- Posted February 1, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
Life of an Indian woman
From the moment I enter this world, my cries reach the hearts of my family. They immediately surround me, crooning, in the midst of my piercing wails. When I am placed tenderly in the arms of my parents their over joyous expression changes to a solemn one. Because in their eyes I change from a blessing to a burden.
As I grow my milestones are not celebrated. Instead a steady watch is kept on me. I cannot scream, shout and run about. I am taught to be seen and not heard. At the age of three, as I delicately try to pick up a pen it is snatched away. In replacement I am handed a rolling pin and whisked away into the kitchen. This is where my lessons begin. As I master the art of cooking I am then taught to clean, stitch and sew.
By the time I am of age to begin school, I have a list of daily chores that I must complete before and after my classes. I am to come straight home and not wander about. I diligently work as I listen to the squeals of delight from my classmates, wondering what it would feel like to be a part of that moment. Days go by as I watch in earnest, from the slight crack behind the door, the boys play around. A smile creeps on my face as I shut my eyes and imagine the feeling of running and laughing in the sunlight.
One day I decide to quickly finish my chores. I muster up the courage to ask my grandma if I could play outside. I eagerly wait for her response. Instead of smiling, she shrieks and summons everyone around her. I step back in fright. Pointing at me, while clutching her chest, she yells to my mother, “Your daughter wants to play with the boys.” My mother and my aunts simultaneously gasp. I blink in confusion. Before I can utter a word, I am slapped on my back a few times as the women around me repeatedly say, “Shame on you.”
As I grow I learn to keep my thoughts and desires to myself. I robotically perform the same mundane tasks. Because I cannot act without permission and what I want I will never be able to acquire. I can only make sacrifices of my strength and time for the people around me knowing that I will never be acknowledged, appreciated or thanked. I am like an invisible assistant that works for the happiness of others. My own is never considered. In fact it can only be derived from the happiness I give. I’m like a canvas. I’m nothing when I’m blank and alone. I only become meaningful with a work of art.
As I quickly enter my teenage years, I learn that I cannot be. Because of my proper upbringing I am programmed to be calm, conservative, quiet and respectable. That is because one day I will leave the cage of this home only to be confined in another. In order to be chosen out of the pack my strict upbringing and maturity are considered to be an advantage. And all of my valuable household skills are assets which will be put to test day in and day out. You see I live in world where the word family is synonymous with a business. Marriages are like transactions between two families where one is like a life-long debtor from which the other reaps the maximum monetary benefit.
If I were to pursue a higher education it would benefit my future family and it would be a cost for my current. This is why the latter is unwilling to make that investment especially knowing that there is a large amount of fixed and variable costs that loom ahead.
If I were to run away, what would I do? Will I be able to survive in the cruel world where unimaginable horrors occur daily? I know once I leave I can never return because in everyone’s eyes I would become unchaste, unrespectable and ultimately unmarriageable for the suitor that has been chosen for me.
Even though I long to be free, I know it is something that truly only exists in my dreams because in reality it is rare. Many before me have and many after me will chase and fight for freedom knowing that there are only two outcomes, a tragic death or a continuous struggle against age old views and traditions.
The latter, I have learned, is a commonality everywhere and is present in every society. The individuals that are part of the arduous and daunting struggle are brave but they do not seem to have a clear identity. An ongoing inner battle is always present that is evident in their lack of self-confidence, courage or strength. And this is taken to be as a sign of weakness by the people around them. They capitalize on the insecurity by making constant jokes and remarks which in turn solidifies the emotional turmoil.
The mockery and ridicule is a veil of ignorance which will always exist because no one will take responsibility to change the attitudes, restrictions and age old views that are ever-present in our global society.
And until then a woman can only chase freedom, she will never be able to revel in it.