Hiding on my terrace, gazing at the stars, was a little girl consumed by anger and a feeling of neglect. I was just sixteen- rebellious, stubborn, and desirous of having my own space. My young blood oozed out for the freedom to express my own thoughts. I wanted to exercise my right to take my own decisions and not follow those taken by my parents.
Why couldn’t they allow me to stay at my friend’s place that night? She was my best friend and our families knew each other well. Why then? Who gave them the right to decide for me? All I wanted was to celebrate her birthday that night – was it so difficult to understand? I was cursing God to be born here- to parents who just didn’t care about how I felt.
Just then, I heard someone shouting my name. Mumma was looking for me on the terrace. Against my liking, she found me and asked me to follow her down. ‘One more command’, I thought. But I had little choice.
Once home, she patted my back and said, “big girls don’t cry for such small things. Now pack up your bag. Papa shall drop you at your friend’s place. Make sure that you do not get late for college tomorrow morning.” My face instantly lit up. Though I couldn’t figure out what had made them change their mind, I had won the battle of wills. I kissed mumma and hurriedly turned to my room to pack my bag. She shouted from behind, “you should learn to be more flexible – it would help you in the long run.”
Little did I know at that time what her words meant? I didn’t realize then that I would be stuck for a lifetime between ‘who I am’ and what I am expected to be’. After all, I was a woman, who is supposed to adjust and give up for the sake of others.
Eventually I got married. It was a beautiful world. Everyone around were awesome and supportive. Unlike my friends, I was not expected to get up early in the morning and cook. Neither was I supposed to spare some help in other household chores. Instead, I was expected to be a part of the age-old routine that people here were following since four decades.
I was just expected to be a part of their family. ‘Fair enough, this is the least I can do’, I thought. Thus, I tried to give their routine a try. Every time I did something to please them, it went against my intrinsic nature. Each time I did something their way, I felt strangled. We were poles apart and our styles and thought process refused to match. Till then, I never knew that routines could be so disgusting.
I was nurtured to be an independent lady. I loved to control my own life. But, here it was different. I had no control on how a vegetable should be cut or how a dish should be cooked, forget life. I yearned for freedom. Freedom to do small things my way – be it planting a tree or placing a carpet beneath the table. But that was not to be. And why should it be? I was interfering with their conventions- the conventions that were passed on for generations. These conventions taught a girl how to cook, what to wear, when to express and when not to. Above all they instructed a woman to bury whatever she carried from more than two decades of her pre-married life and start afresh. I was supposed to set aside my likings, dislikes, tastes, thoughts, perceptions, beliefs.... My identity was at stake.
Over the years, the routine had begun to suffocate me. My wings were clipped, my thought process was throttled. I knew that if things wouldn’t change now, they would get worse. Alas, it happened. My opinions could no longer be contained in the Pandora’s box and I started voicing it out. I finally wanted to live on my terms and not follow anyone. I was tired of doing it – right since childhood.
Change is rarely acceptable in our communities, more so if it is suggested by someone half your age. My suggestions and actions thus became a channel for small conflicts, which eventually turned into larger ones. I had suddenly turned into a demon – one who was challenging age, experience and above all tradition. The biggest irony was that the battle was taking me nowhere. The persons at the other end were my own family. My love for them was as strong as my beliefs. If I lost, I lost and if I won, I still lost.
Today, while I write this, I am sure that I am not the only one feeling this pain. There would be countless others like me who are on the verge of exploding. Don’t we have a life of our own - our own desires, dreams, and lifestyle? Why can’t we do silly things, leave moral behind at times, break traditions, do not fall on expectations, cry, fight, love? Why can’t we be trusted like a son, brother or a father? Despite being a part of the family, why can’t we ever get equal rights and respect?
Why are we expected to change? Why can’t we women just be ourselves? I am struggling for an answer. Are you?