Your Identity Is Not Only In The Vermilion Of Your Hair Parting Or Your Mangalsutra

July 30, 2019

Older I grow I realise the value that my Baba brought into my life. He was constantly reiterating about higher studies and having a career, choosing a path towards self-development over marriage and never fitting into the concept of matrimony being the end all in life. I often wondered if he cared enough. But now in hindsight, I am so glad he never told me to learn to cook or sew but took me to new cities and countries and made me open myself towards different cultures and cuisines. I was never asked to enter the kitchen ever as a teenager but was encouraged to play my sitar, read and he was supportive of me when I did an entire night of dharna in JNU when activist, theatre person Safdar Hashmi was murdered. Of course, the truth was I didn’t know why I was shouting slogans that day but I knew I had a massive crush on the SFI leader who endorsed equality and was handsome. So, to impress him I shouted slogans and Baba still has no clue about the SFI crush and was very proud of his little girl reacting to the murder of culture. I didn’t realise that moment he was changing me core by core.
Of course, the SFI student leader had a steady girlfriend and I was not even on his radar, but a teen heart barely understands the math of relationships. When I discovered his lack of knowledge of me, I was depressed but my stoic, equally dumb friends said, “Let’s eat Chow Mein” and that was our reaction to most things in life – Food!
As I twirled the Chow in the spoon (because the dhaba had no fork), I forgot that crush soon who wore his Jhola and Kurta with swag. I often imagined myself as Brinda Karat, Smita Patil but never Zeenat Aman. It was the thinking man’s idol that I idolised. Of course, I failed miserably because I wore a pair of denims that said ‘FUs’ on my hip pocket. That brand those days was quite popular and very capitalist in style. No wonder, the commi leader didn’t notice me.

I also thought that maybe I was a freak. I never worried to get married ever. I always spoke out of turn and always was politically incorrect and I am still working on that aspect.

The years rolled and just recently in Delhi, I was catching up with friends. My heart bled for one of the prettiest girls in class, now older but still pretty like a daisy. She had her first drink and was tearing up looking into me. She was lost and didn’t have a path forward. I recognised that pain, it was so familiar, of losing yourself over the years while playing multiple roles of wife, mom and so on.
I also realised her pressure of being pretty and not being viewed beyond that. The words we use are bimbette, blond, airhead and the list is endless. I asked her to search within and that moment she didn’t understand but her defence was she did nothing wrong; just got married so quickly after school and now no one really cares much. I told her I too faced that feeling of redundancy, in spite of having had a career. Most women feel like that after the kids and the husband settles – we start unsettling. This imbalance drives many to poetry, new career (and never quite getting there, I am hoping to) affair, new haircut and the list is unending. It’s a new found you.
As I write today, I pray she finds her vocation because no other being can fulfill you like you can fulfill yourself. It’s called self-love. My tribe of crackpot girlfriends call it “Khudkhushi”
As parents we need to stop making marriage as the ultimate destination for a woman. We are way beyond the Mrs XYZ. There is music, art, cinema, cooking, baking, travel and the list is endless. Throw in a pet too if you like. The pet can have 4 legs and a tail. They are faithful and don’t leave smelly socks around.
Yes, I agree, it’s nice to have a companion, but marriage is never the guarantee to that. It takes so much more than just marriage vows to find that friend in your companion. Loads of spiritual growth to look beyond the faults and blame. Not easy! Easier to listen to audio tracks of forgiveness.
I assured my friend that she isn’t alone. How many times I have been told and hinted that I am another airhead because I look after myself and love dressing up and try to look good. They expect writers, artists to be wearing a huge bindi with cotton saris and grey hair falling over the shoulders. The more unkempt you look, the more intellectual vibe about you. Yeah! You don’t care for shallow things. It’s only brain beauty. Yes, I agree some women look super sexy in that but I don’t care look. Nafisa Ali does, but I don’t, I look sickly.

I love my manicured nails on my pen and letting my hair loose every time it rains or I feel hindered. Often, I get lost in my own hair and think of more hair oil to increase the sheen. I do find ways and means to keep it shiny and long. Loads of self-love here. Call me shallow if you like, it’s OK.

Please don’t put us women any longer in boxes of cultural conditioning. Look at Clooney’s wife she is an achiever and she is gorgeous. Actresses are achievers, hard working women and so beautiful. Why dismiss this?

So, I am planning to start a diet and join a gym to lose some weight and continue trying to look my best even if most think I am a bimbette!! Some even have told me aloud, we thought you only pose.

I met a woman in a party whose sentences get lost in my head with her voice that resembles a corner in my grandmother’s kitchen where many bell metal utensils lost balance and fell together. That clanking and the brusque nature of it, makes me nostalgic. She asks, “What do you do? I love your pose; we know everything about you” I smile and say at least you saw that. Thank you!!
Till yesterday I got defensive, I told them I love writing trying to get assignments via my blog link. Now I don’t bother.

I know secretly we all smile when people tell us “Hey you don’t look your age” I have seen many grey-haired aunties smile and say “Oh my! I don’t care, about all that”
But I am quite the blunt one, I gently tell them “Yes of course you do, look how you smile” and I tap the shoulder to tell her “Sistah, we all love to look good, feel good, be recognised and also have enough money to travel and in some cases Botox too.” I am considering that next year but my skin doctor shooed me away and says “Not yet”!!

Cut the pretension and just be honest. We buy saris, clothes, Jewellery and that anti-ageing cream because we love good things in life and love to look good. I still use Boroline. Thank you, Baba! For even at the wedding altar telling me, “Hey you look like a cartoon in that costume” (wedding sari). You are most welcome to return anytime you feel this isn’t your place.

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