Ramblings Of Anusha

Meera

"In complete control, pretending control,

With dignified authority, we are charlatans.

Or maybe just a goat’s-hair brush in a painter’s hand.

We have no idea what we are.”

Meera

The session was about to start.

Meera rushed into the room, trying to catch her breath. Panting, she put down the black umbrella down. It hadn’t been of much use and part of her maroon cotton-sari was still drenched. She wiped her face with the pallu of her sari and instinctively clung on to her hand-bag.

She walked uncertainly to the reception – unsure and awkward. Her grace defied her 50 years of age but her broad waistline didn’t. Her bespectacled eyes pierced sharply in a nervous glance at the reception.

“Which room?”

“Room 17. Anita told me she would be there.”

“Straight and to the right.” The receptionist pointed out.

Meera smiled in acknowledgement, took a deep breath and started walking down the hall.

__________________________________________________________

She walked in to the room. Anita was waiting there for her. Anita had been working on this project for months now. She was an artist, a creator and never really cared much for the ways of the world. She was everything that Meera was not – slim, in her early 30’s with dark brown hair, tanned skin and wide eyes.

Anita pointed Meera to an old brown sofa placed in the corner of the room. She then proceeded to switch on the camera.

Meera was controlled yet nervous. She still didn’t know why she was doing this – after so many years. She wondered if it mattered in any way at all. She took the hand-bag and placed it on the side and quickly tried to fix her hair before nodding a yes to Anita. Meera started her monologue.

__________________________________________________________

I grew up studying in a convent school. In those days, it was a big deal. We spent our days roaming around in the school and trying to bunk classes. One day I was told I won’t be going to school again. I was very happy. No more wretched books and tests. No punishments. I would finally be free.

I reached home from my last day at school. Ma told me to go upstairs and dress up. Some important people were coming home for tea.

“Who are coming? Do I know them?”

“You’ll know soon.”

I did as I was told.

The evening saw Mrs. And Mr. Patel come home with their son Bhavesh. I didn’t like Bhavesh. I didn’t find him interesting. But, Ma and Pa didn’t listen.

“He is from a good family. He’ll keep you happy. Everything has been agreed upon.”

I kept quiet. I did as I was told.

[She pressed her lips]

Bhavesh and me got married within two months. He was constantly busy with his business and travels and had no time for me. I found his company boring and frankly I wasn’t in love with him. But, I was a wife. It was my duty to love him. So, I tried. I made his favourite food, if he liked it he would acknowledge it with a smile. We barely spoke although we lived in the same house, in the same room, slept in the same bed.

We had sex but it was terrible. It never satisfied me.

I kept quiet. I did as I was told.

Bhavesh was a good man. But, I didn’t feel any passion or love for him. It was my responsibility of taking care of him. It was my duty as a wife. I don’t know if it was love – for that matter I didn’t even know why I was with him.

Priya was born and she brought a whole new meaning to my life. I loved her. I pampered her, played with her and lived through her. She was the apple of my eye. She meant everything to me.

One day, when Priya was ten, I went to pick her up from school. I saw Bhavesh on the way with another woman.

A part of me was sad and devastated that day. A part of me felt relieved and hoped that he would leave me. After all we both knew this marriage was a farce.

To the outside world, we were the epitome of happiness with our big house, his successful business and our little Priya. Inside, I was empty and so was he. He became more open about his affairs and even the basic decency of keeping it from me was no longer a prerogative for him. One day I decided, enough is enough and went to my parent’s house. It was his lack of respect that bothered me more than his infidelity. My parents wouldn’t listen to me and asked me to go back to him – for the sake of family honour and for Priya.

I kept quiet. I did as I was told.

A few more years passed. I embraced my role of being Bhavesh’s happy wife so completely that there was no life beyond Bhavesh and Priya for me. But to them, I really didn’t matter.

[Meera interrupts her thoughts. Unsure whether she should continue telling her story. Anita eggs her to continue. Meera sighs, takes a deep breath and continues]

I was upset and lost that day and decided to go to the park. I was just sitting there on the bench talking to myself when he came and sat next to me. How I wish he hadn’t done it, my life would have been so different. But, if he hadn’t I would have never known what it was to feel like the way I did. He was a retired captain –charming, intelligent and kind.

“Can I join you?”

“Yes, please.”

Before we knew it, we had started talking. He was a widower and frequented the park. I felt alive that day. I hadn’t told anyone what it was like to be me in so many years. I didn’t even remember the last time someone asked me what I liked, what I wanted to do, what I cared for. I always did as I was told. Our meetings at the park became more frequent, our conversations longer, our bond stronger. I knew it right then that I was falling in love – a forbidden love which would destroy everything. I was afraid of getting caught but a part of me wanted to get caught and get out of this loveless marriage.

We grew closer and intimate with time. Then the inevitable happened. We made love. I experienced sensations I never knew I was capable of and for the first time ever in my life – I felt alive, I blossomed. I was laughing and smiling like never before and it was not because of my husband.

Priya came down for her summer vacations during those days. She found out about the affair. She told me she was embarrassed to call me her mother. My very own flesh and blood, my little baby was ashamed of me. She asked me to stop the affair and if I had any sense of shame and remorse to come back to Bhavesh.

I kept quiet. I did as I was told.

I didn’t meet him again. I stopped going to the park. I stopped smiling. Years passed by. Priya is married now and settled. Bhavesh… he sent me a divorce notice yesterday.

I didn’t think twice before signing it. Today, I’m here because I’m tired of pretending and lying and living a life which never fulfilled me. I’m tired of being an imposter in my own life. I met the captain again yesterday – he seemed confused but he recognized me alright. His eyes still saw me the same way as they did when we met. The love was still there. I told him that I would want to be with him, if he wanted to.

He said he couldn’t. He had already moved on.

[Tears came down Meera’s eyes]

So, just like that in one day my entire life came crashing down. I have nothing today and at 50, I’m starting over or actually just starting my life and I have no idea who I am.

[She hesitated and then looked straight into the camera]

But, this I know now - I will no longer keep quiet. I will only do what my heart tells me to and not as I am told. 

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Word.

The Good Girl

"Don’t raise your voice."

"Don’t laugh loudly."

"Don’t go out and play, you’ll tan your skin."

"Don’t sit like this. Don’t stand like that."

"Talk properly to your elders."

"Don’t dress in skirts or jeans. Wear salwars. Wear a purdah. Maybe not a purdah – too extreme. We are liberal. But cover up."

"Don’t eat ice-cream in public."

"Don’t leave your hair open."

"Don’t go out alone. Go with your brother or cousin or non-significant male relative."

"Walk like a girl. Act shy."

"Don’t be arrogant."

"Don’t be out late."

"Don’t travel outside. What is the need? What if something happens? Stay at home."

"Don’t stay around after school with friends."

"Don’t study so much. You won’t be able to find a suitable husband."

"Don’t have all these fancy dreams. Learn how to cook and clean and raise kids. Your degree will not help."

"Don’t argue. Don’t raise your voice."

"Don’t ask questions. Just follow."

"Don’t cry like a girl."

"Don’t think. We know what is best. Do as we say."

"How can you even think about it? This is not part of our culture. What will society say? What will the relatives think?"

"Don’t roam around like this. You will not get good husbands."

"Don’t be friends with boys."

"Don’t go out in the sun. You’ll tan your skin. They want fair brides not dark ones."

"Why go to the big city for studying? Local college will do. You’ll get ruined in the big city."

"Big city girls have boyfriends. They drink. They smoke. They bring shame to their families. Girls who go to big cities are ruined. We will not let you go."

"You can continue studying after marriage. Get married now before it is too late."

"All those books will not help you find a good husband."

"Don’t take that job. If you work alone in a big city, people will think you are characterless and you will not be able to find a good husband."

"Don’t take that job. If you earn more, how can you find a decent husband from our community?"

"Don’t go out at night."

"Don’t go for a job where you have to go for many meetings."

"That type of job is not for girls."

"Don’t go for a night-shift."

"Don’t eat so much."

"Why work after marriage? Your husband will take care of you."

"Why are you working? Who will take care of the kids and the in-laws?"

"You are getting old."

"Look how worried your parents are."

"Who will marry you now? You are such a disappointment!"

"You gave birth to a girl? Don’t worry. Next time it will be a boy."

"Don’t dream big."

I guess they might have as well said ‘Don’t Live’ the minute I was born.

- Words can crush and create a lot of things. All I did today was put together the words I have heard from different people over the years. We live in a world where woman still have no right or entitlement to their own bodies. We live in a world where the first response to anything is to curb the freedom of women - from banning mobile phones to preventing them from terminating a pregnancy to holding them to impossible moral and beauty standards. So, I say let’s start living, for woman are human beings too. 



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