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Everyone treated her like a second-class citizen, not in words, but in action. One day, her younger son said, ‘Mama, don’t disturb me, go cook.’
We do not grow plants in an environment where they would not survive. For example, we do not try to grow a delicate flower like the rose in the desert, nor do we try to pour more water on a cactus; because we know that not being in an environment that enhances their survival chances, it would wither.
Why then is it a rule for women to adjust to a changed environment and try to blossom?
I remember meeting an old friend a few years ago. She was a new mum then of two, she had taken a break from her career to care for her home, and she looked completely different from the vivacious woman I had known her for. A practising psychologist, she was interesting, but at that time she looked like she needed some counselling.
‘You look different,’ was all I could manage to highlight her face she looked like she hadn’t smiled for days, with dark circles around her eyes. A former sharp dresser, she was dressed in just some ensemble picked carelessly.
‘Who is this woman, I had wondered then as we parted ways.’
Years later, she scheduled a meeting with me again. Just for a casual meet-up. I was sure that she was broken from the inside, and a possible meet-up delighted me because it meant maybe she was starting to be herself again.
But what a surprise it had been when she walked into the café. She was dressed this time in her signature sharp way, and she looked joyful. As we parted from our greeting hug, I told her, ‘I am so happy you look so good.’
She had given up her career to accommodate her husband’s plans. Although she had married into her same culture, the way of life as it would naturally be, the kind of food, and lifestyle were completely different from hers.
She was raised in a very liberal family. There were no gender roles. The food was not necessarily traditional, but a healthy mix of good food and family time always meant spending time cooking and eating together.
Post-marriage, she had to be accommodating in a very traditional household, she spent hours just doing chores. No one asked her what she wanted. It was just this unwritten law in her new home to serve and be quiet.
Two children later, her life became harder still. Moreover, just because she was raising her sons in an environment where everyone treated her like a second-class citizen, not in words, but in action, her sons then preschoolers started treating her like that.
One day, when her younger son said, ‘Mama, don’t disturb me, go cook’ something in her changed. The young 3-year-old son did not mean anything he said. He just observed the general behaviour of the people around his mother and so, like all other children, he emulated the adults.
It’s not that she was in an abusive relationship.
She was just in a household where people did not appreciate easily, smile easily, and subconsciously had gender roles embedded deeply in their minds. When she was a practising clinical psychologist and sometimes, made food for her family on weekends, everyone including her father, mother and siblings fawned over what she had made. It makes her feel good and appreciated.
Why? Because she was precious to them, and she mattered to them in her home. Most of all, she was loved.
In the new home, no matter what she made, no matter how much effort she put in, she was always met with the same indifference. People are different everywhere, and one household does not match with another.
But when her son started to take on the attitude of her new home, she realised that something was wrong. She looked at herself in the mirror and saw for the first time she had dark circles around her eyes. The lack of emotional attachment and the mechanical nature of existence made her wither. And so she looked withered.
That was the time that I had met her.
She gradually decided to not adjust to her new surroundings, but to create an environment where she flourishes. It was difficult. Tremendously difficult. Especially when one has the responsibility of the whole house resting on her shoulders, it is difficult to find a way out. But if she did not, she would never be happy again, she realised.
Gradually she started to untangle from things that kept her tied up to the mechanical things of her life. She found herself a job.
Her first ticket back to her old self. Once she got herself a job, she could untangle herself from all the responsibilities that keep a woman tied to their home. She started socialising with her friends more, she started being with her family more, her work breathed new life into her and one step at a time she became herself again.
Interestingly, this changed personality made people around her treat her differently, too. Things magically changed.
She knew that she had made it when one day she heard her same younger son tell his friends, ‘My mom is a clinical psychologist.’ If you are feeling sad in your heart, she can make you okay.
Although she accepted her new family to be different, she did wonder how her affluence made their attitude towards her change. Was it because she chose to be a wallflower, they treated her as a wallflower?
It was quite a heavy discussion that we had that day. I kept on thinking about how adjusting to a level that threatens the boundaries of your existence can jeopardise one’s life. With these thoughts, I stepped onto the street.
On my way back, it had started to drizzle a little. I have always liked the touch of a soft drizzle. When I was younger, I often stepped out in the rain to feel it before it came down as a heavy downpour.
It was in later years that I realised that when it rains, there are free negative ions in the air that recharge our body and that’s why we feel so good. I had somehow stopped feeling the drizzle because of course
‘Won’t I look crazy, dressed to the nines and all drizzled up?’
But that day, I did not care. I did, what I had always done. I kept my umbrella closed and walked back home in the rain, thanking the heavens for the negative ions that charge my body.
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A Social Media Content Writer by profession. A writer by heart. A genuine foodie. Simple by nature. Love to read, create paintings and cook. Have impossible dreams. At the moment, engaged in making those dreams read more...
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