~A lament from a woman trying to ‘break the wheel’~
Maybe I should have just stayed home.
Maybe I should have just got done with school, sat at home, and learnt to make those perfectly round rotis, to help with household chores, to wear a hijab & lower my voice. After all, this is what my ‘ultimate destination’ is going to be. An aunt in my neighbour restricted by her husband to apply red lipstick and to go on the terrace tells me that I will have to live inside a four walled house, bordered with moralistic laws that will give me rights over my kitchen, but not over my own wardrobe. She reminds me of my hopeless future at least thrice a week. Every conversation we have ends in how the institution of marriage is ‘bound’ to send me that way.
Maybe I should start preparing for all that. Maybe I shouldn’t have scored a ninety percent after all, and gotten into one of the finest Universities of the country and learnt about the oppressive familial structures.
Maybe I shouldn’t have read about the plight of women, Dalits, minorities, people of colour, the disabled…maybe I shouldn’t have read at all. That way, I would have been a woman who didn’t know enough about her subjugation to question it. I would have been a woman who did not see sexism and oppression in everything-from boarding the metro to college in the morning, checking my family WhatsApp group to pass time flooded with casual jokes on how women are cruel to their husbands to the TV soaps my mother relishes after finishing with her everyday unpaid, ritualistic and exploitative domestic labor.
To be constantly upset about so much of conditioned bias-even in closest of my people, and hurt every moment is something I could have clearly avoided. I could’ve been a woman who defended her own oppression and could be happy about guarding her beliefs at the end of the day.
Maybe I shouldn’t have read Dr. Faustus, and become skeptical of religion. Maybe I shouldn’t have questioned polygamy, property rights and Hijab. Maybe I should have just read the Quran like a dummy without understanding or questioning it because obviously too much knowledge is ‘dangerous’. I now know why.
Maybe, if I hadn’t learnt to question, I’d have been accepted as a modest woman, as a person and not be seen as a constant THREAT to fragile egos of men around & inherent sexism of my family and friends equally. Maybe I wouldn’t have become an outcast in my own family. It is too hard for them to see my bindi and saree as a sign of resistance and not Hindu influence. Maybe I should have simply followed the authority of religion in everything that it tells me, and lived solely on the hope of God’s benevolent grace, in the distant future & hope of a just day of judgment. A day of judgment which would teach all the rapists in the world lessons that are due…
Maybe if I hadn’t come to start respecting my body and my emotions, it would have been easier to find a man for myself…a man who stayed. I choose the men in my life very wisely-but it doesn’t take more than six months, a few instances of not agreeing to their preset conditions-of me being their ‘ideal woman’- not smoking, drinking, wearing ‘revealing’ clothes, going out, having ‘guy’ friends, and sometimes not going out at all, it doesn’t take a lot for that CHARM to wear out. If I hadn’t read, maybe I wouldn’t have had paranoia about finding a man who understands, and acknowledges his privilege without protest. Maybe I would have been just fine, being with a man who exploited me in the guise of ‘love’ and possessiveness.
Maybe if I hadn’t read about resistance and protest, I wouldn’t have fought back the people who think of harassing me on the street as their right every time I get down my building fearlessly, dressing exactly the way I want, and not feeling guilty about it.
Yes, there’s a certain kind of ‘guilt’ involved in the process of emancipation. It is a sad thing.
Maybe if I hadn’t read, I wouldn’t have had the courage to go out without a hijab. Maybe I would have had just given in & put it on to escape all the comments that seem to question my ‘character’.
Maybe I would have done anything to not encounter these men on the streets and let it grow. Maybe I just wouldn’t have noticed those unsolicited comments-that come in the rawest forms from the bystanders, but also sometimes beautifully disguised in the form of advice, suggestions & well wishes from people I know, and love.
Maybe life would have been easier.