Now for many years, I know a gentleman, yes, a not-so-gentle gentleman who happens to be a lively, ‘life of the party’ kind of person. One known by all as a strong, successful, full of glee, glittering, thriving man. They also know him as ‘progressive’, and a ‘smart’ one. I have known him for many years now.
For many years, he used to tease me. Teased me saying, “You think you are equal to men!” I never paid attention. He added, “Women are never equal to men. They just can’t be.” I might readily respond, “Cause, women are far better?” But I did not. A tone in his voice discouraged to exchange words there. I ignored him, his comments. I thought that issue was resolved in the last century, during the early days of that century … and that issue was a cliché by then. My niche heaven made me think like that. So, I thought, he perhaps was joking and I tried to concentrate on the tasks I had to do.
I tried to do the tasks I had to do. My plate was always full, ’cause I had chosen to do everything possible. All those I could attempt to do, I never stopped from attempting to. I was taught that everyone has to make one’s own heaven. There is no shortcut, no substitute for /alternative to sincere effort. There I stood, and there he was watching with a wry smile and that not-so-sweet gesture.
That not-so-sweet gesture made me uncomfortable. The very thought made me uneasy that there was an air of disapproval; that people who were supposed to support me, did not; that who were to appreciate my intense efforts looked away except when to detect and expose failures and lapses.
Detecting and exposing failures and lapses? Many years after it had begun, I started having a feeling that it was done purposely. Those words were spoken intentionally to ruin my zeal; to shatter my confidence. But that never happened. Those words made me uncomfortable, but my confidence stayed untouched. I was just sad.
I was sad that someone who could be of help, chose to look away. He chose not to make me notice that he ever noticed. But many others did. Many others did appreciate that I could dare to, aspire to and even accomplish tasks sometimes taboo for women and girls. Tasks that I felt, was made tougher for girls by the social rules- norms and responsibilities. There he would join them and eulogize the achievements. Yes, he did, keeping me in clouds of confusion. He did. He, the Claudius !
He, Claudius the New was just one of those endless Claudiuses we encountered every day on the paths we walked through, in so many forms. They still keep roaming around us, and there they spit out their venom.
Venomous Claudiuses love to think that their speeches are as poisonous as that of the mythical one; that those speeches would pour poison into our delicate ears to make us suffer like that poor prince. Just like the tragic Hamlet, we would be shattered and ruined. So, our commitments would disappear, aspirations would be lost and determination gone. Claudius, you don’t know that girls had developed resistance long back and they can disregard all those scraps and steadily move forward. Adieu, Claudius!
Then there came in the stories. Stories of his fascinations – fractions and elaborate descriptions of them. The air became thick and smelly. Full of tropical heat and fiery warmth. It kept getting thicker, smelling stronger. To my surprise, I saw the sources of his fascination were all characters that we would preferably call – parasites! Examples I would never follow. I felt tortured, I chose to question, I got fiercely slashed back but I sustained. I survived. I managed to survive as I recalled that childhood story – that of the swan, whose feathers never got wet, never got dirty. I kept wading through the filth; floating like a swan through the abyss defying the dirt! Can one keep going like that for eternity? One who has no choice has got to. So I did. So, we did … many of us, quietly, individually paving the paths, our paths, defying all.
I had begun the journey alone but I met fellow travelers and strugglers there. There were pseudo-strugglers too – the easy-way-out seekers, the treacherous ones and more. But there were focused naive once too. There were many who were different. Men who were brighter and loftier; and not so lofty women as well!
That capacity to recognize the filthy and the lofty made me realize my days of innocence were over. My niche heaven was gone for sure. The safe home won’t save me anymore. Now that I am part of the bigger world, I could not go back, nor can I get transformed, transforming the huge world is possibly the only choice! Can a narrow stream transform the abyss? The ocean? Perhaps not. But streams together? Yes, perhaps!
So, I did not give up. I defied. I sneered. Resisted quietly, through my continued actions. Never gave up. I saved my conviction and aspiration. The daily combat went on, and the fortnightly and the monthly, quarterly and the annual ones too. And all that had sharpened me, strengthened me and yes, had broken me too, left me broken ruining my faith in so many things. I loved to love. For years. For decades. I did not gather mosses or rust. I managed to move forward. Gently, gradually, steadily, slowly and persistently.
I managed to move forward. Gently. But weariness? “Forgive this weariness, my lord, if I ever lag behind …” I whisper and refresh myself and start afresh. I go on. We go on … We have got to. The fight remains quiet, like the ones of the sturdy trees, and the weeds and grasses we are unaware of- that keep growing to cover the heaths that are stretched to reach the horizon. Quietly they support and protect and save the soil. Like those essential blossoms, we keep going … we do. To save, guard and protect the unguarded, unwary ones ——–
Dear Reader, thank you for being able to make it to this point. If it was boring, forget about it. If not, please, join us find the answers. Keep talking about them. Who knows, this might help someone else to retain or regain self-respect, AND what could be more rewarding than being able to help find ways to glow in respect and resonate?
Why did I do that? Why do I have to?
To prove myself? To keep my head up? To set standards for my children? My daughters? To save my self-respect? Dignity? Pride? for what alone?
Did I loose? Did I win?
Do I know yet? Do you know?
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