Monster

“There seems to be a monster out there on the loose. It is intent on destroying me; not my person but my spirit. Hence, it has been conspiring to take away the most important things from me- be it people, opportunities, or achievements. It plants every obstacle in my way to ensure that I do not reach my destination. Since quite some time, it has constantly been successful in its malicious endeavours.

If indeed ​it is hell-bent on finishing me, it will come for the one who means the most to me, sooner or later. It knows that my strength and weakness coincide in the same person. It will try its best to take that person away from me – a masterstroke for achieving its evil desire.

Till yesterday, I thought I must let the monster come for me. ​Maybe giving in will spare me of the torture. Let it do what it has to; I am powerless and helpless to be able to counter it. But ​even when I seemed to have conceded, a part of me that wanted t​hat person to stay in my life forever- safe and protected- chose to ​resist it​. It held the fort when ​the ​other parts gave up their arms​. It kept the battle on; it resisted the enemy. The whole is indeed the sum of its parts. Until the last part has a tiny ​spark  left in it, it can ​re​invigorate the other parts and hence the whole.

For you, I would be willing to begin again, a thousand times over.​”​

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Shattered

I do not know what sins I have committed to be punished in this way. I just end up failing in whatever I do. In the past one year, nothing has been going right with me. I feel so worthless; what is the point of living this life? There are ends but no means to achieve them. What am I doing? Am I moving at all or worse, only retreating? Why this stationary state, what wrong have I done to deserve this? For once, why can’t things and my life move- move in the sense of progress, advancement, achievement and positive growth? When I go to bed at night, I have nothing to look forward to on the next day. I am sick of everything, of life itself. I want this bad phase to end before it kills me. I accept defeat- spare me for god’s sake! I am no longer fighting you; I surrender. Will you please leave me alone now?

I have been broken in a way that the shattered pieces of my soul can never be put back together. No matter how hard one tries, it will never be the same again.

Calling it quits

I have never explicitly said it before, but today I will. I quit.

The past one year has been tragic for me. It has devastated me, robbed me of my essence and every happiness I could ever earn for myself. First, I lost my love; he is gone never to return. I miss each and every bit of him. I miss what I used to be when I was with him. He has gone and so has a part of me; that part will remain buried along with his memories.

Two more months went by and I had to leave somebody who was special to me beyond measure. And hence followed a series of losses, failures, defeats and broken dreams- I had to withdraw admissions from my dream university. I could not understand and I still can’t make sense of what transpired- why did I miss these opportunities when I was so close to making things happen? Why always an inch short of reaching what I coveted most in the world?

Yet I pushed myself towards another goal. But more blunders were to be awaited. I messed up my exams and I lost my job on my very first day. Someone I love a lot once named me ‘Golden Girl’. I don’t know how I lost my Midas touch and suddenly, all I touch turns to stone or dust!

I have never felt so shattered and worthless before. A Hindi dialogue in the movie Lipstick Under My Burkha goes thus: “Do you know what our biggest mistake is, sister? We dream too much.” I think that is true for me too. Broken dream after broken dream, I kept replacing it with another bigger dream. I kept fooling myself by convincing that this dream would indeed come true. I slogged to realise those dreams but I have learnt the hard way that hard work is hardly a guarantee for success. It is a necessary but not sufficient condition for success. My dreams have led me nowhere except towards misery.

I no longer have the strength to dream another dream. I am exhausted physically as well as mentally. I quit.

The Strong Woman

There she was, a strong woman.
She smiled like a fairy
And laughed like a child.
She looked strict and stern
Yet she was gentle, calm and kind.

There she was, a strong woman.
But she was not immune to pain.
She could not conceal it
But she endured it.
She went on, but would not reveal it.

There she was, a strong woman.
In a world where everyone was resisting and quitting
Hers was one brave, brave battle.
Nobody knew why she was fighting
Neither what kept her moving…

There she was, a strong woman.
Nobody knew of her struggles
But she and she alone.
Her strength lay in her silence.
There she was, one of the strongest women I’d known.

Secret love

No, you must not expect.
Inhale the beauty of his mind
while it rejuvenates your soul.
Fill yourself with the air of his love
and you shall be whole.

No, you must not demand.
Sip his intellectuality and perfection
while he showers you with his gifts of understanding and patience.
You shall be amazed with what you get without asking.

No, you must not complain.
Understand that your story is but a fairy tale
and it cannot be true except the love that you share.
He will give you all that he can-
his time, affection, support and care.

Yes, you must love.
Because it gives you joy, hope and strength.
Love him deeply, and rise in his love.
You were not meant to be together
but your souls were, nevertheless.

Always.

I Shall Not Be Silenced

To the men –
Cage me if you wish.
You can bind my hands and legs
But not my thoughts and ambitions
Remember that ideas are bulletproof.

To the society –
Condemn me if you wish.
You can insult and ostracise me
But you cannot close your eyes to the naked truth I show you.
Remember that our powerlessness is your only weapon.

To the fascists –
Kill me if you wish.
You can threaten to rape or destroy me
But my honour is not your slave.
Remember that the pen will always be mightier than your sword.

To the world –
Remember me if you wish.
But do not give in to the intolerant numbers
Who will throttle all those who question and oppose
Remember that dissent is the essence of democracy.

I shall continue to live till there are those
who stand up, speak up and are unafraid.
Your bullets can destroy my body
But cannot maim my spirit.

Rest in power, Gauri Lankesh!

The Star

There was a star that shone

The Poison called Patriarchy

When we come across a successful girl,  we applaud her family for being supportive of her. We appreciate that they have encouraged her to make independent career choices. They do not distinguish between sons and daughters and have provided her the required cultural capital to reach where she is today. But in an intrinsically patriarchal upper caste middle class Hindu family, how ‘free’ are her choices?

On one hand, she battles the society; its prejudices, misogyny, glass ceilings and conservatism. But on the other hand, behind closed doors goes on another strife that nobody knows about. It is the constant struggle between her and the patriarch- her father in most cases. The independent girl on the verge of womanhood is enthusiastic, passionate and wants to explore infinite opportunities. She is unafraid of making unconventional career choices. Marriage is her least priority. Yes, she is growing older, but she wants to devote adequate time to attaining her education and securing employment. Hence, for her, settling down does not imply getting married and giving birth to a child but establishing a career and achieving economic independence.

However, the fault lines begin to surface within the family. As the daughter grows up, the father begins to behave more like a patriarch. In this capacity, he has made many personal sacrifices for the family. He expects the same in return from the ‘ideal’ daughter. If he does not have an elder son, he begins to search for a successor and inheritor in her. He is in his fifties or sixties and wants her to shoulder the responsibility of the family soon. Her individual aspirations are thus often not palatable to him. He wants her to establish her career quickly so that he can marry her off soon. He is not against her ambitions but wants her to align them to the needs of the family, just as he did.

The patriarch encourages but restricts; supports but controls. He sets free but the strings are tied firmly to his fingers. The entire notion of a girl’s independence thus seems illusory. Her choices are seldom free. Time and again, she is reminded of her obligations towards her family. She does not have the freedom to decide her own life partner because the honour of the family is at stake and the norms of caste endogamy are to be taken care of. She must not delay her marriage too much or the best ones (read the richest) might be gone. Her Ph. D. or job can obviously continue after marriage also, at least for the sake of persuasion.

The patriarch, now tired of running the family since decades, longs to retire from his responsibilities at the earliest. The biggest liability to be done away with is naturally an unmarried daughter. He wants her to finish her studies early so that she can start contributing towards the family income. In the process, she can also pool some money for her own marriage and the education of her younger siblings.

The role of the mother is now reduced to that of a mediator. She has no say in any decisions in the family. She is stationed between the patriarch and his daughter who are both adamant. She is the one who negotiates, but her role ends at that. The father, now assuming the role of the patriarch is now distanced from his daughter. They no longer share the loving relationship they did when she was younger. The onus is upon the mother to convey his diktats to her daughter and convince her to acquiesce. She is often placed in an awkward situation when she has to inform the patriarch of their daughter’s resolve to stay firm on her decisions. She is the worst affected in the tussle. She can neither side with one nor abandon the other. She must remain loyal to her husband because he feeds her. On the other hand, she does not want her daughter to lead a captivated life as she did.

As the daughter overcomes one hurdle after the other, she feels victorious to have challenged the stereotypes of the society. She considers herself to be a rebel and wants to set an example for other girls to emulate. But the fact remains that she is able to wage a war against the society but not against her own family. She is confined by the family values she herself clung to since childhood. She is torn between her dreams and the expectations of her family which are actually those of the patriarch.

The victims of patriarchy are never women alone. The mother is helpless and cannot let her daughter lead the life of her dreams no matter how much she wishes. The daughter obviously is subjected to restrictions and control since forever, none being slackened even after she grows old enough to decide for herself. Amidst this, the patriarch also suffers as he constantly swings to and fro from this role to that of the father. Even if he wants his daughter to be happy, he is also tied to his authoritarian position. He cannot grant her any more agency over her own life than to live it as per his rules; rather those set by the society. He must reinforce his supremacy by regularly exerting power and control, even if it implies throttling the dreams and aspirations of his daughter.

Patriarchy finds its way from religion to society and finally to the family. It has ruined more careers than poor results or other unforeseen circumstances have. When we dismiss allegations of gender discrimination by casual remarks like “Things have changed now, we have daughters and we have given them freedom to study and choose their career.” the sexism is quite apparent. Why does freedom need to be ‘given’ to daughters when sons enjoy it as a birth right? Can their choices be free if they are always forced to put their family before themselves? Patriarchy fails to answer these questions. Empowerment is possible only when women acquire complete agency over their lives. Gender equality must be fostered in the family before it can become the norm of the society; it has to begin from the home. Nevertheless, the minds of men ought to be decolonized from the tyrannical regime of patriarchy for gender equality to become a reality.