Friday, July 27, 2012

Of Changes and Choices

"The only constant in the world is change."

This statement is one of my all-time favourites because of its profoundness and the use of contrasting words to describe a universal truth. Be it a sunny sky giving way to a thunderstorm, my decision to choose a new flavour at Baskin Robbins because I got bored of the old one or when oppressed people revolt against tyranny, change is everywhere. From the infinitesimal quarks to the infinite universe, everything is in a continuous process of change.

Without change, we'd still be the savages of prehistoric times, clad in animal skin and eating shoots and leaves. Change is the very essence of life, preventing it from being dull or monotonous.

And it is one of my biggest fears.

Change means taking chances and venturing into uncharted territory, which entails a lot of what-ifs that drive me crazy. What if I fail? What if others ridicule me? I need to know what's going on and what's going to happen before I make I choice; while the former is possible, the latter, most often not. I'm afraid whether my choice will take me to a situation worse than the present. I know this feeling all too well - you get used to it when you lose crucial points in a quiz while guessing an answer. What if it's wrong? (But then, what if it's correct?)

This epiphany about changes and choices was probably the result of the soul-searching while Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken" was being taken in English. Anyway, I resolved to take one small step towards conquering this fear of mine by going forward with a change I've been deferring for a long time: changing the name of this blog.

Yes, I'm afraid whether I will come to regret this decision, like Gogol Ganguli changing his name to Nikhil in The Namesake. Because a name isn't just that. It is your identity, something that defines you, something other people recognize you by. I'm anxious whether people will say, "The old name was better." But I feel this step is one I have to take, to break free from the juvenileness associated with the title "My Li'l World."

And so, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Metamorphosis. Where cocoons of ideas transform into moths of fulfillment.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Short Story: Chromosomes XX

Not-so-dear husband of mine,

The clock claims that it’s only an hour and a half since the alcoholic storm began. It must be lying, since it feels like aeons to me. An eternity of punches and slaps and kicks, of cuts and scratches and bruises.

And I did not scream, not even once.

I know that frustrates you. Maybe that’s why I remain silent throughout the daily tortures – I like to think it as my only way of rebelling, though it only serves to infuriate you further. The pleasure of not giving you the satisfaction of knowing for sure that you’d hurt me, that’s what sustains me through the night. But today, you went too far: You slapped Asha for crying loudly.

“Shekhar’s boy is nice and well-behaved! Why can’t this accursed brat just shut up!” you growled. As if my brother-in-law’s spoiled betaa hadn’t bawled when he was four months old. I would have said all that, and much more, but I was too fond of my life and that of my daughter’s to test your patience. But it was as if your slap had jolted me, not Asha, out of my stupor. It brought me to my senses and now I know what I have to do.

Even the full moon is finding my actions blasphemous; it has stormed away behind a cloud, trying to deter me with darkness. But nothing, nothing, will stop me from taking this chance.

Because I can easily see my daughter  growing up into a beautiful woman, only to get caught in that vicious cycle that I, my mother, my grandmother and great-grandmothers all lived… only to replay the sorrows we had to live through. 

I can see her, eight years old, draped in an old red cloth, eyes lined with kohl and hands daubed in mehendi, adjusting the countless bead necklaces around her and flashing a pretty smile at the imaginary onlookers at her “wedding”. Her naïveté makes me want to cry. 

I can see her grow and discover all what she had missed in the hullabaloo of hide-and-seek and hopscotch: her father’s icy indifference towards her, the pitying looks her parents received when people learned they had a girl, the disapproving creases in the elders’ foreheads  as she studied diligently while skipping a chore or two…

I can see her glowing with pride as her teacher praised her work and said, sadly, that she was destined for greatness. I can see her, at fifteen, eyes flashing in anger as she was placed under house arrest while the boys went off to the city for higher studies.

I can see her watching her father bargaining with the ladkewale over the dowry. I can see that bitter smile on her face as she thinks how uncannily he resembles her mother haggling with the greengrocer over the prices of the vegetables.

I can see her getting married for real, her destiny knotted with that of a burly man she’d never even seen before.

I can see the terror and grief on her face as she sees her father’s lifeless body hanging from the rafters of her childhood home. On the floor, her mother lies, spread-eagled, an empty bottle of rat poison clutched in her cold hands. A crumpled piece of paper proclaims about a loan that could not be repaid.

I can see her kneeling in front of the temple, praying fervently for her unborn child not to be a girl. Please let it be a boy, she will plead as the camphor seeped through the morning air, I’ll do anything, anything, to prevent a child sharing my fate. If she was lucky, she would be lead a better life, compared to enduring the taunts and the scathing comments about giving birth to a girl. I can see her wondering how her mother-in-law could forget that she herself possessed XX chromosomes. (You’ve forgotten the lesson on Genetics, back in tenth standard, haven't you? I thought so.)

I can easily see history repeating itself. And as Asha’s tiny fist close around my little finger as a grapevine coils around a support, yearning for strength, I realize it’s time I became her greatest support. It’s time someone rewrote the storyline that has been parroted for generations. It’s time I earned my freedom. It's time I just left.

And, for once, I want to scream out loud. I want to scream in wild joy, scream without inhibitions.

Refusing to be yours,
A woman, and proud of it.