The Escapist

I have done it again!

My friendship with Smita is going through the toughest test ever – the crucial question is, is it worth holding on to this friendship or not. I rest within myself unrelenting to any pressure from within myself or from outside to cave in and apologize.

Apologize? Say sorry? What sorry? I am NOT sorry!

I am walking more briskly in the mornings these days and I can feel my heels dig into the ground and leave a mark on the sand every time. There is a purpose in my every step. No! I don’t want to hear another point of view – my mind is closed.

Case closed! My anger empowers my conviction.

My crime? I have opened my big mouth again. And spoken my truth to Smita.

Smita is a Bharatnatyam dancer and choreographer. She conceptualizes her own dance theatres and is very gifted really. However, she is caught in a mess of her own making. She is trying to prove to herself, that she is not worth it, she does not deserve her laurels. She is hiding behind her 9 year old son, her husband, housework and all the paraphernalia a woman can so easily gather to prove that no, even if the world says she is the most wonderful dancer, she is not what they think.

However, she does try to put in 2 hours of dance every day in her home. Not without it’s problems though. Everytime, she begins, an incessant door bell rings

" Madamji, aapne yeh mangwaya" / " Madamji, aapne mujhe bulaya tha?" – This goes on and on. Inside, the cook asks " Madamji, daal me tamater daalu?"

Better stop the practice! Punctuated by interruptions she tries to go on.

Naturally, when three years ago, she complained for the ‘n’th time to me about how frustrated she felt about not proceeding with her dance, I was unsparing in my word delivery.

" What is the matter with you, Smita?" I had questioned. " What drives you to prove again and again, your need to fail in the world. Do you suffer from an inferiority complex or what? Why are you shying away from the world? You are so talented. Instead of using this talent to change lives in the world, you have chosen to hide in the kitchen and your home. Instead of dancing on stage to an audience, you seem to be engaged in doing the Bharatnatyam around your child, the three maids who come and go. What is the matter with you? Why are you beating yourself up in this manner? "

The words were pointed. They hit where they were meant to hit. We didn’t speak to each other for a long time. Eventually, she began to work on her next production. The next three-year saw the birth of one of the best dance recitals I have seen in my life. It also brought her an award for best dance theatre performance.

It all boils down to one thing – your concept of yourself. I have met some of the most beautiful women in India, who have told me that deep inside, they feel they are really ugly. I have come across women who were not very privileged to have had higher education or even professional education, yet they saw themselves as greatly gifted and hence they excelled, leaving behind IIT and IIM grads. They believed in themselves. They got counted.

It begins with us individually. Many of us spend years in investing in ourselves, in order that we may be independent. Suddenly, after a marriage we seem to run out of fuel. Phoos! Flat tyre effect! We want to roll back into the roles we saw our mothers perform. In fact, if you remember, these were the very roles you rebelled against to become what you are today. Only to give up? You are unable to bear the market forces around you. You return to what your mother did in her days. However, in your new avatar – you have lots of excuses for doing what you are doing now.

This is a disturbing, growing trend. Therefore, when you have friends who break your self – made cocoon, you might prefer to drop their friendship than to turn around. Anyone powered with a high degree of self worth and self-love will never like to fade away into the woodworks!

When you are talented, educated and have taken trouble to invest in yourself, you need to be out there to make the difference. Being a role model to your children is passe’ – hang on to the bigger picture!

When you insist on remaining at home, you rob your house-help, your children’s caregiver their right to earn bigger bucks. Since you can afford it, you can choose house-help, which is more effective. Pay a higher wage, delegate and empower. Ask for regular reports and intervene whenever required. That way you give rise to a new generation of labor force in your home. Less dependent on you and one that can hold the fort while you take on the job you were meant to do.

More easily said than done.

This brings me back to where I started from – My friendship with Smita is again on the rocks. Ten days ago when she told me that she was planning to bring her ailing mother-in-law to Delhi for treatment that could last anywhere between six months to one year, I lost it.

" Again a speed-breaker? I thundered. " Are there no doctors in Kolkata? No special nursing homes? Can you not find and contribute financially towards some special help and caregiver for your MIL in Kolkata itself? Must you have to bear the burden on your shoulder only? Do you want another "baby" just as your son is grown up enough to look after himself to a certain extent? You want another excuse to stay home? And only the other day you told me that you were so moved by Medha Patkar’s fight for the displaced, you wanted to conceive a dance recital based on the theme of displacement – you want to put all that away and run between hospitals, ambulances, taking care of your MIL? Can her own daughter who lives alone in Kolkata not do that job? What? What pray?" And as the last parting shot I concluded " I don’t have anything more to say to you. You are the pits!"

That did it. My partner flew at me " You have no right to interfere in their private lives"

" Yes, I do," I spat out. " I am Smita’s only true friend. I might be politically incorrect in everything I have said, but for God’s sake, I don’t want to sit on the fence and I don’t want to be polite. I don’t need Smita’s friendship and I hope she does not need mine, except as a source of mutual support"

I left the room. Smita left our house, shaken and thoughtful.

I have not spoken to Smita since then. My partner called last night from an ashram in Rishikesh. She said Smita was coming to spend the weekend at the ashram with her family and then proceeding to Mussourie from there for a week long holiday.

" And what about her mother-in-law?" I asked

" She is not coming yet. It’s off for the moment".  


More by :  Julia Dutta

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