I am participating in the 30 Days Letter Challenge where you write one letter each day. The 28th in the list is a letter to ‘Someone that changed your life’
Dear Someone That Changed My Life,
I bet you did not have the least idea that you’d become THE reason for my change, sort of the last straw on the camel’s back and all that. But that is exactly what happened.
I won’t go back to the times before we came into each other’s life. There is nothing there worth going back to. I had made my peace long before. Things would never change, I realized. So I vowed to change things in the future life I was going to make for myself. Alas! Woman proposes and the mother-in-law disposes.
It is true that I had questions against the system of functioning of society the way it was (and is, for that matter). I disagreed with a lot that was happening all around me in the treatment of women. But all those questions and disagreements were locked inside me, rarely articulated. Not only am I an introvert by nature, I found that when I tried talking of some of the things that went on in my mind, all I got were blank stares and/or derisive laughter. I learnt quickly enough that it was wiser to keep the results of my thinking to myself. On my part I have never really understood why women cannot understand how they are being manipulated skilfully to retain their secondary status and be proud of it too.
Anyways, by the time we met, I had been successfully browbeaten and indoctrinated as most girl children eventually are. I had convinced myself that the popular notion of woman as a sacrificing devi was the one to aspire for. Women were applauded for conforming, made much of, looked at with approval and pointed to with pride (Yes, the skillful manipulation I was talking about). So when I entered your house as your bahu, I was already this ideal of womanhood with all the “right” ideas inculcated, ready to start off on that subservient and obedient life spoken of as the one meant for our gender.
Unfortunately for you (and fortunately for me), love, respect, obedience and all the rest of the bunkum that went with being an ideal woman (not talking back whatever you said, going hungry till you said I could eat, going out only with your permission, wearing what you wanted me to wear, so on and so forth) were not enough in a bahu for you. You were resentful that my parents did not have a money tree growing in their backyard. You had high hopes for the last of your sons which hopes I had summarily dashed by being inordinately poor for your taste.
How cheated you must have felt. But not any more cheated than I myself felt, by life (why was it the way it was), by my parents for putting me in this boat (or rather a bottomless lake when I didn’t even know to swim), by everyone around me in fact, who kept pretending there was nothing wrong and all this was part of a bahu’s life (adjust, adjust, adjust), for, like I often asked myself, “What wrong had I done to any of you?” Don’t you dare come up with the stupid karma theory. Karma is the peg people like you (and my parents) use to hang all your misdemeanors.
That question festered in my heart. It grew into a great big oozing sore. It kept me awake at nights. It made me lose appetite and weight. More importantly, my smile. The perfect life I was prepared to work hard for seemed like it was vanishing before I could even start work on it. There was NO ONE to stand up for me, not even my parents. There was no place I could go back to, not even my parents. Do you know what happens when someone is cornered? Unlike the rats who always fights back, humans take one of two choices: they either give up and die, or fight back. I chose to fight back, only because I had a reason. I was damned if I was going to let my children grow up seeing their mother humiliated, even though it was by their revered grandmother (and yet, I taught them to respect you, which they have done to the last of your days). I was not going to stand by watching ideas being planted into their heads that I was a good for nothing. That I had listened to it all my life from the time I was born was different. But. Not. From. Now. On.
It was not a momentous breaking off of walls that followed. It was a long and arduous journey. It took long, very very long to come out of the shadows and be who I am now. In fact, I am still a work in progress. You, dear mother-in-law, albeit unwittingly so, were the one who put me on that road by cornering me and leaving me with no choices at all. So I write this letter to you today to acknowledge the fact, that you are that someone who changed my life. More would join you later in different capacities, but you were the first major one.
I know at least some people would say it is a good thing what you did, for look where I find myself now. But you know what? Never mind. That’s a topic in itself and I will write on it some other day. For now I will just say that people who say that are talking bunkum.
Be happy wherever you are. You did me a favor, though in a very difficult way for me. Thanks, all the same.
Someone who you unknowingly and with the least intention of doing so, pushed on to the path of the very change you so disapproved. (Irony, eh?)
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©Shail Mohan 2014