it’s my birthday

Hi all,

I have disappeared from the face of all social networking sites, watsapp and even my good old gmail account.. reason : I am writing my doctoral thesis like a crazy woman. I have to submit the first draft of my work for approval in july and the writing fever has set in.. So, that’s my excuse for not keeping in touch..

Today is a specil day, it’s my birthday.. So, what better day to catch a break.So I thought I’ll just drop in, say hi and solemnly promise that by july end you shall definitely see more posts from me.

 

lots of love..

RMW

Being ‘A Respectable Married Woman’ contd…

I have tried to live my life on my terms, with whatever limited agency we all have. I have always told people off, when they were moronish enough to comment on what I consider ‘none of your business’.Why am I starting this blog so soon after marriage… it’s because I am seeing the scary side of how society can dictate the terms of my life and how it is slowly encroaching upon my space and sanity, in a never before seen manner.

Because somehow people associate marriage with respectability and married love/lust has always been paraded and lauded over other forms of love/lust. [An aside : In a place like India, we are truly the first generation when live – in – relationships and pre – marital sex have become a not so common but  accepted aspect of society, even if not seen as the norm( at least among the youth in metro cities).]

So, the moment you are married your status and responsibilities dramatically changes in the eyes of society. Your love and commitment towards your spouse becomes secondary and your roles as a wife and eventually mother becomes more important.Because with respectability also comes responsibilities and duties, not what you feel as duty but rather what is acceptable as duty in the eyes of society. It tells you that as a respectable married woman, only some ways of loving and living are acceptable, only a few ways in which a respectable married woman can express herself, only a limited number of paths along which she can channel her desires and ambitions, only some emotions that  she is allowed to feel and to always always put  her family  duties before her own self.

Even Strangers now take the liberty to comment, crticize, evaluate and pass judgments on me as a person based on how well I fit the ‘Dutiful Wife’ mode.People always start their stupid conversations with “now that you are married…”, ‘How you lived earlier does not matter but now you should…’, What did you cook today…, and give me utterly random advice on house keeping, parenting ( seriously?) , cooking, family duties… things that I consider boring, irrelevant or what I consider ‘ completely my own business’.

In reward for putting up with and perpetuating these insufferable ways of thinking, it shall glorify motherhood and woman hood, celebrate women’s day and all other related days with all the trappings of consumerist craze(including  special dinner coupons, all shades of pink merchandise and discounts on anything from nail art to auto mobile spare parts)You may think that I am over  exaggerating but this brings me to the very core of the problem. These aspects of ‘marital bliss’ and social conventions are so naturalised that even talking about them seems like ‘making a mountain out of mole hill’. We are conditioned to accept, follow and glorify what restrains and reduces us. Our suffocating corsets have become second skins to us. Most often the tyranny of marriage as an institution, is lost in it’s self – aggrandising projects of love, romance, duty and riding into sunsets. Who doesn’t want a ‘and they lived happily forever.’

This desire for institutionalized relationship is inculcated in us from a very early age and this inculcation goes hand in hand with the cultivation of acceptable gender norms and behavior.

Women have always been censored about what they wear, how they conduct themselves, what they think and how they express those thoughts. I have always felt rebellious and fought bitter fights even with my very liberal and understanding family members. They learned very soon that, on some things, I cannot be bent or broken but only be loved as I am. They sometimes choose to call me the tyrant, don’t completely agree with my logic or arguments, but credit to them, they have not alienated me.We fight, we scream, we argue and then we laugh, we hug and we love.

I don’t feel the need to justify my actions to anyone but I also don’t mince words when they invade what I hold sacred. Ever since, I announced my engagement, I have been making my standards on love and life very clear . But now I want to go one step further.. I want to share my experiences with other people and through it engage in the largerquestions that matter to me.. after all.. the personal is political..

My blog will also include other interests like literature, food and art. I am majorly into crafting and a self taught amateur painter..love to travel.. enjoy nature, watch people and animals.. love meeting new people… a bookworm.. an occassional poet and story teller….enjoy cooking (occasionally)…and also hope to share all of these with you lovely people out there..

P.S. If not for my wonderfully understanding husband who doesn’t give shit about my wifely duties/ responsibilities or my ‘feminine’ qualities…. and makes me laugh and makes me go mad..I would seriously be on my way to a lawyer for a divorce..

yours truly

About Being ‘A Respectable Married Woman’

(This post should probably called a disclaimer).

The above statement is not true..
Readers are hereby informed that the eccentric mad cap author of this post is in no way respectable, but is fortunately a woman and unfortunately married, though fortunately to the man of her dreams.

I am a feminist… have been one for as long as I remember and will always stay so.

My mother was recently sorting out my locked up childhood cupboard of ‘all sorts of crap you can ever imagine’ ,literally all sorts of crap. I had a huge collection of dirty toffee wrappers that I picked up from the stress (just because they looked interesting), curious looking stones, machine parts, broken dolls, lumps of clay, foreign chocolates that I simply refused to eat or throw away… you name it .. I got it,  bless my parents for putting up with it. It’s a wonder that I have not grown up to be a hoarder..

Well, my mind with its heaps and piles of useless random thoughts make up for it, I guess. I am a mental hoarder( pun intended). I also a have a pathetic sense of humor and insist on “explaining” my jokes( regardless of whether you get it, didn’t get it, laughed at it, laughed at me, wanna run away from me…).

So, anyway, my mom was going through some of the loose sheets of manuscripts, from the time when I was probably eleven or twelve. I had written something along the lines of ” I condemn the male species who think that women are responsible for domestic duties and do not even appreciate them for it. I challenge these spineless cowards to take upon the various responsibilities of a house wife for a single day and successfully fulfill it.”

Such strong words considering I never did any house work and nobody expected me to..as we tamils like to say.. didn’t  wash even my own plate (and most often my hands too). I was waited on hand and foot, not because we were super rich but just because I am me. ( Did I mention that I was also a pompous ass?).

In Indian culture, it is inevitable that girl children are initiated into domestic duties from a very young age in preparation for their marriage. The often quoted refrain of the mothers, aunts and other busy bodies is that ” what will your mother – in – law say?”(when you get married, which will probably not happen for at least the next ten years or so).”she will say that your parents have not brought you up well.” In my house though, things were quite different. The fact that I was brought up differently by a wonderfully liberal father and delightfully understanding mother, only made me more observant of the difference in the realities of other young girls around me.

I was a  notorious tomboy, who spent half her time climbing trees( My dad was the one who taught me to climb tress when I was probably two or three years old, cool, no?)and the other half reading books, never asked to ” behave properly”, never stood in front of the mirror for more than two minutes( didn’t give a shit about how I looked), basically did as I pleased and bossed everybody around. Did I mention I also have a brother, who is four years elder to me, who had to put up with all my tantrums, be my slave and suffer my abuse? I call him little brother.. little one.. cos that’s what he is to me.. Someone to do my bidding, to be ordered about.

Observing and meeting women from all walks of life, I see one thing in common, that most women are oblivious of the various ways media, tradition, culture and the government inhibit them and force them to fit a particular ‘type’ or model. They don’t realise that without these blindfolds that society forces upon them, they could truly discover their self and their interests and that life would be a lot more simpler. Even when women do realize these hurdles and traps, they do not understand its significance or  get past it. We know that something is ‘not quite right’ but we learn to live with it, because we don’t know how deep the roots of patriarchy and inequality runs.

 

 

What’s in a name…

I recently got married… married for love .. to a wonderful man… who loves me .. respects me .. knows to give me my space, but still… I GOT MARRIED.

Why is getting married such a huge thing for me.. a huge burden… an identity threatening black hole that is intent on sucking out my individuality and freedom? because society does not treat marriage as something private; as a mere form of commitment between two individuals. Society rather treats marriage as a ticket to butt you with its humbug justifications, inappropriate jokes, cruel expectations, and deeply unsettling views about how you should love and live. This is especially so, in a country like India.

You may say that such views and expectations are present in everybody’s life and at all stages of life but what we forget is the suddenness with which a woman’s reality changes the moment you announce that you are going to be married. People happily take the liberty of obliterating Your identity and make you Mrs. john/ Mrs. Mary John .. your caste based/family based surname changes or  your parent’s name is replaced by your husband’s name(as in my case a tamil woman, where the norm is to add your father’s name either as initials or the entire name). I know many Priyas, Keerthis, Malas and mythilis, who changed from Miss. Priya Dad’s name to Mrs. Priya Husband’s name or simply Mrs. Husband’s name.

Many women voluntary change their surname or add their husband ‘s name and are quite delighted in doing so. Social media is one place where this name changing is widely on display and validated by the number of likes and gushing awwww comments. I am happy for women who happily change their names/ surnames.. I am happy for those who want to flaunt their lust, love or commitment through this.. I am happy for women who feel empowered by their ‘married’ status… but I am sad that they are not aware of the patriarchal power play that ‘norm’ises it and normalizes it… I am sad that they can’t see how culture and tradition perpetuates the existing inequalities in society… I am enraged for those women who have no say in this name game and I am indignant for those women who try to say a ‘no’ but are helpless in the face of society’s insensitivity. People justify it by saying that marriage is a social commitment and the society needs to be informed of your new association but, hey, I have never heard some man being called (Mr.s.) Mary / (Mr.s.) John Mary.

I have even come across practices in some parts of India, where even a woman’s first name is changed after marriage and she is given a new name in her in- law’s house. Imagine having to consciously learn to ‘respond spontaneously’ to some other name. I know a Niramala who was renamed Anjali… the Nirmala who fought with her brothers.. bunked classes.. learned “madrasi”( grrr… ughhh… disgusted emoji) from her tamil neighbours…Nirmala the sister.. Nirmala the student… Nirmala the neighbor.. Nirmala the woman became Anjali the daughter – in – law, Anjali the wife and Anjali the mother. A change of name, more often, is a symbolic severance of all the previous ties, identities and past life.

I know of a friend who got into a crazy fight because her husband’s name was printed as her surname instead of her parental family name, in an invitation. Sadly, no body seemed to understand her anger for such a ‘small matter’ , after all it’s what is usually done,  it’s more convenient…. it will be easier for friends (read strangers) from her husband’s side to identify her… she is mad to take offence at something so nice.. I tell you, she WAS mad, not just mad but furious.

The same thing happened to me recently. I am in an important post in a well known organization and in one of their public invitations I was named as “Myname My Husband’s name” without any consultation what so ever. For Heaven’s Sake, I am the same person holding the same responsibilities in the institution. WHY SHOULD MARRIAGE AFFECT HOW I CALL MYSELF? OR HOW I VIEW MY OFFICIAL CAPACITIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES? WHO GIVES YOU THE RIGHT TO CHANGE MY NAME WITHOUT ASKING ME ?

Hope the caps was able to convey my fury, humiliation and high pitched screams. My husband was smart( we are part of the same organization) .. he showed me the invitation proof (they didn’t even bother to mail me a copy of the proof even though technically my official position is higher than that of my husband) only after he had made the calls to the relevant people to correct the error… so that he could insure his safety when the volcano erupts. In spite of the timely intervention a few invitations had already left the press with the woeful ” myname Myhusband’s name.”

So yeah.. Shakespeare.. a rose is a rose no matter what you call it.. but not so for us women… the name change heralds our metamorphosis… one day we are women and girls but suddenly  we become wives and nameless nothings hiding in the shadows of the empty “Mrs.________” and  forever trailed by the curse of our husband’s name

yours truly

My name alone.