There are certain things I have to explain to my father:
- You know, it was not within my power to choose my gender, before I was born. I was a little too incapable of doing that. So, when you held my mewling form in your hands, casting a look of reconciliation, I had no words of consolation to offer.
And had it been in my power to choose. Had I been granted with the ovarian liberty of choosing my bracket-
–I WOULD N-O-T HAVE CHOSEN OTHERWISE.
- My mother, the woman who you espouse in a manner of an act of mercy, weaned me on discourses of what your clan deems to be ethical. The injections of those scruples still course through my veins, while they cemented themselves in me, even before, my mouth could form the words that formed those scruples.
- I suppose, you hold no remembrance of what happened the afternoon, after the elocution competition in our school was over. In fact, why am I even assuming? I’m sure, that you hold no recollection of the incident. So, let me recount it to you:
It was the 23rd day of June. I remember everything since, that was the day, I had my first blood. Mother said, that I had grown up quicker than she had expected, while she’d handed me a sanitary napkin. I had grown all sweaty, comprehending not a shred of what had happened to me, horror-struck at the sight of the blood on the crotch of my panties.
Yet, I went along streaming as steadily as the additional flow of blood I had to contend with for the rest of my life. My poem bore the tremors of the horror instilled in me, as deep and viscous as the sanguine between my thighs. Little did I know, that I had actually-
-GROWN UP FASTER THAN THE OTHER GIRLS IN MY CLASS.
Little did I know, that that wretched flow would stain my school skirt, causing that random man, almost as old as you were then, to follow me down the street to home, slap my behind, and say,-
‘I’ll readily be your customer, baby.’
I had not known what it meant. All I knew was, I turned cold. Yes, I’d turned cold, as the blood in my veins had frozen. I was shivering in a month which made people sweat, and flounder for something to soothe their skins from being ravaged in the heat of the scorching sun. I didn’t know, how I’d mustered the strength to run away. I still don’t know if my heart had been as powerful as my legs to demonstrate the disgust I’d felt at me being precocious. I’d cried at my mother’s bosom, venting what had happened in whispers, trifled in sobs. My mother hid her tears in her whispers of consolation, and you-
-You’d said, ‘You ought to have been more careful!MEN WILL ALWAYS BE MEN!’
Did you have an inkling of my age? Do you still remember how old I was? Don’t tax yourself, dad. I’ll tell you,-
–I WAS TEN.
- There is this platitude that life goes on. And, it is one of those universal truths that really does exist. Life, as a matter of fact,does,go on. Like the sun rising to start a diurnal circle, like the perpetual cracks on an old building, like the eternally present air encasing us, like the perennial smile on the countenance of the old watchman of our building. If you’re looking for a relevant analogy, life goes on,-
–LIKE THE ETERNAL SILENCE OF SUBMISSION IN MY MOTHER’S EYES.
And strange are the ways of life. If life goes on, so does the Darwinian Theory, of ‘Survival of The Fittest By Natural Selection’. Only, now, as relevant is the part about ‘Survival’, Darwin would have done well to reincarnate himself, and come and rectify his theory. No, dad, the rectification doesn’t require the whole process of some gigantic research. All it requires is, a slight change in nomenclature. A tiny substitution of the word ‘Selection’ with-
- Slowly and steadily, yes, we do adapt to make ourselves more submissive by the day. We learn to submit to the fact that, whenever we go out, there would be a beeline of a pair of eyes, implicit and explicit, ravishing our bodies every second. We positively submit to the universal truth of at least one voice, every once in a while, cracking a snide rape joke, and accustom ourselves to the sound of masculine mirth following it. We condition our ears to stay unfazed to the sporadic voices, asking us to ‘spend a night’, or, calling us ‘bitch’. We acclimatise our eyes to stay indifferent to those gazes casually straying over to our decolletage, despite the cotton covering every inch of our skin. We try not to let a murderous look linger into our line of sight, only under the camouflage of preserving our shame.
- You never knew, that by the time I’d turned sixteen, I had known, that it was a thumb rule, that in a crowd, there would be men aplenty, who would be staring at the well-covered appendages at my chest. I’d been groomed well enough to ignore them, in order to conform to the standards multitudes set for females to rank them as decent. By the time I’d turned eighteen, there had been numerous instances when people had followed me, making strange noises, that made me quiver with fright. The can of pepper spray that I’d bought from an online store, on a friend’s suggestion, still longed for use as it stayed in the bag I slung on my shoulder. I still didn’t know if it was obsolete.
And yet, there came an instance when I would find use for my own self.
- I remember that night very well. I recollect, that I’d kept it well-hidden from you. It was my friend’s nineteenth birthday. I remember that much used lane we took on our way home. And what stood out, and yet, wasn’t out of context, was-
-THE SHADOW THAT FOLLOWED ME.
I recollect the familiar, clammy, shudder inundating my gut. Dad, my veins throb vigorously even now, as I reminisce that night. He was as stealthy as a leopard stalking its prey, as ready as hunter set to trap his kill, and I remember being as vulnerable as the fawn, as meek as the prospective game. And then-
I KNEW, THAT HE WAS MY PREY.
He had tried to grab me by the nape of my neck, before I’d turned around. I was definitely possessed, because no muscle comprising my anatomy could muster such strength in normalcy. The spine that had been cold a moment ago, was alive. It could be as strong as diamond became after it had been cooled into solidarity. My foot had found his groin, and my hands had found his face. My knees had ended their search with a cracking sound.
THE SOUND OF THE CRUNCHING OF HIS BONES. I’M SURE I’D SNAPPED HIS SPINE.
At that moment, I’d realised, that I was stronger than a random can of pepper spray. It was will that would necessitate the strength. I had triumphed over myself. I knew that there was a latent resilience within me. I was my doom, and I was my survival. I knew, that it was time for Darwin’s theory to come back to its form.
‘SELECTION’ DIDN’T NEED SUBSTITUTION.
- You remained blissfully ignorant of the strength, I had garnered. Scruples don’t approve of such feminine virility. There were a thousand ways in which I could use the weapons nature had equipped me with. Those stares were constant, what was strange to them was,-
MY GAZE THAT RETALIATED.
So, the new convention that I’d framed for myself was,-
My gaze is fire, ensconcing itself within the container of my frame. If you dare to cast one glance of your habitual, perverse, profanity at me, be assured of the fire turning out to be an inferno that would only be satiated by the sight of your blood, or the sound of your bones. It wouldn’t be my screams that would bring some vicious pleasure to your manhood. But, my screams would most definitely sound the knell of your life. And then, you would be emasculated enough to be unable to stand on your two feet, let alone grab a girl.
- I was twenty-four when you sought to get me married, without an inkling of what I wanted. You didn’t give a shred of your ears to my opposition, when my prospective husband, came to assess me of my merits. You didn’t bother to think how every pore of my body was quivering in protest of the alliance to the well-settled bachelor, you’d wanted to hand me over to. My mother’s gaze of submission didn’t help, it only coaxed me to relent. And I still don’t know why I’d relented, throttling my strength to the gallows they weren’t meant to reside in.
I remember my submission. I remember how I was legally handed over to a man I barely knew. I remember that numbness returning at the prospect of his hands touching me. I realised that my fear hadn’t yet let go. I remember every muscle of mine trembling at the thought of being espoused to someone who didn’t even know of my existence until a few weeks back.
That haunt of the gaze had returned.
But, there was another realisation that was yet to cement itself. I recollect my clear denial on our wedding night. And, his voice, all calm and menacing with simultaneous effect, warning me not to deny. The Gospel of rebellion was receding itself into a faraway call, like slight remembrances of a forgotten fable, when his fingers audaciously strode away to my blouse.
ONE LOOSE KNOT, OF MY BLOUSE, WAS ENOUGH, TO UNDO MY INHIBITIONS.
I remember my fingers emblazoned on his cheek. I remember my re-established triumph. The resonance of my palm slamming itself on his cheek. The infernal heat of my eyes, searing his deemed supremacy with every passing second, draining the menace away from his sight, symbolised, his submission to my rebellion. No, I was no iconoclast to have denied him from having sex. I was breaking no custom when he sought to ravish me, by attempting to subdue my voice. I was just living up to the rules, life had taught me. I was only following the Darwinian Theory of Survival.
- Dad, I’m twenty-seven now. The man who is my husband, knows every single detail of what I want. He was sensible enough to understand. Though, he does have the shreds of his deemed masculine supremacy stamped to him, yet, he knows his bounds well enough to not break them. Tough though it has been for us to know each other, yet, after a long drawn bout of patient parley, he knows the need for mutual respect for a relationship to thrive. And, I’m to my own devices for my protection. I do not regret the absence of the deadened look of submission in my eyes, that had been such a characteristic of my beautiful mother’s eyes.
It shall take me time to uproot the chauvinist in him. But, Dad, don’t you realise, how precious a lesson I’ve had? Do you not see the content on my countenance, now that I’ve grown? Do you not fathom the relief in his bearing when I stand to be an equal to him? Do you not realise, that when we walk hand in hand, it is a consummate ‘us’ that you bear witness to, and not a singular ‘me’ or ‘him’?
IT IS TIME YOU REALISE IT, DAD, THAT I AM MORE THAN THE VERMILLION IN THE PARTING OF MY HAIR. LIKE MY MOTHER IS.
DAD THERE ARE SOME THINGS YOU NEVER KNEW, AND NOW THERE ARE SOME THINGS I KNOW BETTER THAN YOU DO.
NOTE: THE VERMILLION IN THE PARTING OF THE HAIR, IS POPULARLY KNOWN AS ‘SINDOOR’ IN COLLOQUIAL HINDI. THE ‘SINDOOR’ IS SYMBOLIC OF AN INDIAN WOMAN’S MARITAL STATUS. IT IS CONSIDERED TO BE SYMBOLIC OF THE ALLIANCE SHE SHARES WITH HER HUSBAND.
Arpita is a twenty two year old, postgrad student in commerce from, Kolkata, India. She is one who seeks knowledge from even the tiniest speck of the universe. She likes her chaos in silence, and her silence in chaos.