Every evening, Veena spent an hour at the park. A short and slightly plump woman of forty, Veena had been told that exercise and a balanced diet was the only way to cope with diabetes. The park was usually crowded in the evenings. Several ladies discussing domestic issues monopolized the walking track, middle aged men walked in a medium pace in clusters while techies jostled in-between these groups jogging spiritedly and occasionally children raced through the track, bumping their way through.
In such conditions, one inadvertently heard snatches of conversations that entertained the listener greatly. Young working women chatted about their workplace and the challenges of managing the household, middle aged ladies complaining about their husbands, children, in-laws, domestic helpers and generally everybody who disagreed with them while the grannies mostly hobbled around at a slow pace or discussed the achievements of their grandchildren in the comforts of a bench. The men on the other hand mostly discussed politics and cricket while some ranted about their wives.
One evening, as Veena was walking towards the park, three girls, probably in their pre-teens came out of the park. They appeared to be having a deep discussion. The girl in the middle looked confused and upset while the other two were doing the talking.
“Accept it, you were born a girl and will remain one all your life” said one of the two.
“Yeah, what makes you feel so bad about it? You can’t change things. Accept the fact” added the other.
The girl in between them remained silent but it was clear from her skeptical looks that she wasn’t convinced.
Veena smiled to herself as she heard this. It reminded her of her own search for an identity during her youth.
Born in village near Bangalore, Veena, for most of her childhood had hated herself. It came as a consequence of the continual nagging of her family. Since she was born in a patriarchal family, Veena’s birth was heralded as “yet another bundle of expenses” and she had been looked down upon for the only reason that she was a girl. Initially it had surprised her innocent mind, but over time she grew accustomed to the ways of her family.
Her teenage years were tormented. She could no longer stand the snide remarks, the unwarranted chiding and longed for love and affection. What amazed her was that her detractors were mostly the female members of the family. Didn’t they realize that they were no different?
In her quest for love and appreciation, she participated in boys’ games and helped the men on the fields, hoping that she would finally gain acceptance in her family. She was mistaken. They had found another reason to castigate her.
“Since you’ve had the misfortune of being born as a girl, at least behave like one! What’s all this tomboy behavior?” berated her grandmother.
Veena had a miserable time during those years and had grown to consider being born a girl as a curse. Out of desperation and determination to get away from the wretched backwardness of her village, she left the village in the hope of a better life in Bangalore.
Due to the kindness of a stranger, she found employment and consequently, a good income and an accommodation. Here, Veena was exposed to the changing times, the progression in women’s empowerment and the rapidly evolving society.
Over time, she met a man, who loved and cared for her, for who she was and Veena settled down happily. She continued to work post marriage and they lived a contented life. She had made no attempt to reunite with her family and neither had they succeeded in tracing her. She was happier than ever before, yet the scars of her childhood left her in self-doubt and demoralized her at times.
Things changed forever on 20th September 1990, in a small room in a hospital, as she held her new born daughter in her hands. As she looked at the bundle of joy, tears brimmed in her eyes. She felt a strange, inexplicable sensation tingling in her; the beauty of Motherhood. She had never before felt so elated; despite the pain that seared through her, she felt at peace with herself. Motherhood had made her embrace the joy of being a woman.
She smiled to herself. She saw some similarity in the girl’s predicament. But she knew, a time would come, when the girl would feel ecstatic about what she probably regretted being today…
A few days back, I heard the exact same conversation as I've mentioned in the story, as I was walking to the park.. And that set me thinking.. Probably "Over thinking" :P