rather than going through the tedious procedures of cooking and cleaning.
Life has to be made simple. If everyone cooks at home, what will happen to these eateries? They are mushrooming at a very high rate. It means domestic kitchens are not as active as earlier. Outsourcing has knocked our kitchens too. You can order anything online and get it at your doorstep.
All you have to do is to pay and wait (if you have enough time, you can curiously track your delivery to chuck out boredom). No need to step out for anything. Man is continuously creating new technology to make life isolated. Are we advanced in communication, or going into shells of loneliness? Speaking philanthropy is a way to mask laziness.
Oh, not enough time for a much needed cup of tea either. The horrible image of boss, speeds up action. It is better to press finger on bio-metric and look for a nearby restaurant than give the pokerfaced boss an opportunity to lecture on punctuality. Though he was reckless before his promotion, the hot-seat gives him a right to be the master of the rule book.
My office hours remind me of Gandhi’s three monkeys. I see many of my colleagues alive only on attendance register morning and evening, but missing in between. A few move around restlessly, looking for people to listen to their gossip and complaints. You have a story to tell, but no listeners.
It is an art to make people to listen to you. Arre… why do these people come to office, just to complain about every one else in the world? I haven’t seen them putting the same efforts in their work. Are they happy at home at least? Probably. Why do people struggle so much? To build a life of their choice! Oh. Lost in thoughts. Again.
Ticking time is rushing colleagues to the office, only to sign in with all their energy, then disappear to their own world. But, what I like about them is their smile, wishing everyone ‘good morning.’ Do they want to be desperately seen by everyone, so no one complains of their absence later? How does ones morning become ‘good’ without efforts? Maybe, their efforts are invested somewhere else.
Oh. Am I cynical of everyone I meet? My friends sceptically comment that I am very good at drawing quick conclusions. No. I disagree. What do they know about me? I gave bloody fifteen precious years at my prime to a man to mend his ways and waited with patience for this miracle to happen.
And was exasperated when I decided to quit finally, when I was nothing beyond garbage. Trying my best to transform garbage into something usable, I became it in the process. I hope, no one will dare to tell me that I am too quick to shut the door to such a man. Yes. I gave very long rope to a wrong man.
Secretly, I swept aside my ‘feminism’ to a corner, just to hold on to my man (who never was mine), gave my best, oblivious to the rest. My world only had two people- him and I. Hmm. I was stupid to think so. It took me quite long to realise that his world was already crowded with frequent flow, and I was there only an option, not a priority. This put me into devastating emptiness and silence. Inexplicable pain. Heart shattering into pieces. Love evaporated into nothingness.
Did I deserve it? Hmm, I don’t know. Am I special from the rest? People accidentally encounter the good, bad and ugly things happening to them without a good reason and an acceptable answer. A cruel joke of fate. Life is full of surprises. We don’t question anything, until we are at the receiving end. Then we want instant answer. Life is equally unfair to others. But we don’t look that deep in their lives, and are quick to conclude that the whole world is fine except me.
Yeah. Forgot. I have to send a valuation report to the head office. Today is the last date. I think, I have lost that zeal to work like before.
This stupor to look ahead is holding me back and taking me to the memory lane again. Yeah, it took me 40 years to realise this simple fact of life. Nothing is essential in life. No one either.
But the day we are born, we are tied up to these endless codes and relationships. It is all fixed and tied up. No free space. We don’t cross that well guarded boundary. And we are told, what to wear, eat, study, whom to marry. All our choices and preferences are made for us.
Constant reminders put us in place ‘You do this, you don’t do that. If you do this, you will get a lot of claps. But, if you do this, you are useless.’ We don’t question, but weave our life within these predetermined social and religious norms.
Somehow, we can avoid religious diktats, but not societal one. We can cheat god and tell lies in his name. But people around us have watchful senses to see where we slip. Not that they care to guide us, but enjoy moral policing. If I have problems, you must have them too. And if you don’t have any, I will create them for you.
Hold on, wait a minute. Is there a way of making one’s own path? Can we really create our own path in vacuum? Am I leading my life or a life as the world around me wants? Can I really own my life?
The strangest thing about this strange journey is that it began with a word- search. Yes, the search for the meaning of this life. Whatever my imagination, I have to try it out in this life only. But, this revelation comes very late in life, that too after countless setbacks, heartbreaks, tearful moments, long sighs and phases of depression. It is too late to rejoice these moments of newly awakened self awareness. Do we have a choice then? The moment we feel we have understood life, it is no more there before us.
Our office assistant Subbu shook my stream of consciousness, with a circular in hand for my signature. One more clueless meeting with the boss at 4.30 pm. This new boss is hell bent on making everyone’s life miserable. He would deliberately call for a meeting, when everyone is about to log out. These people appear normal till they sit on that chair, but position transfigures them as thugs.
I do my work to my heart and conscious content, so no issues. And I know why he irritates me at every behest. When a woman is doubtfully single and outgoing, men want to take a chance. The then lady has to validate on a daily basis that she is not his type. She is a sour grape, but loose tongues emphatically wait to make her life sourer.
Indeed, it is tough to be an independent single woman. People want her to make mistakes, so that they can prove their theory right. A woman can’t make a meaningful life on her own. Philosophy of life teaches us that, a man/woman is born free, but the society chains him/her till the last breath.
Our own Buddha and Basavanna taught us the same. People who try to liberate from this bond are labelled abnormal. We relish labelling people, but overlook within to see what is stinking inside. The inner self never blossoms, but shrinks deeper inside.
We fake our life, putting a fistful of mud consistently to our true self, till it is buried fully without a trace. The dead person is known for what he did for others, sacrificing his soul (a rusted soul). World celebrates human life like this and moves on without any dent to redundant system. People who departure from this normalcy turned out to be abnormal and mocked at.
Am I abnormal? I have tried to fit into the normalcy like others, but failed hopelessly. And I couldn’t be a ‘Sati Savitri’ or a completely independent woman who shows her middle finger to the societal norms. A ‘Trishanku Sthiti,’ life caught between world of confinement and freedom. Confinement suffocates, but freedom makes lonely. So, a choice is no choice at all.
Yeah, it is true. I got married late. Though we don’t accept it openly, we, earning women tend to be very picky and end up marrying the most useless ones. This ‘don’t care’ ‘my life, my choice’ attitude bars us from heeding to the elderly advice of abiding social norms.
It takes time to realise that there is no ‘Mr. Perfect’. In reality, he has never been there on this planet. But this beautiful image has put a woman into impossible task of transforming her man resemble a ‘gentleman.’ Seriously, once tasted freedom, a man in life appears, an unnecessary baggage. So, this tiresome engagement with the tailor-made life and its apprehensions, looks unappealing.
My friends label me a ‘Bindaas feminist.’ It is crude joke. I did everything, which a self respecting woman wouldn’t do for a man she is in love with. My love for him allowed his patriarchy. He is my husband, I have to hold on to this man, like a normal Indian girl. I have to construct a beautiful life together, no matter what it takes from me.
And I should have beautiful babies, own a house, buy a big car and have memorable holidays with him. But nothing I wanted happened. There were times, I felt, parental control should have been better, to streamline our fantasies. If these crazy fancies take us somewhere worth going to, then it is fine.
In case, we end up at dead ends, it is a lost game. Why this trauma and tears for self-dug grave? Can I further allow myself be depressed and lost in hopes? In my bid to love him, I forgot to love myself. Contrastingly, I started hating myself for my transformation as a useless garbage. I become too weak physically, emotionally and intellectually. Can I really push my past to recycle bin and start life afresh?
Let me clear myself from these past webs first, so that it doesn’t haunt me again and again. Did I do my best to save my marriage? I hope so. Or I will feel guilty the rest of my life. When blood is hot inside your veins, you feel okay to make mistakes without being guilty.
But, once you reach your forties, you start reliving the past memories; feel sad, happy, proud, disappointed, regret and feel lost out. My past makes me feel just empty inside, a painful silent restlessness. What a crime I have done to myself. Completely forgot to care myself, busy painting a good image of myself by serving others. It was a shallow life.
It is 4 o’clock already. My eyes are straining, sitting before my laptop and typing these reports after reports, the whole day. Monotony is too boring, feel like quitting this job. But, do what else?
Anything becomes boring after a few days, months, years, unless we put our heart into it. So, problem lies within. D H Lawrence says, ‘Don’t do any work, if you don’t enjoy it.’
Yes, I have to create my own happiness, no matter what happens around me or how people treat me. I have to shed this mess off and mark my path. Better today than tomorrow.
Let others question me, raise their eyebrows, laugh at me, or whisper behind my back, I don’t mind it. I will just say, shut up please and move on.
Picture credits: Still from movie Mom
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Dr. Jyothi, Assistant Professor, Department of English, University College of Science, Tumkur University. Has been
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