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When I Was A Child My Grandmother Told Me A Horror Story, And That Has Changed My Life

I realized how she usually liked to present the wrongs of others to him which bothered me earlier, but now even though it troubled me I knew why she did it.

I was a loud mouthed, rebellious child. My grandmother never approved my arguments for my rights even though they were very small things which every child deserved. It was to participate in sports, visit libraries, or play with boys. She hated that I cycled. She would grumble something that I did not understand back then, but I know now she was afraid I would break my hymen.

In our childhood, we loved to get scared the wit out of us by watching horror movies and reading/listening to horror stories. We watched them against my mom’s protests. There was some evil thrill in getting scared and jumping up to spooky ghosts. Evil dead topped the list.

But then my grandmother came up with a horror story for me that beat it all.

One fine day when I argued with my dad over some trivial issue, she said to me, “As a girl you should stop arguing with men. Your life is easier when you are in their good books without seeing what is right or wrong. The best way for you is to realize that finally the man of the family is always right. As a woman, first you will be under the care of your dad. Later either your brother will take care of you until you get married, or maybe you will move directly under your husband’s care… Once married you will be taken care of by your husband for your whole life. Finally your son will take over and you will be under his protection. Since there is no life for us women without men, we have to learn to please them and be in their good books”.

A shocking thing for me, that actually explained so much

My eyes almost popped out of my head as I listened to her. Giving it a thought, I realized that this was not fiction. This was the story of the women around her and it was her own story. Many have heard and believed the famous line – Her father protects (her) in childhood, her husband protects (her) in youth, and her sons protect (her) in old age; a woman is never fit for independence.

For a moment I wondered what changes she must have made to her personality to suit this role, what things she must have had to do against her own wishes to please the men who took care of her. She did not have a son, so at present she was taken care of by my dad, her son-in-law. I realized how she usually liked to present the wrongs of others to him which bothered me earlier, but now even though it troubled me I knew why she did it. I knew why she was trying to take my dad’s side and preach to me even without trying to see what the argument was about. I realized her hatred for me for being a second girl child born with a disability, to her daughter.

When I imagined myself in the role she presented to me, I had goosebumps all over my body. NO. I can never be that kind of a person my whole life, shouted at my heart, head, stomach and many other organs. This was the day the feminist in me was born because I was very sure that I was no lesser human being than anyone and I did not deserve to please anyone so that they would take good care of me. That sounded like being some domesticated animal. Our cats lived a better life than what my grandmother described. Even they never tried to please the man of the house.

I was going to be better

Once I came out of the shock, I decided to equip myself with skills that could sustain me. I started coaching children and helping them with homework for a small fee. I learned to weave baskets, and create good embroidery. When I was barely 14, I could stitch dresses since I was well versed in tailoring, which I decided was good enough to sustain me in case I couldn’t get a job. I buried myself in books to score good marks and get a good job.

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On the other hand, my arguments, especially regarding my rights became more frequent since I was afraid of slipping into the domesticated women role. I had to prove to myself that I was not moving in that direction. My family was frustrated with me, since there was no way to avoid this. I could just pick something out of the blue and create an argument out of it.

What I did not realize is that this change is not something which happens with our own understanding. It is a slow slide which you don’t even realize is happening to you. If you overdo it, you will become tired and burnout after a few years.

When I got married, I did not realize that when I was asked to give up my studies, not to take up a job because it was presented to me as a platter of love and protection. I did not realize this was the beginning of domesticated life for many women before me.

Fighting patriarchy and cancer

When time came for me to stand on my own, with two children to take care of and fight cancer, it was that horror story of my grandmother and the skills it forced me to learn which helped me. I could easily start stitching and selling soft toys and sustain my family financially with ease. The incident made me very confident as well. I realized that I do not need a man to support me, even during the toughest period of my life. All I needed was my will to work honestly and earn. Even during my fight with cancer, bringing up a special child barely a year old, I could live my life with dignity. That broke the fear of domestication forever from my mind.

The other argument my grandmother had was about the vulnerability of women without a man to protect her. I realized slowly that just a man will not protect her. In fact she may actually need protection from a man. I love my dad, my brother and my son but I can never consider myself a lesser being than them, not even my dad. I can have a man as my husband as a companion and partner, but I cannot have him as my superior, protector or provider. I can never bring myself to bow down and touch his feet. The indoctrination my grandmother had undergone had been erased from my life completely.

Life is beautiful when you love, respect and live it with dignity. I don’t know how it feels otherwise…

Image source: a still from the film Badhaai Ho

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About the Author

Farida Rizwan

I am Farida Rizwan, 55, Counselor and Psychotherapist working as Senior Curriculum Developer with Chimple Learning. I am ardent blogger @www.chaptersfrommylife.com and share my life experiences of surviving breast cancer 3rd stage for read more...

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