She is mad… they said

Everyone at the place where she was locked up was, scared of her. Maya. In sly whispers they always said “She is mad”. Maya heard it so often and her anger never abated. “No” she screamed. She beat the iron bars of her cell with bare hands until she bled profusely. “I am not mad. Don’t say that. Let me go. Please for god’s sake let me go.”

But no one listened. Everyone stayed away from her except the nurse who came to give her the medicine.

Days passed by and her shouting and screams slowed down. What was the point anyway, when no one cared.

The Nurse began to like spending time with Maya. She was only agitated when she had to wear the chains. Maya begged her to remove the chains ” Please. I feel like being reduced to an animal when I wear this. Please take it off.”

But the Dr. Sahib refused to comply. “It is for her protection” he said. ” We dont’ want her hurting herself”

And so Maya stayed there with chains around her ankles and wrists, becoming quiet as days passed by.

The Nurse took pity on her and began to take her outside everyday. An hour walking seemed to put Maya in a much better mood. She seemed happier, her eyes lit up and she began to speak more often. It felt like she was almost normal.

The nurse was very curious as she saw glimpses of humor and intelligence when Maya spoke.

So one day during their walk, she asked Maya ” You seem almost normal. How did you end up here, in this mental asylum ?”

Maya didn’t answer for a while. She just stared at the distant hills and then spoke in a low voice with tears in her eyes.

“They said I was mad. I wasn’t, but they insisted I was. I was like any normal girl. I danced, I sang, I laughed, I played and like any other girl, I dreamed too. Dreams, where only happiness was allowed. But they said I couldn’t dream. Listen to what we say, you don’t know anything. We are the ones who are in charge so you will listen to us. I had no right to dream, they said.

Get married, have babies, be home, be safe, be quiet, be invisible and for that you will be lauded. You will be crowned with titles.  “Good daughter. Good wife. Good mother. Good Woman “. The labels that are given by us. That should be enough for you. Don’t speak up,. Don’t question anything. Just go with it. Hold on to your family. That is all you are allowed to have.

Husband is your life they said. But I was just another thing to him. He said I was his. Yet he never knew me. His dreams were supposed to be mine. But my dreams were not his. He molded me into someone, who he wanted me to be, and in that process I got lost. The real me was broken down, beaten to pieces, reduced to ashes , until I didn’t exist anymore.”

Maya then turned to look at the Nurse. Now tears were streaming like a river.

“But you see, it didn’t make sense to me. Why ? That is all  I asked. Why should I listen to them? Why shouldn’t I dream ? Why shouldn’t I marry the one I love ? Why shouldn’t I live alone.. Why ? Why ? Why? .. So many why’s. Its my life. The only one I have. So why should I be miserable? And then came the anger. I fought back. I didn’t listen to them. I refused to live my life according to their rules. I was fucking angry. I yelled. I screamed and screamed, until I thought I would die………..And that’s when they brought me here. To this place.”

“She is mad .. they said. “

Just Looking

It was a perfect California morning. Sun was shining brightly, there were clear blue skies, the weather just about right and the hills around the place I live were so green, felt almost like I was in Ireland.

Wanting to enjoy this beautiful day, I walked out from my very depressing grey cube. Mood was pretty mellow and I went rambling all over the park across from work. It was a blissful walk, just me, nature and of course, many dreams in my mind and joy in my heart. It had been too long since I allowed myself to just enjoy the day.

I felt a deep sigh rise up from inside me, when I saw an office email ping on my phone and with a sulking face walked back to work. I’d just entered the lobby when I saw about 3 to 4 Indian men standing around and talking. Since I do know we have many people from my motherland working here, I didn’t pay much attention and walked towards the stairs. That is when I noticed the sudden silence and the staring.

Yes. You know staring? Like looking at the person so intensely that it makes you very uncomfortable.

I felt so very irritated and self conscious that I hurried along a bit faster, just so I can get back to my cube where I can safely hide from annoying looks.

So here I am wondering why do Indian men (and sometimes Indian women) do that ? And why did it suddenly bother me so much ?

I do know the answer to the second question. It bothered me so much becoz I have become used to people not staring at me or anyone else for that matter. Here, everyone just goes about their work and if they see anyone, they usually just nod their head in lieu of a hello or ask how are you ? and in the case of well known friends its, Hey- whats up ? No one actually stares at you so hard that it makes you want to run to a mirror to check if something is wrong with your face.

Basically its plain rude to stare.

Now, growing up in India I have always been taught to be self conscious, because a girl or woman walking alone is always subjected to these stares. The stares of many Indian men are part and parcel of our lives and we are accustomed to it so much so that it is just there, like garbage that lies on the streets.

Reading up on an article on why Indian men stare, I came across this in Huffington Post. The National Society of Stare Gazers also have another complex formula for determining the moral fiber of a woman. The exact calculation of moral character of a woman being stared at is unique to every member but broadly speaking, it involves observing the skin being shown by the woman and multiplying it with the desperation of the staring party and squaring it with the distance till which she can be stared at.

As funny and sarcastic as it is, it is true.

We as women are under constant scrutiny for what we wear, how we talk, who we are with and so we are under the microscope all the time. Starting from inquisitive family members to staring men in the outside world.

It all boils down to the fact that Indians still have a long way to go in trying to stop making a woman uncomfortable anywhere that she is. Be it home, work, or even a shopping mall. The reasons for staring may be numerous but the truth is that we unfortunately live in a sexually deprived and depraved society, largely helped along by stereotypes and to a certain extent Indian Movies. After all, the hero falls for the girl, just by staring at her face or her eyes, the way she moves, her flying hair or in rare cases, her flying dupatta.

Last time I caught my husband openly drooling over a hot blond woman in a red dress, I simply stared at him, trying to figure out what he is expecting to achieve by looking at her like that. On asking, he shrugged his shoulders and said “Just looking. Nothing wrong with that is it ?”

I told him, although a law doesn’t exist, an Indian official said such a stare could land him in jail.  http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-37091948  

He was shocked and even though I did find it hilarious , the reason behind the whole 14-second staring comment makes so much sense to girls and women who have been subjected to that behavior by men in this stare-struck country of ours.

The Dress Police

Disclaimer : This post was previously written and posted by me, on my other blog mershaa.wordpress.com. This was written last year, yet seems pretty much relevant this year too !

It’s supposedly spring in the place where I live, but weather has been very weird lately. Morning temps dip low that you need a jacket. By mid-afternoon though, you start to wish you are in shorts and come evening, the howling wind makes you want to curl up on the bed with a blanket over your head. In order to keep myself sane in dealing with this bizarre trend in weather patterns, I always dress up comfortably and tend to wear lose shirts and comfy half-pants most of the time.

Now since my Monster-in-law is here I have noticed that she throws that What-Are-U-Wearing glare at me whenever I wear something that is comfortable for me, but definitely not comfortable for her. Indirectly I was told that only sarees are appropriate for Indian wives at home.

Although I just brush it off and don’t even care, I have often wondered where people get off telling women what to wear – (Hey  … it Rhymes…)

Women are judged every minute by how they dress. Given below are a few examples of how much the dress police are working silently around the world.  And the best part is they are enforced on us by men and women alike.

When my husband banned my daughter from wearing shorts inside the house, I put my foot down and refused to go along with it. She is at home, the one place where she relaxes and can just be you know… Herself…  She can dress however she wants was my argument.

He never told me why it bothered him and even now he sometimes yells at her, but I can guess where he comes from on his views about fashion for women in his house.

It’s simply this- good girls cover themselves all the time. Only sluts wear indecent clothes.

Patriarchal culture and of course Religion plays a silent role in imposing this ridiculous rules on women’s attire. The countries in which women were harassed for not wearing religious dress were found mainly in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, but also included Italy, Russia and Kosovo. The Middle East and North Africa was the region with the highest concentration of harassment incidents pressuring women to dress more conservatively.

Sigh….Men are a world unto themselves aren’t they ?

Asian men love to watch heroines wearing skimpy clothes and gyrate to filthy songs but mothers, wives, sisters and daughters are better off wearing a burkha. Out in the Western part of the world, men appreciate a woman in a bikini, but of course the moment she passes by, they’ll smirk and comment on how she wore it.

In India the Police themselves tell us Indian women – You should dress decently and be well behaved if you want to avoid attacks.  http://www.sundayworld.com/news/crimedesk/indian-police-tell-women-to-dress-appropriately-to-avoid-sex-attacks).

Blaming women for anything that happens to them is our favorite past time after all. Got raped– what dress were you wearing. Teased and harassed in public– why you are wearing this dress. Relatives coming home– don’t wear this, wear that. Married – you can never wear this again.

There is a silent meaning in policing the attire of women and for centuries our folks have followed the rules blindly.

It follows the same rules set by Patriarchy. That you, a woman, are always beneath a man. You are never equal. Basic rights have to be policed by men. Men have the say over anything and everything you do.

Of course, it’s expected, when women were not even allowed to think for themselves. It follows the same logic that they were not allowed to wear what they want. Men, with the help of women even went far as to brain wash children in the family into thinking that, wearing clothes that you might deem comfortable are in fact seen as  dark mark on the honor of the family.

On a frank note, I pity those who expect to change their daughter’s, wife’s, daughter-in-law’s or any women’s dress code, as it is an evidence of them being intimidated – intimidated by the woman in a jeans and shirt or plain jealous of her .

Dress up or dress down-spread the word around and educate the masses around that what a woman should or should not wear is her prerogative to decide.

Killing myself

June 6 2006, a Tuesday, began like any other day for me. I woke up, had coffee, made breakfast and lunch for my husband, who soon left to work. After that I took care of my then 3 yr old daughter, and by mid afternoon most of the chores around the house was done. This was as normal as it gets.

But that day was also another one of those days when depression hit me harder and pushed me into a deep dark hole from where I knew I could never escape. I had already been through many days like this, that year. It had been only 4 months before that I lost my son and life seemed more worse than ever.

I went from dreaming about having a peaceful, normal family to spending many sleepless nights staring at the ceiling. Going over every single detail about the day he died. Feeling immense guilt that I m here and he is not. Being angry with everyone and mostly wondering why I was alive while he is gone.

I couldn’t talk to anyone. Hell, even my own mother couldn’t understand the pain. Already there was talk of having another child and that made me simply cut of having a relationship with anyone.

The isolation was even worse.

I saw friends  have a 2nd kid and just felt nothing. I reached a stage where I was so empty with nothing left in me to want to live. This year was supposed to “the best year of my life,” but I had utterly failed as a mother, a wife and as a woman.

While I had contemplated suicide before , I could rationalize that I was merely unlucky. I had convinced myself that the problem  lay with circumstance rather than me. But as the pattern duly repeated itself, it became clear that my circumstances were not at fault. It was me. I blamed myself and concluded that I was at fault. It was all my fault. I didn’t want to live like that anymore. And hence the future seemed futile and worse, very grey.

Deciding to end’s one life is mostly a spur of the moment decision.

That day the push to end it became insistent. In one swift move, I decided to take sleeping tablets. Cowards way yes, but that was what I had. Lots of sleeping tablets were in my hand. I added more paracetamol and any tablet I could get my hand on. Something in there was bound to kill me.

But the instant I heard my girl cry, I felt like I was slapped awake. I held my breath and simply froze. My 3 yr old walked into the room crying. She stopped when she saw me, then sat on the floor with me and resting her tiny head on my lap, fell asleep. I broke down then. Dropping the tablets, I carried her to the bed and simply sat crying holding her close. I wasn’t alone. I had her. How could I have been so selfish to leave her ? I couldn’t do that to my precious girl. And with grief draining me, I too fell asleep beside her.

Suicide and attempted suicide is a difficult subject for anyone to broach. This is perhaps because depression and suicidal thoughts contravene the qualities of resilience and self-control. For me to admit to suicidal thoughts and to suicidal actions is to admit to weakness and to be a failure.

After awhile, I decided to try and make sense of my attempt through honest introspection and some reading. I found that there was an internal logic to suicidal thoughts that is hard to break, especially for those trapped in a cycle of depression, monotony, anxiety and fear.

Suicide, always presents an option for generating a definite future. At a certain point, a depressed person may begin to see this controlled and predictable result of death as more attractive than the unpredictable loneliness and pain of years and years of isolation. On the day I attempted to take my life, I thought that if I chose to continue living that I would spend my life in a depressed state and that only suicide could guarantee that this would not happen. It literally appeared to be the only reliable solution from the pain.

My suicide attempt caused me to feel a great deal of guilt. Specially when I thought about my daughter, family and friends. I was forced to tell my best friend who was understandably devastated. I became aware that suicide was a selfish act as you are putting your problems and feelings ahead of the distress your death will cause to those who love you and in my depression it was hard to ever see beyond my sorrow

But I did find, that in spite of all this, I was more optimistic than before. I found within me the strength to take the first step to heal. To learn to smile and mostly find myself again.

To anyone who may be having suicidal thoughts, I would just tell you, talk to someone. Be it family or friend or even a counselor. It’s important that you talk to someone, but I would recommend making it someone close to you who you can trust. Its hard yes, but seek help. Recognizing that you have a problem and the willingness to fix it, is the first step.

It may take a long time to become the person you want to be, but it is important to know that you tried and somehow, no matter how bad it is, this life is what you have left. It is going to be alright.

The Stream

She needed some time. Just an hour alone to clear her mind and calm her nerves. She knew she’d handled big projects as smoothly as possible. If nothing went wrong, they would close it within a week. Then she would have succeeded. In her file would go another favorable report. A two-year project successfully tied up could very well mean a promotion.

Why didn’t it excite her as it once had?

Time, She told herself again. She just needed some time.

She would take a much needed and well earned vacation. Perhaps at last she would go someplace new. Some far away lonely place, where no one would know her. Wouldn’t it be possible to lose herself in such places for a while?

Or perhaps she would go back to her homeland. She could spend time with her parents. Soak up some unconditional love and affection, perhaps she could find herself again.

Wherever she went, she would be leaving this place.

Wisteria rose up in an arch, sheltering a bench and inviting long, lazy contemplation. She sat, and closing her eyes, tried to bring her troubled mind to rest.

Who was she? For the first time in years she was forced to ask herself and admit she didn’t know the answer. She was simply a quiet woman who enjoyed a long afternoon with a book, who liked to talk of literature and art.

If that wasn’t dull, drab and boring, what was ?

The fact that she has been like that, was a benefit before. Never, as it was now, a complex puzzle to solve. She wished she could talk with  him, more than ever. He understood what it was to live this way and find contentment and challenge in this chaotic world. He knew her, the person she was , as no one else had.

It was he who had last night taken her mind and heart . No one, no one had ever shown her how much there could be, how much she could give.

He found her sitting on the bench, her hands folded neatly in her lap, her eyes closed and her face troubled. So many feelings tumbled into him that he couldn’t separate them. The majority was joy, elation and most of all love.

She’d want to be left alone. He thought he understood her that well. As he went closer, She sprang up from the bench. He saw the joy come back.

For a moment, he thought she would run to him. But she held her ground.

“I thought I was alone.”

There was so much to say, yet at that moment he couldn’t find the words. He simply reached for her hands and said. ” You are not alone now. Come, I have something to show you.”

With his hands in hers, he drew her away before she could finish shaking her head in denial.

“For today, for one day, we’ll put your duty and mine aside.”

“And tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow comes whether we want it to or not. Give me a few hours, Please”

She would have given him her life, and somehow knew that would be easier than what he was asking now. Still, she moved with him as he started to walk.

They walked for what seemed a longtime, yet at that moment time didn’t matter. She could see that he knew the route to their destination well. They turned into the woods and he took the lead. Each time doubts rose up to plague her, she beat them back. She would take the few hours she was being offered.

She heard the stream before she saw it. It was a simple, musical sound that suited the leafy shade and towering trees. They rounded the bend and stream came in view. The water seemed crystal clear and so blue reflecting the clear sky. The stream curved and twisted, then widened at a point where a trio of willows draped over it. He  stopped there.

“What a lovely spot ? Every time I think I’ve seen the most beautiful place , I find another. Do you often come here?”

“Not often enough. I come here when I feel the need for peace.”He didn’t know why it seemed important that he tell her. “Not to think really, but just to relax and be. I  always love places like this. See the little white flowers along the bank?”

His hand was on hers again as they moved closer to the stream. “I like to call them fairy wings.  They’re sure to have a complicated Latin name, but fairy wings seemed right.”

Bending, he plucked one. It was no bigger than his thumb with thin petals cupped around a tiny blue center. “Every time, before I’d have to go back to the real world, I’d come here. For some reason it made leaving easier.”

He tucked the flower into her hair.

“When I was a child, I thought the fairies lived here. I used to look for them in the flowers.”

She smiled and touched a hand to his cheek. “Did you ever find one?”

“No.” With his hand on her wrist, he turned his head to press his lips to her palm. “But I think they’re still here. That’s why this place is magic. That’s why I want to be  with you here.”

Act like a Woman

A decade ago I worked in construction management before going to Grad school for a Masters Degree. While working in that industry I was always told to be calm and polite and as months rolled by, I got used to thinking of myself as working woman who knew how to keep her assertive behavior under wraps.

“I’m a 23-year-old Indian girl telling a 55-year-old white guy what to do. I had to tone it down,” was always my Mantra. And to be honest, it wasn’t that hard. Growing up in India I was always told to shut up, be quiet and be invisible.

The Patriarchal culture in India always forces a woman to curb her natural instincts and mold herself to the expectation of the society. If any kind of manly qualities (tomboyish you could say) comes out during your growing years, either you will be reprimanded and punished by your own family or be subjected to ridicule by outsiders. So in effect by coercion and routine practice they manage to subdue a girl child who only wants to be her-self and do things that a boy would be allowed to do.

Fast forward to present, as I started to gain more knowledge and insight into Feminism and Gender Equality, I became more assertive and my instinct to speak up and take leadership surfaced at my workplace.  I didn’t hesitate to take over meetings.  I was always willing to deal with issues first. And if someone did something wrong I would call them out on it. After all, I have seen many of male colleagues do it.

Yet I have had to reassess myself because some of my co-workers have been telling me that I am actually on the aggressive end of the spectrum.

 In plain words – I was told to not act like a man. You are a woman, so act like one.

Why this dichotomy?

Research shows that salary bumps and promotions can depend on how you act on the job — but as I have learned, nobody seems to know where, exactly, a working woman should fall on the spectrum between “acting like a lady” and asserting herself “like a man.”

If things are hard career wise, the family life is even harder.

Having an arranged Indian marriage, the unwritten and unspoken rules alone are enough to drive one over the edge.

Starting from the will to get married to running your own life, as a woman – you have no say in it. Men who don’t marry are not at all judged, but the entire society will cast aspersions on not only your character but also of that of your family, if you decide to stay single.

Once you’re married, you life is not yours to live. You are told in no uncertain terms that Family is always and should be, the first priority.

As a married woman I simply cannot pursue any of the hobbies I am interested in. In fact I was advised by my entire in-law family to simply give up reading because apparently other books act like Satan’s minions working inside my head. As funny as it seems, I was encouraged to read the Bible. Is it any wonder I turned away from religion ???

Like many women, I have two sides; a feminine one and a not so feminine one. I love manicures and motorcycles, romance novels and animated films. Over the years these two sides have found a balance and merged neatly, but life is still harder for women like me.

From a young age, society bombards girls with images and ideas of what a woman should be; feminine and lady-like. Yet, the same society will then turn around and say that being feminine means weak and inferior. In order to be strong women, women who are taken seriously when surrounded by male friends and colleagues, then we should portray more masculine attributes.

For the women who are a little softer, a little gentler, everyone tells them, “You have to be firmer, more aggressive.”

And if you come on aggressive, they tell you, “You have to tone it down, you have to be softer.”

I haven’t found someone about whom they can say, “You’ve got it exactly right.”

The only way this can be fixed is if we, as women, stand up and refuse to accept the rules society throws at us. It’s not that aggressive women need to scale it back and act like a lady — in certain situations they need to call on those behaviors.

No matter what type of girl you were and what woman you grew up to be, it does not matter because there is no wrong way to be a girl. We cannot listen to a society that tells us this type of woman is a better one than another type of woman. We cannot listen to our family and friends that criticize a woman because she is too masculine or not feminine enough.

We have to make it know that, it is okay to be girly – to want a traditional marriage with children and at the same time it is okay to be a tomboy – and not want those things and to be content with never getting married or never having children.

Neither one is superior to the other and as women we need to stop judging other women and dictating what qualities and attributes constitute to the makeup of the “right” woman.

Because there is no right woman and there is no wrong woman. There is just woman.

By the Lake

I m tired.
It has been a long day and I yearn for the peace that is so elusive in this chaotic world. For the calm. For the quiet. Its hard trying to be someone who I am not, everyday. To go thru the routine circus all the time. To suppress the real me. To be somebody in a place that is filled with more somebodies anybody could count.
I don’t feel at home in this world anymore.I feel like a stranger in my own skin.
Its so hard to keep reminding myself everyday that there is hope still alive in this world. That there is more love than just grief and bloodshed. More kindness than greed. More compassion than hate.
I seek refuge in lonely places and so here I am, at the lake. There is no one here that I need to pretend for. No one to judge me. No one to belittle me. No one to demean me.
Just me. The calm lake. The evening light. Distant stars winking away. Silence broken by the chirp of crickets.
And then He came.
My friend. The one who is so much like me that it surprises both of us that we are friends. That we found each other after all this time. Despite the vast miles between us.
He just walked to where I am and sat down next to me. There was no greeting, no words uttered and yet I didn’t mind him being there. He was there next to me. Still and silent. It was like as if he knew or sensed that I needed the quiet. The calm. So saying nothing he simply sat beside me, staring at the water, the evening light slowly fading away around us.
I pick up a random stone and throw it in. Watching the ripple of waves. He mirrors my move and we are still quiet. The only sound is that of the stones plopping into the lake. We take turns. I throw one and he the next. A silent competition is in progress. I throw the stone farther than I can and he does the same. We turn and smile at each other, an understanding without words is reached and so we continue to throw the stones wondering how far we each can throw the stones.
In a while I realized I am OK. Life is messy. Yes it is. But I m fine. For now I’m at peace.
I always thought I was a lost soul. Many said I was a misfit, in a world that shunned n punished people who just didn’t fit in. Yet, here he is, another lost soul, sitting next to me, calmly throwing stones. In silence we both watch the water swirling as stones are cast. In the quiet, we connect in thoughts. Somehow in this broken world with all of its sorrows, I am here and so is he. Two lost souls, bound by the simple knowledge that he is the same as me.
The darkness falls and we know its time to go. With a small sigh I move to stand up, when he gives me his hand to help me up. We stare at each other. Somehow reading my mind, he opens his arms and I walk naturally, into his embrace. We hold each other for a time, simply hugging and bringing comfort. Needing that contact. Holding my face he places a small kiss on my forehead. A simple display of affection.
Silences make the real conversations between friends. Not the saying but the never needing to say is what counts – said Margaret Lee Runback. I realize that I had the best conversation with him. And words were not needed.
We then turned away from the lake. Holding hands, we walked back towards the real world that awaits us……….

Washing the Dishes

Often I wonder, is it just me or there are other women in this wide world, who really do hate washing the dishes?

Now you might say – Seriously ?? Jenny, is this a topic you want to talk about when there are a gazillion other topics to discuss.

You maybe right. But hear me out…..

Doing the dishes is just one of the few mundane household chores that I do everyday, at least two times a day. Of course I have the dishwasher, but, as an Indian woman living here in the US, I can attest to the fact that I’d rather just wash them instead of having to rinse it and place inside the machine. My garam masala  and turmeric smell would never go away, if I dumped them just like that, inside the dishwasher. I would have to rinse it twice, which makes me think I can just wash it. It is just one more step, isn’t it.  For me, a dishwasher is basically another storage area where I dump my vessels n tupperware into.

Ever since the big explosive fight I had with my husband, he seems to think that just washing the dishes everyday kind of compensates for all the abuse he has been dishing out to me for the past 15 yrs. Its like – See I m doing the dishes so you can’t complain.

Side note – This fight came about when he accidentally stumbled over my blog (mershaa.wordpress.com).  He was basically appalled that I could actually write and he was so angry that I had portrayed him the way I did. In the loud voiced arguments that we had, the fact that I wrote only the truth got lost.  According to him, whatever he did was justified in that he did it only becoz that is how a man should be and I was stupid n wrong. He even argued that he is responsible for me in the same way my parents are. Hence its OK to hit me or yell at me, becoz he takes their place in disciplining me. I gave up arguing after that. Didn’t want to waste my energy you see.

This whole him doing the dishes and me not doing it, has nothing to do with feminism. It is not about Men Vs. Women. It is not even about encouraging men to be subservient husbands and it definitely is not about showing us wives, as the all-knowing and wise queens of marriage.

It simply is that, just doing dishes doesn’t wash away all the grim reminders that somewhere along the way I lost my respect for him. It is the fact that I m leaning towards believing that there is no such thing as love and hence marriage or getting married seems more like a farce.

It follows along the lines, where that, buying a diamond ring for our wedding anniversary, taking expensive trips or buying luxury cars doesn’t come close to what I really need from him. The simple compassion, empathy and respect that are just plainly absent from this marriage. Yet, I m supposed to be grateful. Really ??

Any relationship needs work, but doing something just for the sake of doing it ends up making it not worthwhile.

I was about to talk to him about it but then realized that, I didn’t actually want to do the dishes in the first place. So I just never said a word and in fact collected the coffee cups from the living room and gave it to him to wash – Hey he was already washing them so its OK right ???

Yesterday just before I was leaving for work, he saw the kitchen sink and said ” Oh No. So many dishes ?”  With an evil smirk I said ” I have been doing them for 15 yrs, but here you are already complaining about it and its been hardly a month.”

He looked at me and said ” God has given women a special power to do household chores”.

I burst out laughing and as I walked out to work I said ” I will pray to God to give you that special power too. Do the dishes, if not I wont be making lunch today.”

And yes, when I came home during lunch time, dishes were done…!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

NO does not mean Yes or Maybe

From experience I have seen that the word No, when said in many circumstances, is never taken for its exact meaning.

People, whom I know in general, still have a problem understanding that when you say No, it means No. I mean really .. Can’t you understand ? I said “No” .

My Mother-in-law is in fact the prime example of someone who will never take no for an answer. I have seen her torment so many guests who come to visit, forcing them to eat, eat and then eat some more, just so that she can get the name – The Best Hostess in the field of who shows great hospitality to guests. Even if it means that few of them end up throwing up the food they just ate out of intense compulsion. Sometimes I would have the urge to scream ” Stop. Leave that poor lady alone”.  If she wants it, she can reach the table and take it herself.

Why do some people do that – I mean, can’t you respect the wishes of the guests. How can you be so vain in thinking you know what they want. Really ???

And then there are some who will somehow make me feel guilty for saying No. They will nod their head in agreement, yet pull a long face as if somehow I’m the one at fault. Eventually, I will feel so awkward that I do end up saying Yes even before they ask, to save myself the guilty feeling.

Now, you may say I am a pushover, but in my defense, You haven’t met these folks so yeah… You cant judge me….

In general though, this is what leads to a major flaw in the education of a woman’s safety and how she is made to perceive the society in which she grows up. As a women I still feel that my consent in anything I do is still always subjective to my surroundings and largely depends on the people around me.

In the official student publication at California’s Claremont-McKenna College, Jordan Basiljevac says that not only does no mean no, but society in a way has been fashioned  to accept no means yes, too:

“At five, relatives used to kiss my cheeks even as I winced and turned away. At the tender age of twelve, I was taught that my bra straps and thighs deserved detention because they distracted boys at school. At sixteen, my boyfriend assured me that most girls liked this—I just needed to relax. So at 20, in someone’s room after a party, ‘no’ was scary and unfamiliar to me.”

It is very horrible to  describe what it is like to say yes, coerced by the culture that had raised us and the systems of power that worked on us, and to still want to say‘no.’ Growing up in India the illusion of choice is what we women had. While some don’t even have that choice or, are not free to say Yes or No.

Consent as a privilege doesn’t just happen in sex. It happens for those of us who give too much in friendships without knowing how to ask for reciprocation, who let doctors touch us in ways that are triggering because we don’t want to make trouble, who stick around in toxic relationships because we don’t know if we’re allowed to expect better. When you’re poor, disabled, queer, trans, and yes- a female, ‘no’ isn’t for you.

Heck- Millions of  Indian Movies always portray a woman who outwardly says no, yet falls for the same guy who pretty much stalks, touches and coerces her into believing he loves her. For Desi guys, when a girl says No – it is always Maybe and sometimes YES..

It pains me to consider that, in fact there was only one movie which portrayed consent and that message too had to be said with the help of a man -Amitab Bachan, to finally drive home the idea that maybe a  woman can and does have the right to say No.

So my dear reader, Next time when someone says No, in any circumstances, just pause and reflect on the answer. For it does not mean Yes or Maybe.

No, in any language or country around this planet has only one meaning and that is – NO.

The Sea

I stood near the waves. Just looking. My mind was full and I was really tired. I wish I could just stop thinking, for just a few mins. I thought about my family and friends.

Friends, I mused, who thought I was simply strange and weird. It was lowering to realize there was no one I felt intimate enough with to have shared any sort of connection.

Work had always come first-with the ambition scrambling behind it. And that, I decided, was a sad commentary on my life. Work had been a huge part of who I was, or considered myself to be. Now I’d cut myself off from it, purposely, so that I felt like a solitary survivor, drifting alone in an ocean of self doubt.

Who was I?

That was a painful thought, but one that kept worrying at my mind. I didn’t want to believe that I was so unformed, so weak hearted.

I couldn’t change it-not the facts or the way I’d learned of them. The only option left was to face them. And in facing them, face myself.

“Rough seas today.”

I looked around, startled by the voice and the old woman who stood just behind me. I hadn’t heard anyone approach, but the breakers were crashing, and my mind had been very far away.

“Yes, it is.” My lips curved in the polite, distant smile reserved for strangers. “It’s a beautiful spot, though.”

“Some prefer the wildness.” The woman clutched a hooded cloak around her, staring out to sea with eyes surprisingly bright in such a well-lined face. “Some the calm. There’s enough of both in the world for everyone to have their choice.”

She looked at me then, alert, but unsmiling. “And enough time for any to change their mind.”

Puzzled, I tucked her hands in her jacket. I wasn’t used to having philosophical discussions with passersby. “I guess most people like a little of each, depending on their mood. What’s this place ?”

“Some that call it Moria’s Strand, for the woman who drowned herself in the surf when she lost her husband and three grown sons to a fire. She didn’t give herself time to change her mind, you see. Or to remember that nothing, good or ill, stays forever.”

“It’s a lonely name for such a beautiful spot.”

“It is, yes. And it’s good for the soul to stop and take a long look now and again at what really lasts.” She turned to me again and smiled with great kindness. “The older you are, the longer you look.”

“I’ve taken a lot of long looks today.” I smiled back. “But I have to get back now.”

“Yes, you’ve a ways to travel yet. But you’ll get where you’re going, girl, and not forget where you’ve been.”

An odd woman, I thought as I started the climb up the gentle slope of rocks toward the road. She supposed it was another weird American trait to make an esoteric conversation out of something as simple as a view.

As I reached the road, it occurred to me that the woman had been old, and alone, and perhaps needed a ride to wherever she’d been going.

I turned back with thoughts of offering just that. And saw nothing but an empty strand.