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As a teenager I believed that my mother chose society over me. As a woman, I know better now, as I look at her as just another woman and an ally in my battles.
I have read many stories about feminist fathers and mothers who only care about the society. I grew up with it in my teens. I didn’t like my mother. I loved my father. It always felt as though she chose the society over me. And, he chose me over the society.
Yet, as the years passed by, the roles reversed. When I was 21, I had my first woman to woman conversation with my mom. It might have something to do with the fact that I was having boy problems which made me look at my mother in a whole new light. I could talk to her about it, however indirectly.
It felt, for the first time, that my mother and I were on the same side – the side of surviving in this society as a woman. I could see that all these years she tried to protect me in her own way. It’s just that, I didn’t need protection, I needed support. And, that’s what I got after that one conversation.
I wasn’t just a daughter anymore. She wasn’t just a mother. We were two women looking at each other as allies. It has changed my life so much.
In the years that followed, I began forming this relationship with all the women in the family. Silence can do wonders. Sit with a woman in silence long enough, and it will be filled with stories of her life. It might begin with their role in the family, but it will go back to unfulfilled dreams and desires of a young girl.
The space will be taken up by the sadness of a life they didn’t know they could have when they were young, a life that they are not brave enough to leap into now. So, these women in the family end up telling me to marry when I want to, if I want to. They tell me not to listen to anyone, that marriage and motherhood won’t fulfil me. It will just define me.
In retrospect, when I look at the conversations I’ve had with men, it’s just pure awkwardness. They don’t really seem to know what they are talking about. They just know that women should do this and this by so and so age, “because it’s scientifically proven”.
For example, drinking is bad for everyone but it is okay if men do it. It’s not tolerable if women do it because eventually it might lead to complications in pregnancy. Moreover, I should marry early because that’s when sex is more enjoyable. And, anyway, when my body begins to show signs of ageing, it won’t be nice. Lastly, I shouldn’t worry about menopause before having children of my own and I should have them by 35. It’s scientifically said that pregnancy gets difficult with age.
Now, all this might seem like a fair argument. They are facts, so what is the problem?
The problem is the ‘should’ is shoved down my throat when I begin to express my opinion or start talking about my choices. My views about marriage and motherhood as responsibilities that I don’t feel equipped for goes into – “Yes, every girl says no in the beginning”.
The problem is that I am not 7 anymore. I am 27 and I have thought about my life choices. I know that these choices are prone to change with circumstances. But, putting it in jest as ‘girls say no always’ is pure dismissal of my existence.
I have not yet experienced ‘talking’ with men in the family. I could pour my heart out and they will get what they want to, without even trying to understand what I am saying. It’s so bad that my anger quickly turns into pity.
They don’t understand what it’s like to make belongingness with a partner important while retaining my individual freedom. I’d like to belong to someone but I am not okay giving up my power as a person. I am not comfortable being seen as desirable for my youth or simply as a baby making machine.
I will not apologise for being more than a womb. I understand men in the family support my education and they have all the love and affection for me in their heart. But, it’s not enough. It’s nothing if they don’t see me for the person I am becoming. I believe, they choose not to see it because then they’ll have to change their ways.
And, accepting that they might be wrong isn’t something that comes to them easily. This acceptance comes way too easily to women. More than needed. All I know today is that when women sit together after completing their chores at night, in the absence of men, they tell stories.
When listened to carefully, they’ll give you all the tricks and tips to survive in a household that doesn’t support them simply because patriarchy continues to be the norm. I know these women won’t speak in the light of the day. And, I am okay with it. These are women who fought their battles and definitely made it a better place for me. I will always be grateful for that.
Yes, the conversations ultimately are more than ‘just about men.’
Top image is a still from the Hindi movie Nil Battey Sannata
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Feminist. Writer. Questions everything. Scribbles everywhere.
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