You’re born with 2 X-Chromosomes. You peer through your tiny eyes as you enter the world. Everything seems normal until you notice subtle flashes of your folks. They seem happy, but it’s different. There is a lot of being said yet nothing in words, no one has it in them to acknowledge that they expected better. There’s a sense of animosity at home. Your grandparents look at your parents weird. They expect them to give this pregnancy thing another go, “don’t give up”. It’s all understood, nothing needs to be said.
You’re 3 and you start to see things. Your mom now has a belly and lies around all day, one day it vanishes and there’s another human living with you now. There’s a different atmosphere this time, everyone’s crying, yet they say positive things. There’s a sense of achievement this time. A job that paid well. A job well done. A job that need not be repeated.
You’re 5 and you start to observe things. You notice that your dad enjoys your younger brother’s company. You and your dad aren’t all that close. You assume it’s normal. You assume everything is. You notice how your mom gets alerted at the ping of the doorbell when your dad arrives. It’s inspection time. You have no idea why your dad is the one in authority. You notice how your younger brother seems to be the centre for anything positive. You assume it’s normal.
You’re 13 and by now you’ve met a lot of people. You still don’t know the why and the how of a lot of things. Some girls in your school wear shorter skirts and talk to guys. You’ve been informed that that’s not nice and you let stigma take over. Characteristic of any insecurity, you hate on those girls along with a lot of other girls. This hate doesn’t seem pure. It seems ridden with something else. You don’t see the need for hate. You don’t want to be judged. You continue the hate. Your mom has her version of “the talk” with you. you now have a template of what’s right and wrong, it is that simple. Your parents can’t be wrong, duh.
You’re 16 and you’ve realised that talking to guys is fun. Maybe your parents can be wrong. Your male friends are now part of the list of the things you choose not to tell your parents about. Yes, there’s a whole list. You notice slut-shaming. You have no idea why a “slut” deserves hate. You hear insults like ‘cunt’, insults like ‘grow a pair’. The world seems to follow a pattern. One day, you overhear an argument. Your brother has a girlfriend apparently and your parents are upset. Upset that you might find out. Upset that you might think that it’s normal. They tell him to break ties and keep shut. He has a phone now; he lets you use it.
You’re 20 and in college. You have realised that your parents mostly are wrong. There is so much more to the world post prejudice. You now have a boyfriend, he’s sweet. He’s happy you exist. Not many people have expressed that. You have to be the understanding one, but at least he understands. There are a lot of things you feel deeply about. You pen them down. You gather the courage and tell the world that you’re a “feminist”. People think that’s cute. FeMiNiSt. Your parents think that your writing is unlady-like. You now use reason to know what’s wrong and what’s not. You don’t need them. You know it’s pointless to argue. Over the years, you’ve become good at coming up with excuses to stay away from home. Your brother is all for it.
You’re 24 and you write about women rights for a prominent newspaper. However, not much has changed. Your writing is reviewed as hesitant. You have a bunch of friends and are close to your brother. Your parents tell you it’s marriage time. You finally tell your parents about your boyfriend. They ask you to choose. You leave home. Maybe you should have done this earlier. You realise you’ll miss your brother. He should be fine; he’s got the Y-chromosome.
You’re 32 and happily married. You’ve written a widely acclaimed book, given talks, and won a bunch of awards. A lot of people still think what you do is ‘cute’. You’ve inspired a lot of women. You’ve inspired a lot of sensible men. Your parents say they’ve accepted you but there’s a permanent wall now. You settle for this bargain. You’re going to have a baby. You hope it’s a boy. You beg that it mustn’t go through what you went. You have a boy. Thank god.
You’re 60 and you’ve had a better life than most women can dream. Behind every successful man is a woman. What about the woman’s success? You realise how important courage is. You realise how dangerous stigma is. A lot of people look up to you. A lot of people think you are brave. Only a few realise that this bravery represents a greater problem. Only a few realise that this bravery must not even be required. You realise how you spent the majority of your life trying to achieve what a man takes for granted.
It was worth it.
You die in content.
Picture by: Aditya Mathur