...and then

Saturday, 19 November 2011


*Warning: Long, self indulgent post. Read at your own peril

Anniversaries. They are a strange thing. They remind you of how far you've come and suddenly the thing you are celebrating, or mourning, as the case may be, seems like something that belongs to another life. You are, sometimes, so far removed from that thing that you once held so precious -- even if it's pain because that, too, is precious -- that you wonder if the two selves involved in this unspooling of nostalgia are the same. They are also a reminder of how far you have to go. And I can't quite decide why we celebrate them. Is it because memories are the only thing worth collecting?

For me, depending on what it is, anniversaries serve as a point in time to look out of this kaleidoscopic train that my life is and find the ordinary constant I have missed. Every anniversary changes me in an unobtrusive but big way, like a courtyard that changes aspects under the mastery of a setting sun. Sometimes, I hold on to the sadness it brings and at other times, it makes me regret the things that happened then. But most times, I am just glad that it was me these things happened to; that my life resembles a string of pearls that broke at the strong tug of adventure's hand. No two pearls have gone in the same direction on hitting the ground.

This month is full of many anniversaries in my life. Some first anniversaries, some older. This last year, it showed me the depths I am capable of; depths of love, of depravity, of insanity, of strength, of resilience, in that order. And intensity.


In the last year, I’ve been bad. As bad as I’ve been good. As bad and good as I’ve been liberated. As bad and good and liberated as I’ve been fulfilled. I am a bit ashamed (only a bit because I believe pity, especially self pity has its place in a well adjusted life) but I’ve, for a brief while, wallowed in self-pity; I’ve wondered why I can’t have my once-easy life back. I’ve laid some people open to much damage and at the same time protected some more than I could have thought possible. I’ve spilled some secrets but I’ve kept many more. I’ve lost every ounce of self-confidence that I had developed over the years only to find it come back in the greatest way possible, stronger and more comforting. I’ve soared with the blessings of love -- of every kind -- I’ve received when I least expected it, and continue to receive. With it, I’ve felt limitless. And yet, I’ve plumbed the depths of sadness, confusion and self loathing; felt the discombobulating grip of an insecurity I never knew existed. I’ve found true beauty – not the kind that lies in someone’s view but of the Grecian urn kind – within me. And more, importantly, I’ve found ugliness too, within me, of a kind that shocked me with its darkness. Who knew.

I’ve done other things too. I’ve lost weight, I’ve regained interest in things I once loved and had forgotten about. I’ve realised that no matter what I will always wear my insecurities lightly because if I hide them, they’ll stay; if they’re challenged, they go away; and so in the past couple of years, I’ve discovered new insecurities only to have them crushed with the gigantic weight of the knowledge of what I am capable of. Some of the best inspirations for me have come through in the last year. Friends, people who know me for years, who have stood by me during times of aimlessness and despair, have come forward to promise me their faith and their confidence in what they see as my talent, but more importantly my ability to be happy. Casual remarks, references to the me of the past, have turned my day around from a scary, light-sucking prospect to glorious ones that shine with promise and accomplishment. It is the last year, I have realised the true merit of the friends I have.

Apart from self-indulgently dealing with my own chaos, I’ve had to be there with my two gorgeous, wonderful little kids (bless their little souls). I’ve probably done them lasting damage with my temper and impatient dealing of them but it humbles me to say, inspite of me, they’re great kids. And so it is that in this tough time that I’ve had the utter and complete realization of what my friends mean to me and, this is more important, by what yardstick they’ve decided they’ll stick around.

There’s no delicate way to say this, or in a way that will make it less boring.
A while ago, much to my amusement, my friendships and the way I make new friends was judged by someone who, as it often happens, had no clue about who I was. But what a blessing in disguise that was because it gave me the rare chance to review my friends and my relationships with them. Every single place I've moved to, and I've moved a lot, I have made friends to whom I can say, while completely sober, "I love you" without feeling like they'll wonder if it's too much. In some cities, it's just one person; in others, there're more. And since we're a bit dramatic here, I will say I can write this in blood on any paper that will hold up in a court of law (for extra fortification) -- these are friends who will, should I ask them, lay down their lives for me. If the choice was between eating me up to stay alive or feeding me to help me do so, they'd choose the latter. No questions asked. This month is an anniversary to those friends who knew there was a better me to channel when I was at my worst.

And so coming back to anniversaries, this month celebrates love in my life. I've never been short of love -- from my doting family, from my very generous friends, from men, from women. And this month celebrates that. It celebrates the intensity I am capable of feeling, it celebrates a certain baptism by fire that cemented one of the few permanent things in my life -- the feeling of always being loved.


This has also been the year I have enjoyed my kids more than any of the last three years. If I were to start talking about them, like any mother, I have a lot to say, because really, they're bright beautiful children, and not without a hint of darkness in them. But I'll save that for my mommy blog, which I plan to resurrect. For all those of you who are considering children, if you can wait for three years or so to begin enjoying them, I'd say go ahead. But otherwise, I will actively discourage any such life-changing decisions.

Thank you all for reading this self indulgence.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Everyone wants to be a boy.

I was reading this piece the other day and it came at a time when I'd been particularly sensitive to misogyny in various contexts. As I read this, a realisation that had been waiting to show itself shone clearly through a lot of the things that I had been thinking about.

You don't have to go as far as high numbers of teen pregnancy, dowry deaths or street sexual harassment to know how deeply we hate our women. Start in a home. A girl child, these days, is constantly being pushed to doing everything a boy child does. So much so that I know families where dolls or breakfast/kitchens sets will not be bought for the girl lest she think that is her "role" in life, to nurture and cook. I myself am guilty of steering my 3.5 year old away from those horrendous little kitchen sets, I must confess. While I might be getting in the way of nature, I do it with the intention of not giving her the idea that primarily, domestic chores are a girl's work. Ironically, I don't realise that I am her default role model -- I do everything from changing light bulbs, hunting rats, running every errand to baking muffins with them, bathing them and tucking them in -- and because of that I shouldn't be worried about her getting stuck with any stereotypes . Which is what early feminists who decided that buying little girls dolls and breakfast sets gave out subliminal messages of domesticity were trying to do in the first place. But all you need to do is watch a three year old as she wanders wide-eyed and greedy through the aisles of the toys section in a store. She goes for pink, she goes for baby dolls and she goes for breakfast sets. At least, most of the time. In my case, my daughter also goes for monsters, snakes and spiders but dolls come first. And I've never bought her a doll till she demanded one last year.

Friends who have boys for children tell me of their experiences with watching little girls of their friends. They tell me with more than a hint of pride in their voice about how their little boy was all over the place and being a "kid" and how their friend's little girl was prim and proper, and gave her mother a peaceful time. Parents who have little girls sometimes tell me their daughters are quiet and manageable; that they wish she becomes rambunctious and tom boyish as she grows, that they feel she's too proper and is having no fun just because she's not bringing the roof down.

Let me not even count the number of women who glow with pride when someone tells them they are tomboyish. (There's no reason they shouldn't. But how many of you glow with pride when someone tells you, "wow, you're so feminine/macho". In fact, if you've noticed, this is usually employed as a snide little comment most times.) Or the number of women who say they are "one of the guys" and cannot behave like a girl. Pray, tell me, what does a girl behave like? This is a list I get. From girls, mind you. Gossipy. Senti. Jealous. Love shopping. Clingy. Not sporty. Not technical. Complicated. Not one nice word about our own kind. For every word that is used to describe a girl's purported behavior, I can find 10 boys who fit that description. Except, maybe, complicated. That, I have to reluctantly agree, is a woman's forte. But that's only because we do it so well.

For example, look at this nonsense.
Who comes up with self-defeating, woman-hating crap like this? Exactly who has set down rules for what a lady acts like? Even if you can forgive that, how on earth do you forgive the third line?!

As mothers who want our girls to be storming male bastions (forgive me, anti-cliche god) when they grow up, we're doing everything in our power to take them away from what might be their natural tendency. Which is to be fierce, intelligent and delightful creatures who say things like "dinosaurs look like dinosaurs and nothing else." While a boy may hang from door jambs, I find a girl will hang on to a thought, develop it and use it later in conversation. A boy might be able to identify cars well before he's three by their marques, but a girl may be identifying behavior pointers, books and tapping an imagination that may or may not turn her into an entertaining drama queen later in life.

We're telling our women to not be emotional at work because it undermines our authority. We're telling women to not take days off to be with our kids when they are sick because it gives us a reputation of being unreliable. We are encouraging employers who ask us what our "family" plans are when they hire us by assuring them that we have no intention of getting pregnant for a few years, because, as we all know, the kind of satisfaction nine hours in a cubicle gives you comes nowhere close to raising a child. We're telling our women don't wear distracting earrings, try and avoid bright feminine colours in corporate settings, we're telling our women keep our hair short because it's easier to manage and is less distracting in a corporate environment, we're telling our women to not cry like a girl, to compete like a boy and to be everything a man is, except shirtless. We're telling our women it's more fun to be a guy than to be a girl. I see this all around me -- teenaged girls doing their darnedest to not be feminine, blossoming at compliments when they are told their tastes are those of a guy; grown up women actively drinking what is popularly considered a "man's drink" not because she's developed a taste for it but because she wants to be considered equal to a man; so many instances of this aspiration to be a man. Subtle, unconscious, relentless but we teach our children to dislike women much before they can even say misogyny.

I grew under the kaleidoscopic upbringing of a mother who never doubted my capacity to do anything I wanted. If anything stopped me, it was my own severe lack of confidence as a teenager. I don't think she ever imposed restrictions on me. There were unspoken limits but to my then-sensible mind, they were acceptable. I fought the odd how-come-he-gets-to-go-out-after-9 battle but that was it. She empowered me, subtly and dare I say, without saying the words explicitly, that freedom was about being free in my mind, and not about what I wore, who I hung out with or what time I got home. She would, of course, tell me to sit like a lady, or that girls don't certain things (smoke, for eg) but I honestly don't remember any of that; what I do remember is her unspoken messages that I was as good as the next guy without her pushing me to become one. And at 32, it is her I give credit to when I have reached this conclusion. That women and men can never be equal. Somewhat like elephants and marigolds -- there's no comparison. We may have and fight for equal rights in all social contexts, we may demand equal pay, we may even ask for equally nice leather goods. But to think that intrinsically a woman can be a man is just defeating the very purpose of there being two genders. Because, you know, I don't want to see a man breastfeeding and a woman peeing standing up.  

Labels: , , ,