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The Power of Beginnings

How Other-izing Begins

 

A couple of years ago, when Huff Post published my article, How I As A Single Mom Reclaimed Goddess Lakshmi, even as appreciative messages began to pour in, there were a few skeptical ones as well. People refused to believe that such other-izing exists. That in this age and time, people still continue to discriminate a woman based whether she has a man by her side.

To them, I would like to tell that discrimination is more common than we would like to believe. But instead of acknowledging it and waging a battle with it, we push it under carpet.

This happened many years ago.

G and I were of the same age. We considered ourselves smart, educated and forward thinking. A few years ago, when I had gone to meet G, she was heavily pregnant and had just received the news that her brother-in-law(husband’s elder brother) who lived in a remote village along with his wife and two kids had expired two days ago. G’s mother who was highly superstitious would not let G go to the village in the fear that seeing her sister-in-law’s face during this time might bring G bad luck. G argued, debated and fought with her mom. And finally won.

And although filled with trepidation for the coming journey, G began showing me the clothes she had bought for the family, clothes that formed a part of the mourning rituals.

A silk sari in a deep shade of bottle green for her mother-in-law.

A pink frock made of organza for the daughter of the deceased brother in law.

A silk dhoti for her father in law.

And finally a cotton sari in pale mauve for the grieving sister in law. Resembling the color white. 

“Plain and simple..suitable for a widow…no?”she asked. But the question was rhetoric. G was not seeking my validation in any way.

Years passed. G and I lost touch. I transitioned from wife to mother to solo mom. That is when the second incident took place.

Symbols of Loss

Picture courtesy: Bhavana Nissima

The woman who lived opposite our building lost her husband. Now this lady and her  husband were a part of a big joint family. The death came suddenly and even as the family reeled under shock, the mourning rituals had begun. As the front yard filled with relatives and friends who had come to pay their condolences, the lady sat near her husband’s body. As women drew her into an embrace and men  joined their palms as a mark of respect, this lady would alternate between silence and loud sobs. In between all this, I saw another lady, most likely a friend or sister pulling down the pallu which rested on her  shoulders over her head, so that it now covered her face. Truth be told, the second lady did not look like some tyrant relative. She looked like a protective sibling/ childhood friend and the grieving lady seemed to appreciate her gesture.

As I watched from above, I realized how quickly the mourning lady had embraced her new identity, not realizing that it was a trap laid out for her by the thronging relatives and by her own grieving self.

The thing about traps is they seldom make themselves visible. They hide under thickets, bushes and leaves. And we woman crushed under the weight of our own identities walk into them.

As women, our friendships are fierce. We talk deep. We listen deep. We immerse ourselves in the sorrows of our sisters. We cry for them and draw them into our protective embrace. We stand in solidarity. That is what makes our friendship rich and layered.

And yet through all these, we remain tethered to our fears. We call it resilience of spirit. We sometimes even call it valor. We label it our fate. And continue to survive/exist. We continue to believe that a woman is rationed only so much anger. So much power. So much freedom. And that when she is handed all or a few of these elements, she must revere them, cherish them. Hold them close to her heart. And not ask for more. When someone tells us that our loss needs to follow a certain structure, obey certain color codes, we obey. Not daring to ask how this transformation will empower us. Or how it will fill us with peace.

The Beginnings

Imagine for a moment how we it would be if we transform our loss into a powerful beginning like T did.

T was  a lady who lived into her nineties. She was spirited and mean and believed in living life to the fullest. When she was in her mid thirties and lost her husband, she did not let herself be swayed by the society’s interpretation of how she must grieve. Or how she must lead her remaining life. Or how she must crunch her spirit to fit into a dark corner of some room.

As the day dawned, when T was to shed all her symbols of matrimony, hesitant female relatives walked into the room to initiate the ritual only to find T sprawled on the floor, with one arm under head and the other over her eyes. T had kumkum on her forehead and bangles on her wrists.

For the rituals to begin, T had to sit. But she continued to lie down. Finally, as the baffled relatives continued to stare, T commanded in an irreverent tone that if they “wanted”, they could remove only one toe ring from one of her feet. Nothing more. Not even one tiny bead . They were not to touch any other ornament on her body. They were not to wipe off anything from her face. Her ornaments, her kumkum and her sari were hers alone. No one was to touch anything. The women gasped. They sat there for a long time un-decided about what to do. As for T, after some time, she just turned to one side and started to snore. The toe ring remained where it was.

T waltzed through the rest of her life in her bright maroons and oranges.

T belonged to a much older generation. But when she had become care giver to her own self, she stopped seeing herself as the receptacle of illusive freedoms and cleverly disguised bondages. Instead she became a powerhouse of strength. From a passive receiver of sorrow, she transformed into a risk taker, into a strategist. She showed them what powerful beginning looked like. And in that she imbibed the warrior spirit into every fiber of being.

To me T will remain my hero because she won even before the battle had begun.

Making Edits to Inner Narratives

I end this post with project #edit where I make edits to my old poems and begin listening to the new poems and absorb their nuances  into my system:

Written May 2011
On Sunday mornings
my words take different shapes
a grave digger
a dream catcher
or simply a cobweb
Sometimes they
make a summer’s sound
echoed in an endless forest
at others they just die
like one primordial cry
But mostly my words
etch themselves
into one constant shape shifter
On uncertain sands

#2017 Edited
On most mornings
My words take different shapes—
A cradle maker
A cobweb
A dream catcher
Sometimes
They echo the summer’s sounds
At other times,
They breathe like
Spirited raindrops on window panes
Mostly my words
Etch themselves
into constant shape shifters
On uncertain sands

Linking this post to Bhavana Nissima’s aka Light Weaver’s powerful series Sa Ham – I am She (2017 series).

 

©: Sridevi Datta

 

 

Published inEmpowermentUncategorized

19 Comments

  1. Siddu Siddu

    It would look appropriate if use some random name instead of ABCD..

    • sridevi1994 sridevi1994

      Thanks! Point noted.

  2. vishal tiwari vishal tiwari

    Thank you. This makes a lot of sense. It would have been hard to grasp as we think it is as normal as anything. Appreciate.

    • sridevi1994 sridevi1994

      I am glad the article resonated with you. hanks.

    • sridevi1994 sridevi1994

      I am glad the article resonated with you. Thanks.

  3. Kirti Kumar jain Kirti Kumar jain

    Great lady have a brave doughter.Once again I unable to stop my saline drops.Forgote the comments of foolish person’s. Live the life without guilty. This is the part of game. Many of play wrong but winner can’t care.you have already Goddess Laxmi.

    • sridevi1994 sridevi1994

      Thank you so much dear @Kirti. 🙂

  4. Suryabhan Singh Suryabhan Singh

    You are really a great lady.
    You are such a boon for our country, which is worth changing your home and society with your thinking.
    Every woman should have a struggle.

    • sridevi1994 sridevi1994

      Thank you! I am overwhelmed.

  5. RB RB

    Thank you for writing such a descriptive and enlightening article. It touched upon something that I had not thought much about but I have to say that your article touched my soul. I agree with you that the changes should be empowering and should bring peace to you. If they are not doing this, then we should stand against them and do what we feel is right rather than simply obeying socially acceptable norms. May God bless women in such a situation with the courage to make such brave beginnings.

    • sridevi1994 sridevi1994

      Thank you Richa for your kind words.

  6. […] begins by asking the right questions. And as you begin to answer them, you stop other-izing  yourself and start identifying yourself with strength and […]

  7. The subject you wrote about is something that visits most women and quite traumatically, at that. You are ABSOLUTELY correct in that it is the lady’s life and her decision as as regards how she would like to approach this next phase of her life, if n when it occurs. No one should and can dictate or even attempt to influence her, her sartorial preferences and preferred approach to life hence on… I for one am uncomfortable when my wife’s wrists are unadorned.. Bangles, bracelets, watch, anything is okay and I would want that she continues so even later, since they all look pretty on her wrists. Period. …. More writings on this subject are required so that more women are empowered/encouraged to voice their perspective and lead their lives as per their choice…yes, even the “other-izing” phase… Respects and regards..

    • sridevi1994 sridevi1994

      Thank you very much Krishna Murty garu. I am glad this post resonated with you.

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  9. Divya Divya

    Hi dear,

    This is the second time i am trying to read ur blogs because i am sure it has great content.

    But something about it isnt letting me indulge in it.

    As someone said ,we need some names than a letter to mentally picturise a person.

    I am not sure if its because i am reading from a phone,the links in the beginning make it less attractive,it gives me a feeling that reading that link is a pre requisite without which this blog is incomplete.
    Also from the phone the paragraphs looks lil mayhem…small ones,big ones and single sentences been scattered evrywhere.

    I am a reader not a language expert though.my review may sound harsh but i have no other interest than your best.

    Waiting for more writtings

    • sridevi1994 sridevi1994

      Thanks for your feedback Divya. Yes reading that link is prerequisite. And it has to come at the beginning.

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