Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Hope You Remember Me

My study is full of scraps of paper, strewn all over the floor and rising to the ceiling. I have emptied out all the shelves and drawers in my mind; they are now lying all over the floor. I am looking for that one girl I knew in school thirty-five years ago. I am hoping to find that one piece of paper I have so carefully preserved, the love letter you wrote to me.

In my mind’s eye, I can see your hand written letter; no ctrl+alt+del can ever wipe away. At least not till my dying breath.

Technology has not moved. If it had then I could have just pressed the print button in my head and there! A smooth laser print out would eject out – the exact hand written love letter.

Wonder why you called me Julie?

My partner does not even know of you. So long ago, I can hardly remember to tell her –
In any case, why should I? Remembering you in this heap of paper strewn across my room is –

Angst, my bitter chocolate.

I have lived and loved many but my heart was always with you. Your breath forever is imprinted in my brain. Its haunting fragrance over the years has not dried out. Why should I even try to erase it, when it causes me to remember –

Angst, is my bitter chocolate.

The closest I came to being with you was twenty two years ago. Someone quite like you entered my life – just an acquaintance, a good friend. So close was I to the real you, I feared getting any closer might end, even overwrite, my treasured memories of you –

Angst, my bitter chocolate.

I have forbidden the maid to enter this room. For the last one month it has not been cleaned: I must find you first in these heaps of papers lying on the floor – No! No cleaning is required. I don’t want a blank screen. Among these papers I believe, lies one letter you wrote to me in indelible ink on lavender blue paper. It is stored in the deep recesses of my mind. If I can find that one letter in this heap of paper, I will be able to compare it with the writings in my mind. But irony, why and how shall I find your letter? Finding it would be my loss. Eternally looking for you causes me pain –

Angst, my bitter chocolate.

I saw you again in her the other day – just a carbon copy, ctrl-C if you like. Instantly I was drawn to her, like iron filings to a magnet. I could not keep my eyes off her…in seconds my mind made mental notes – the same grace, the same body shape, the same colour of skin, even the same fall of hair! Again and again I gazed at her. I noticed her long artist’s fingers resting against her cheek and I wondered, is she a painter or a writer? Or is she a scientist like you? I could not get away from thinking of her. Thoughts of her occupied my mind entirely and robbed me of my sleep. Yet, whenever I closed my eyes to rest them, my senses filled with emotions long forgotten –

My partner sleeps soundly but every time I think of her, she rolls over and cuddles me. I wonder – how does she know? Even in sleep she will not allow infidelity!

How can I tell her, it will always be so? In my mind I will always be yours. Maybe never in reality. For, I will never shatter what you bring out in me –

Angst, my bitter chocolate.

Hope You Remember Me - Part II

The phone is ringing incessantly. Strange! I know I always turn the ringer off whenever I am at home. So, how come it is ringing today.

I lift the receiver – no one there on the other end. I return to bed.

Again the phone rings. No, I am not going to pick it up this time. Just let it ring. Suddenly I remember…. It could be her! I dash but by then the phone has stopped ringing. I check the ringer. Yes, it is off! I stare down at the instrument. " C’mon, ring!" I say in my mind. I turn to go and there it rings again. I pick up the line and say, " I know who you are. It’s decided we are meeting tomorrow at break of dawn. Be there!"

She comes as promised. We stare at each other. Thirty-five years have passed. No photographs were exchanged. We probably could not have imagined how we looked after all these years. In the last one year we have only spoken over email – I in India, she in America. She’s been married for twenty-six years. Her eldest son is twenty-four. It’s a bold step she is taking to complete an unfinished cycle – both of us together must come a full circle after what we started thirty-five years ago in school.

Although we are now walking side by side, in my mind I am trying to visualize her as I remember her thirty-five years ago. We dare not look at each other… too many emotions lurk just behind our eyes. What if they spill over and we lose control?

The rustic hut we have booked in the God forsaken place is about to lose its virginity. We open the door aware we are adults and we don’t wish to waste any time – We have confirmed over email in the last one yar that this is what we want to do.

The door closes behind us. We are left with each other. No excuses! No nature to distract us – just she and I. Suddenly we are both scared. We both open our mouths to say something – both together! Then we stop.
" Let’s call for a cup of tea," I say breaking the electric atmosphere.

When she picks the cup to her lips to drink her tea, I wish I were the cup! I stare as she sips knowing all the time that she is aware and very conscious of me. My soul is standing at the very opening of my eyes – she can see everything!

I rise and look the other way. I know she has come and stood behind me. I look up at the skies " Oh God! Not any closer or I will die". I turn to face her. She wraps her arms around my neck. Our lips are so close to each other, you couldn’t have passed a pin between them! My eyes are closed so I don’t know how hers are…. There is a knock at the door.

Instantly we are apart. I breathe.

She has gone to open the door. I slip into the bathroom. I tear my clothes and stand naked under the shower for what seemed to be forever. I am now in control of my emotions. They have cooled under the flowing cold water. I wrap a towel around me and peep out. She is lying on the bed a white sheet covering her body. Her clothes are lying scattered on the sofa. I look at the contours of her body over the sheet. How well my palms knew them thirty-five years ago?

I go and sit next to her on the bed. She is looking at me steadily. I map her face with my finger and gently open her mouth with my thumb. My finger touches her tongue.

How can we express ourselves? There is such a cascade of emotions…both our eyes are wet.
I place my hand on her heart. Whose heart is beating faster I don’t know – hers or mine but this is not the moment I decide. We must start when the fever on our brows is cooler. For a long time we remain like that, our hearts beating as one. Then the fire mellows down. Over the white sheet, my hands travel…. Softly messaging her back, her lower back, my fingers work diligently at the nape of her neck. Relaxing her is relaxing myself.

I lower my body next to hers. We turn to face each other. Her golden hair suggestively covers her face partially – no, I want to see her face completely. For thirty-five years I have been looking for her face in this heap of papers lying strewn all across my study. Her eyes are the same as I remember – sparkling brown. She is in a state of let go…all I have to do is move closer to her. Instead, I draw her closer to me and lift her face one last time to my lips….

I feel someone shaking me. My eyes open. My partner is sitting up.
" Wake up" she says, " you are dreaming"
" Am I?" I ask myself " So real"?
" Wake up, you are dreaming" my partner says again.

The morning coffee is thick with the aroma of freshly brewed filter coffee. It is addictive. My partner and I sip our morning coffee together as we do everyday, savouring every moment of it. She clears her throat and puts down her coffee glass. " Who is Meenakshi?" he asks in a matter-of-fact way. " You have been calling her name the whole night."

Although I can feel going red behind the ears, I am calm.

" Isn’t that another name for goddess Durga?"

I turn to the Bhagavad Gita and begin to read from it as we always do straight after the morning coffee. Today we are at Chapter II; Verses 62 – 67

" The man dwelling on sense- objects
Develops attachment for them
From attachment springs up desire
And from unfulfilled desire ensues anger" – (62)


Then again….

" As the wind carrying away
A boat upon the waters, even so
Of the senses moving among sense objects,
The one to which the mind is joined
Takes away his discrimination" – (67)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Mass = LCD

Marketers have always been very smart indeed. Some brilliant guy introduced us to the concept of service based industry. This means that you might come out with the best product but if it is not backed by CS ( Customer Service) post and pre sales, you are going to fall from the customer’s eyes and you are going to lose business and hence market share. On the other hand if your product is backed by really strong CS, you’re going to be a be swinging high. So you can now rake in the bucks. Your market research can be limited to finding out what other service your customer wants, which in any case changes every 45 days or so – just keep giving them one at a time. Keep them hungry; keep them wanting. Give in slow doses. Customers will pay any price to satiate their desires. Just keep your fingers on the pulse of what is their new desire.

Every marketer knows Mass = LCD. There is no need to think too deeply on these matters. Look at the mobile industry! Move over Karl Marx! And I wish I had been more patient and waited and watched and not starved to buy all the books of Marx and Engels in high school and college.

All that was needed to create a class-less society was the mobile phone! Scavengers and masters alike, your sweeper and your paanwalla, your CEOs and COOs, your house help and you are all carrying a cell phone. You are finally one. No? What about the blackberry and the Nokia 3200/3270/1108/1100 – no difference at all? Doesn’t matter if you ask me. Product differentiation is done to rake in the bucks from all segments of the market.

If you really want to differentiate, it is " people differentiation" that matters. What’s that you ask? It is about class against mass. It’s about class that knows when to say no and also determines how much and no more. As against mass – give me more!

Mass mentality cannot be harnessed just as class cannot be cultivated. You have to be born into it. Let me explain with a simple test you can take. Visit www.littlemag.com If you are already a subscriber, breathe easy. You are not the herd. If you feel an urgent need to subscribe, breathe a sigh of relief. Thank the stars. Water always reaches its own level. However, if you are looking at the names and saying " How boring! Who are Satish Alekar, Tadeus Pfeifer, Ananya Jahanara Kabir and G√ľnter Grass? " Relax! You belong to the vast majority where Mass = LCD. You are the marketers’ delight. You are governed by Lowest Common Denominator.

Thanks to you, corporates are getting richer everyday.








13 June, 2006

Monday, June 12, 2006

Lying on Your Side of The Bed

Lying on your side of the bed

The night creeps upon me
Sleep cuddles me
I move to your side of the bed
Wakefulness battles with sleep
My eyes open and close
All night long
Lying on your side of the bed
Insecurity hounds me
Desperation for your arms
On your side of the bed
I am safe. Secure. Sound

Visions of Rejection

Shadow Self
Clouded
Wearing a veil
I cannot see your face
Hiding you emerge
Again and again
And make your presence felt
I try to catch you
But I am always left with myself
Who are you
Where do you come from
Since when are you following me?
What is it you want to say to me
I strain to hear….
All I can hear is my own voice
So I listen within
Shy. Uncertain. Revealing…. now hiding.
Unsure. Unreal. Deceptive
Shadow of my Self
Shadow of rejection

Witness

Standing outside myself is me
Like a Shadow
Watching every move
And moving alongside
Me, My Self
Sleeping, waking
Watchfulness
Always with me
Whither are you going my fair friend
Where is your Aloneness?
Where is your Self?
Your Shadow follows you
Whither are you going my fair friend
Alone, yet always followed?

Agony

Have you seen the dry thorny bush
Stretch over miles of dry desert sands
Across the face of the earth?
Have you stood on such a land
And looked to see
If the smallest vision of the oasis
Met your eyes?
Have you ever thrown your hands and arms
At the skies
And cried out to God to answer your prayers
As the parched dryness of your throat
Threatened your very existence on earth
And your brain struggled to melt
And pour out of your bloody nose?
Have you known the arid dryness of the soul
Waiting in tearing impatience
And wretched pain
To meet the oasis of love
This agony, this pain –
This!
This, the bitter night before dawn

Freedom

freedom come
freedom stay with me
nothing to hold on to
nothing holding me back
fly like an eagle in the endless sky
no past, no future worry on me
nothing to hold on to
nothing holding me back
freedom come freedom stay with me

Hair Allergy

Hair Allergy

Dear reader,
This is not a joke. It is as true as true can be. I do have an allergy to hair.

Exactly why I reached the ripe age of 18 without ever kissing a guy. You know why? Everytime it came close to it and the moment was only a centimeter away I would go " Atisshoo! Attishoo" And have to run miles away.
Why in the Sam Holy Hill did men have to have a moustache? Why a beard? Why, oh why, a stubble? - Did I hear you say, what about a clean-shaven man? Yes, what about him? Come real close and see for yourself. If by chance the stubble were to rub against the tip of your nose, I will bet all my fortune, that if you have an allergy to hair, you are going to go for a hell on a sneezing trip! Try it!

This is also why a good friend advised - turn to women. I debated with the thought in my head and thought it’s not really a bad idea. I mean at 18, you can’t really go on reading about kissing and still be a kissing-virgin.
The year was 1980 and the first International Women’s Meet had happened in Bombay. My friend, Cash, who had been participating, came back with excellent news!

" I have her for you. She is cute, petite, and very feminine and she has blue-green eyes. You are going to like her, I know."

I was excited – at last it was going to happen. The only hitch was that I would have to call her on my own, I mean make a blind date. Oh well for a kiss, seeming to be the most profound thing that could happen to two individuals at that age, any risk was worth it!

" Besides," my friend cheered me on, " she is a copywriter. You want to become one don't you?"
"Oh wow!" I thought, " This is it"!

I called a number. She picked it up and immediately she squealed " That’s the voice! That’s the voice! I have been dying to hear that voice. Just right for the Radio jingle."

We planned to meet that very Saturday. I didn’t know what she was talking about, this voice thing, I mean, but it was clear I was going to her house for you-know- what!

When I entered the house, she was in the bathroom. I went into her bedroom, - her "den" as she preferred to call it, and waited for her to come out. My eyes fell on Virginia Wolfe. I was just about to pull the book out of the shelf, when I felt the knob of the door turning – She was there! Wet from the bathroom with a towel around her. She was lovely! Tender light skin, sea-blue eyes and delicate boned jaws. Her hair wet from the shower thrown back from her wide forehead, I was enthralled as much as I was shocked! So fast?!?!?!? I thought to myself. She sat on the bed next to me and in a way of greeting me, she put her head forward and kissed my cheek " You are cute!" And there it was coming all over again. I tried to muffle the sneeze playing menacingly at my nose. But! - Atishoo! Atishoo! Atishoo! Atishoo!

Wet woman’s hair, thrown back from her face, slightly dripping with water on the towel covering her breast, raw emotions could be flowing…. Take a strand of that hair and roll it around your finger, as if to say you are rolling the idea around your head, the idea of unwrapping her towel from around her body; should you, should you not, now, or a little later…. Perhaps a little later! So you put your hand and hold her head from behind her ears, her wet hair resting in the insides of your palm, a deep sensual feeling warming up in your head, wet hair, on a woman’s head can be so mesmerizing….

But, why does it happen to me only? Why am I sneezing so badly?

" Here" she said, handing me some tissues " Looks like you’ve caught a sudden cold?"
Right at that moment, the doorbell rang and in came Rue.

"What an unexpected visit! Meet my new acquaintant, Julia" She said and whispered in my ear " Hope you are not dissappointed. I did not expect her at all"

"No, not at all", I said. " I am fine. I’ll leave right away and come back another day".
There it was, a good opportunity gone for a sneeze.

I graduated somehow quite late in life and was able to sleep with women only after I took a strong dose of Avil tablets! And that did me sleepy! So there were other problems to face – you know the sleeping right after stories! They hound you even if you are a woman and a powerful war can ensue in the bedroom over how they feel used. But who is to tell them that I am drugged and the effect of the drug can wear off any moment and I could be sneezing all over again. Who would not have loved to nestle on that lovely spread of locks on a white pillow? Who would not have loved to play with hair after passionate lovemaking! Who wouldn’t????
Years have passed on and much fortune lost on allergy tablets. The other day I was at a nightclub and I saw a lovely girl. I must confess even though I was old enough to be her mother, I really got the hots for her! So I asked her to dance with me to which she readily agreed. She was bright and intelligent, socially aware and very active with her films and what not. She had short crew-cut hair and a clean face – at least that is what I saw in the dim lights. Name? Tejal.

" I believe you’ve fallen in love with a girl old enough to be your daughter?" a good friend asked.

" Don’t be a goose! Don’t you know that as you grow older, your love grows younger? That’s what makes Salman Rushdie, V S Naipaul, Paul McCartney click! It’s common you know!’

"Well" she said a bit doubtfully, " In her case, you’ll have to see"

" Why is she going steady with someone"? I enquired a bit worried.

"Sort of! I don’t know if she is going steady with someone, but I know she is steadily trying to grow a beard"

" Atishoo"! You don’t say!"

"I do say! Don’t be so black and white! She’s exploring gender and sexuality - it’s many faces".

She handed me a box of tissue. " You’ll need lots of it I can see!"

Heartspeak

Heartspeak

Intensity is the fire that burns
From the wood of unspoken words and feelings
Arising in the heart
Powered by the inability
Of human language to describe them
I dare not say what I feel in my heart
For words can only spoil it
I dare not look at you too long
For my eyes will spell each word out loud
Deep in your eyes I have written those words
And now your heart wonders -
Unheard, your mind is held to my heart
Words, I fear will drive you away
Why must the heart find voice through words
Why must I give a language to the unspeakable
Words, I fear will drive you away
While unspoken, you are held by my heart

Thought

Thought-
You, in my thought
My thought in you
Are not ours
Thought –
Universal
Moving from mind to mind
A true gypsy…
Elusive, transitory
I try to hold on to
Thoughts of you
I cannot claim
Belong to me
They are like clouds floating
In the vast sky
Rising and dying in the same moment
Elusive, transitory
I try hard not to hold on to

O C B

Slaves of our bodies
Bound by insecurities
The taste of addiction
Written compulsively in our brains
Our lethal desires
Against ourselves and others
Run wild from love to love
Acid words, foul actions
We kill; We maim; We ruin for life
Our lethal weapon
Our need to destroy
Ourselves and - the other
Man
Begotten of man
Where is your love?

Deep Recession

Goodbye Sanity!
Your world is
Too harsh for me
Too many masks to wear
Too heavy to bear.

Hello Insanity!
At least in yours’
I can be sane.

A dark tunnel
Extends from my head
Passing through my spine
To the centre of the earth.

I am sinking
Just dropping
Like birds’ feather
The other end of which
Is tied to a heavy thought.

Darkness always
Reminds me of you
It is ephemeral
You can’t hold it for long
Like you can
Light, resting on an object.
Like you, darkness swallows me.

It is an abyss
Without a bottom
Yet I am relaxed
Just dropping –
No mass; no matter
No matter; no mind
No mind; no thought
Just drifting –

I have left my mind
At your doorstep
It belongs to you.

Here in this world
Ah, Bliss!

The Escapist

I have done it again!

My friendship with Smita is going through the toughest test ever – the crucial question is, is it warth holding on to this friendship of 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 everytime. 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 labour 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 speedbreaker? 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".




June 09, 2006

Being and Nothingness

Case A

Mitali, MA, M.Phil from Kolkata University marries Sanjib through an arranged marriage and after 4 years of marriage, the couple is blessed with a son. Mitali though qualified had never wanted to take up a job or be financially independent. She could have taken a job at the school but she preferred not to. She allowed her knowledge to rust. However, now as a mother, she inculcated all the habits she acquired to pursue higher studies, into her son. Her dreams came true. He turned a great achiever and ranked first in the State in his School finals. BITS, Pillani then made him a Software Engineer hotly chased by Multinationals. At the media rounds after he ranked first in State, Mitali’s son dedicated his success to his mother.

Case B

Maya is an outstanding student from Rajasthan with a compelling desire to work with the less fortunate in Society in the field of education. After her Graduation from LSR, New Delhi, she pursues a Masters degree from JNU and joins an NGO working in the area of education. They are part of curriculum planning and textbook development for children who go to State- run schools. The program is a huge success in many states of India. In 2002, LSR awards Maya " The Distinguished Alumna Award for the year in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the field off Education" If you ask her, she will tell you, it was not so easily got. She has had to fight the clutching claws of patriarchy in its different forms. First, she refused to become a hapless domesticated housewife when she married her comrade from JNU. Second, when she became a mother, she still continued to face up to the grueling demands of her work outside, leaving her son in the care of in-laws, a supportive husband or house-help. Third, in ten years, she and her husband also adopted a second child and had to make various changes and accommodate new ways to handle the new challenges together. They shared responsibilities at home. And they sent their elder son to boarding school where he was happier with more friends and many things to do.

It had been a fight to keep at what she wanted for herself against the crippling claws of patriarchy and social demands which are so used to seeing women in homes more often than in public places.

The question: Do women sacrifice themselves for their family? Do some of the most talented women also fall into the trap of putting themselves away and lose themselves in oblivion - a space I call nothingness?
In situation A, Mitali who had put herself through the grind to pursue higher studies, finds that she is not even ready to continue to study further, after her marriage. Nor is she ready to implement her learning by taking up a job. Rather she prefers to let the knowledge rust until she becomes a mother and then put her whole effort towards making of her son – and of course he scores better than she had ever done in her own lifetime. She is satisfied and proud. However, her contribution has been to only her son. The community at large gained nothing from her.

In situation B, Maya went further – her commitment spread to a larger community, outside the four walls of her home. She had made all her choices well. She forged ahead, not allowing patriarchy or any social demand to force her to return to home and hearth. She showed by action and less by word that although she might be prepared to follows certain institutions society had created, she was not going to follow the dictates of such institution virvetum. She might choose motherhood as her need to nurture, but she was not going to let that come in between her larger interest of working for a common good. She had her own agenda for her life and what she’s going to do with it. She was going to follow her plans. This brought her recognition.

It is apparent from Case A and B that there exists cases of both – women who put themselves aside and those who don’t. Both make their unique contribution but Case B makes no compromises and she stands for what she believes. It is expected that she will manage to foster greater solidarity from her immediate family, her husband. She will also be a role model of women who make no compromises and are creative enough to find new ways to manage to get everything they want in their lives. Conviction breeds conviction; doubt, doubt.

Reclaiming our lives

Not an easy task at all as patriarchy has taught us to see and believe what it has for so long imposed upon us. In fact we are still struggling to break out of what has now become our First Nature – the way partriachal laws have seen us as women. Reclaiming out lives, our bodies, our minds require us to define on a regular basis, what we are, and what we want of our lives. Then going ahead and getting it. It is only too easy to fall back on patterns designed by patriarchy. The need of the hour is of distinctive feminists, who clear the path of all mantles imposed upon them by society, and the homes we grew up in or the expectations of the institutions we enter. We have to negotiate a new identity we can call our own. This individuality has to emerge out of our own culture - taking some, leaving some. We also have to be careful that in our effort to define ourselves, we do not start defining ourselves in the light of other cultures where women’s liberation has gone ahead of us. The road map must emerge from within us. We need to also take care that while we redefine how we are going to look at relationships, we don’t leave patriarchal relationships with men only to form the same with other alternate partnership equations. Nor do we fall trap to the " Sheila-and-her-poodle’ syndrome. What is that you ask? I’ll tell you. Too many women in their effort to find voices that are heard are cooped up in relationships with "Yes-men". While it mightn’t bring up problems on a day to day basis, it may cause them to fall into a slumber that threatens our further growth. For when everyone around us says yes, there is no challenge left. On what basis are we then going to question ourselves -this is me, this is who I am going to be".

We must overcome our need to stereotype in order that we don’t have to struggle that hard to find new definitions, new ways to negotiate relationships. Such comfort zones can become very ‘uncomfortable’ indeed.
We need to re-define ourselves and use all our creative energies to take stock of ourselves as often as we can and reinvent ourselves. We need to challenge ourselves all the time, shatter our own belief systems. There has to be a burning dissatisfaction with our own selves - at all times and a fire that compels us to move, to transform, to undergo metamorphosis in order to bring about newer selves. There is no space for complacency.
If we are to take 1980 as the benchmark year that marked the beginning of Woman’s liberation in India, do we need to re-think our struggle to find ourselves? Yes we do! We need to take annual, monthly, weekly stock of ourselves, even a daily stock if need be. Nothing must come between our goals and us.
We might put our rucksack down for a while, rest a bit, revel in the joys of home making, motherhood, being the family’s Executive Chef and what not, but wake we must, refreshed with renewed vigour and charged batteries, pick up our bags and begin to walk on the road less traveled.

We need to institute awards for the most creative, path-breaking feminist in India – every year.

So who is this distinctive feminist?

Yes, she is still your girl next door, who can sit with you and do a round of gossip and recipe exchange. Even tell you all about the new detergent, which is both, cost effective as well does a better job. But she is on her own, a breadwinner, and an equal shareholder in home expenses, someone who still loves her kitchen chores, which she shares with her partner. She is strong and determined and she will succumb to no external pressure to mould her character. She sets her own benchmark for herself. She pays her own bills at the restaurant or prefers to go dutch. She is gracious to accept your gifts and an invitation to an evening out, where you foot the bill, but watch it, don’t make it a habit. She is still the mother of your children, your intelligent wife and partner, but she is neither a doormat, nor a mother who will put herself away to focus only on child rearing. So watch your step lest you step on her tail – yes, she will bite! Changes are the order of the day for her and expect to have new rules on the contract as often as she thinks they need to be re-worked. You can call for those changes yourself as well. It gives you a chance to re-think your life and strategies to run your life. If you are the man in her life, be grateful that you are no more burdened with the financial responsibilities of the family and you have someone to share it with you. Be happy that you don’t have to foot her bills everytime or buy her airticket to a holiday or foot the hotel bills by yourself. She is going to bear half that cost and occasionally she is going to let you be at home and hearth while she goes all out to be the sole wage earner in the family.

And if you are the woman in her life – ditto, of course!

Now, will the real distinctive feminist for the year 2006, please stand up?