Growing up in India, a woman acquires many facets to her personality, if she is lucky! If not, she either lives silently bearing the societal tortures, or she just doesn't realize she could have been in another situation. Sometimes I feel the latter would have been the best way to be.
Interestingly, there are many in the last situation who are utterly happy with whatever they are, however they are treated. Or is it that they do not realize that it could have been otherwise, and since they have no model to compare with'
I was born in Bombay, spent a few years of my growing up years there, some in Calcutta, some in Madras and some in New Delhi. Only one of bears the name I associate the cities with'Bombay is Mumbai, Calcutta is Kolkatta, Madras is Chennai. But that has no bearing on the subject matter of my thoughts. My thoughts are about how I was brought up to tie my hair tight in braids, oil dripping from them like I had drenched myself in the rain; I had to cover myself up from head to toe in Salwar Kameez, was allowed no freedoms which came naturally to my brothers' lot. And then I had to bear the constant reprimands of my parents for some or the other matter, like fights with my brothers for example, for which more often than not, they were guilty.
I was not the women/girls I mentioned earlier in this monologue ' the women who just don't realize that there is some problem with their situation. From the many recollections I have of my growing up years, I clearly remember that I felt cheated, and angry at what I was made to go through. I could not well understand the gender differences then, so this treatment confounded me. I had begun to feel that the problem must lie with me ' as a person, which caused my parents to repress me, treat me like a common servant.
Years later, when innocence had faded away, and the lonely heart had begun to understand that there's always more than meets the eye in any given situation, I began to comprehend and forgive all for what they had done to my indomitable spirit.
I am going to take this in parts. This time I am going to restrict myself to my childhood years, and question you and me and all who do this to their daughters, and then we shall move on and try to find answers together. If we can find some, of course.
I was a brilliant child. From the first moment I took up a book in my hand, I excelled at what I did. I have no recollection of this, but so I am told. Yet, I went to a 'government' sponsored Hindi-medium school and my brothers went to convents. I wore clothes bought at cheap stores, while my brothers were dressed for the up-market culture. My brothers got their favorite foods to eat on demand, and I used to serve them while they ate (I thought it might be pertinent to mention that my brothers are ten and eight years older than me). Yet, I served them with their favorite goodies and watched them eat. I ate last, even though I never went hungry.
I was never allowed to go out and play in the streets like my brothers used to. I hated that. I was not allowed pocket money to buy me a good lunch at school. I was not permitted tearing up notebooks to make boats that my brothers would float in the clogged rainwater on the streets. Then there were the birthday parties, which I never attended. And there the birthdays that were celebrated with a long list of guests ' but they were not mine, they were my brothers'. And there were birthday presents that came from my parents, whether or not we had a birthday party, but they went to my brothers. That must have hurt. But I do not have memories.
There were countless other things ' like sleeping on the floor, my demands for 'golgappas' being met with stony stares, being left behind when my brothers were taken out for a ride with my father in his new car, the walk along Bombay's beach ' which I sat and watched from our apartment window, the games that I could never participate in'
I am amazed that I have not been damaged psychologically. Because I am not the woman I mentioned when I started off, who never even understand that what's happening to them could be wrong.
Back in the days I am talking about, I used to cry out loud and fight for what I thought was my right. I am sure I was hurt, but again, I don't have recollection of that. Today, when I think back on those years, all I do is shed silent tears, without the hysterics. With the years, the memories have faded, but the pain remains.