It all really started at a friend’s house-warming; a young girl asked me what I did and I said I had quit my job this January to travel the world quite plainly. And she; cutely fluttered her maskara filled pretty eyes and said, “Oh Wow!! Where All? With your husband or like with friends??”
And I casually said… “Oh! Alone! Umm.. just me!”
There was complete disbelief in her big eyes and gaping through her neat fringe she immediately clarified.. “Just you??”.. and awkward pause.. “And your husband allowed it??”
I wasn’t prepared; I had started socializing only lately and all whose company I was mostly in were not surprised with my plans at all. So I paused; pulled back a little in the sofa I was and said “Well ya.. Why won’t he??” and felt an uncontrollable compulsion to explain… “Well he knows I like to travel.. You know.. And so ya he is totally supportive and stuff…” and I kept rambling for several moments and she kept looking.. and listening intently like somewhere I was gonna tell her the secret of how I managed to what I was doing with my husband and family. But I couldn’t.
We all have multiple conversations with many people in get togethers but rarely do people ever ponder over them once we get home right? We mostly say, “Ya good night… nice conversations”. But while she had ended her night with a “You’re my inspiration!” I had come back to an empty house with one statement from her; “Did your husband allow it?”
Hmmmm… Did he allow it? Did he?? Well in retrospect I hadn’t really asked… like at all. We did have a conversation around budgets about it and I had made it clear that I could afford it… but that was really it. I hadn’t asked.. and he hadn’t refused. My husband is my friend and a well travelled man, and trusts me. And it is this trust that keeps me grounded.
I don’t judge myself as one of the modern girls in the conventional sense. I’m traditional, I love my parents and in-laws alike, I work hard, I hardly go out, there are a million things I don’t do, I take care of me, my in-laws love me and my father in law is one of my best friends, I make my family proud, haven’t done anything to shame them… so ya… I’m alrite!
But I am different, I have been lucky enough to travel and see other cultures and respect what I could understand. And observe us women in all I had seen.
I often tell my friends how my mind is like Ally McBeal’s and while the world goes on in a normal way there is a whole different tangent going on in my head and I string thoughts and situations together like one normally wouldn’t I guess.
I began to tear the hair and wonder why did someone think it was important for me to seek permission? Why and how was this almost a sign of oppression for me? Was I so different? And several thoughts started stringing together.
I am a girl and just like any other girl I love to dress up and put efforts to feel good about myself. I truly don’t think it’s the pressure of society or beauty magazines but just something only our sex totally enjoys. We love to mix and match and be melodramatic. And guess what; it’s a global phenomenon!! From the colourful dupattas of our villages to the nets and lace of the Arab world to the cuts and fits of New York. And I’m pretty sure none of us do so to be oppressed in any way. When we are bending close to the mirrors to get our kajal right; our eyes are full of hope that we would feel good about ourselves n we would find someone who would love us for us and not want to change us.
Then what had happened along the way?
Why was this happening?? Why were we seeking permissions? Why were we constantly explaining ourselves? Why the sex crimes in India?? Why did the cool, young, independent designer girl feel that I needed permission? To simply travel???
The girl’s question made me reflect on how we women had allowed the men in our lives; fathers, brothers, lovers, husbands to have the authority to permit us to live our lives as we pleased. Why did we do that?? Why were we still doing that? I agree there were not many solo travellers in the world but I’m sure they all had discussions about their dreams and pursuing them but can’t imagine permissions. Like the iconic scene from DDLJ…’Jaa Simran jaa… Jeele apni zindagi”. And then.. just like that it hit me!
It’s not just the men who were to be blamed. No. No. It wasn’t. We were to be blamed equally or even a little more I’d imagine.
The reason why I always felt comfortable wearing anything and going for a movie alone in England or many other western countries at any time was because at sometime women had changed how they allowed men to treat them in their societies and also how they accepted and supported each other through their tough decisions like separations or divorces or molestation.
Men are men everywhere, geographies don’t change sexual behaviour or psychology. They will take whatever you can give. But we women, when we ignore when a man stares at us for a minute too long and look away or get busy…? We have allowed him to repeat.
When we women walk away faster digging our eyes in our feet, when we hear a lewd comment instead of turning around and reacting like any other human would, we have allowed them to repeat.
When our men hit us and we forgive them; we have allowed them to do it over and over again.
When we let them tell us how to dress instead of teaching their own kind that being dis-respectable to women is uncool we had allowed them to oppress us and rule us.
When we judge our own sisters and blame them for the pain they go through and say ‘You shouldn’t have been out late” or gossip “Have you seen what she wears” we are making us weaker.
It was when we; the women; had killed something inside us, looked down and away and said ‘Ok’ when we actually wanted to scream ‘No’ or ‘Not Ok’ that they felt we were ok with anything they would put us through.
And it is when we seek permission inspite of being educated and independent instead of talking about it like one human to another that we become dependent and hence the weaker sex by choice which is truly dependent. Let’s talk about it, address it, face it, refuse it, debate it.
I am guilty of it too. I also have felt the need to explain myself several times as being normal and a nice girl to justify my being different and accepted and respected just because I’m a good wife or daughter in law.
I say enough of blaming men and governments and playing victims. We take our own responsibility and stop waiting to be rescued and create our own solution, be the corrector and the truly stronger, fairer sex, cause we just really are!