My Choice

by Krithika Kris R

I got this email today, from a close friend. She said, “Isn’t this what is going on with the human race now? Something that was scripted for the Matrix Revolutions seems to perfectly fit into our realities.”

Agent Smith: Why, Mr. Anderson? Why do you do it? Why get up? Why keep fighting? Do you believe you're fighting for something? For more than your survival? Can you tell me what it is? Do you even know? Is it freedom? Or truth? Perhaps peace? Yes? No? Could it be for love? Illusions, Mr. Anderson. Vagaries of perception. The temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose. And all of them as artificial as the Matrix itself, although only a human mind could invent something as insipid as love. You must be able to see it, Mr. Anderson. You must know it by now. You can't win. It's pointless to keep fighting. Why, Mr. Anderson? Why? Why do you persist?

Neo: Because I choose to.

The human races struggles; and I stop to wonder about this struggle. Why? And the answer always comes back to Why not? They say we have choices, so many of them, rainbow filled skies of choices. And we make them, choose them so meticulously, with so much thought, peppered with hopes and dreams. And then the age-old war of man vs. woman comes up. It always does.

“Why do women get free entry into a bar/pub? And what’s with the ladies nights at all pubs? We should have a men’s night as well.” Yes, sure, not enough you take over our entire lives; now you want free entry. THAT hurts your male ego? Free entry? Take it then. Please. We don’t need it.

Moving on to more important stories: I have been working, full time since I was 18 years old. I never did the things that 18-year-olds do. I’m older now and I still cannot wear clothes that my age group wears, and flaunts. Three years were spent with a father, a grandmother and maternal uncle who had complete control over my wardrobe. Not that they don’t exist now, or don’t still try to control my clothes; I just decided to make a choice at some point. I guess I have rebelled with choice of clothing within a small boundary of sorts, a thin line that I choose to jump across when I travel, or when I dare to breathe in my city. And even today, my father looked at my sleeveless top and did not appreciate it. It does not show cleavage, it does not look like I am naked, it looks fine, and it is the beginning of summer. I want to, need to grow out of my self-imposed ideas of clothing. But of course, my small, middle class family will and does not appreciate it. After comments on showing my legs in shorts, I have been scarred. I think a billion times before I wear something that stops at my knees. It doesn’t mean I don’t do it. I guess that is the biggest challenge – to get past the small things.

Do I feel liberated? Sometimes. When nobody stares at my legs, or at my arms. But in a saree, showing off your midriff, flaunting it even, seems like a better choice. Less sexual. Or that’s what they say. I wonder who “they” are. Why cannot it be simple; as simple as live and let live. Women of our ancestors wore the sacred thread (now only for men), they smoked, indulged in a drink or two, loved sex and flaunted their men and women. Can we please go back?

Why is it so hard to be free?

Let us for one moment ignore the women of the urban class. We seem to be completely spoilt and irresponsible adults in “their” eyes. Let’s go lower, to villages, towns, slums and the like. Do the women there want things for themselves? It might be as simple as wanting to go see the Taj Mahal with her mother and sister. Or not having to come back home to a drunk husband. Or a lonely house. Or wanting to read a book, watch a movie, sing, dance. But do they? What are they bound by? It comes back to the man – He won’t like it, he won’t let me go with my family, he is my husband, and I cannot leave him. The list of excuses wrapped up into something that we call culture, tradition, reality. Then the women who are the extremists, who will actually put a knife at your throat, yes you, you who likes to go sing karaoke in that sleeveless t-shirt of yours. You, who has male friends, you, who likes to smoke or enjoy a cold beer on a hot day.

Of course. I asked for it. I really did.

I asked for a world that is safe, like a mother’s womb. I asked for one day where I am not ridiculed or thought of as a whore. I asked for one day where my co-worker would consider that I am worth it as a person. Not because I am a woman. I asked for a day when I can hold my partner in my arms, in public, without being married. I asked for a day when I can adopt without having a husband. I asked for a day when the police will accept my complaint without mocking my situation. Is this too much?

I have met beautiful women, strong, competitive women who have followed their hearts and desires. I know that takes strength, a lifetime worth of strength. To tell a family that wants to milk out a doctor, that you’d rather run off to Europe to sing and play music, takes a lot more courage. To tell a family that you’d rather concentrate on your career than get married, takes a lot more courage. To tell a family that you love women and one day hope to settle with the girl of your dreams, takes a lot more courage. Women are powerful; they have evolved among the eyes of evil and hate. They have grown new wings, new desires and fight for everything that rightfully belongs to them.

My mother and grandmother stand to be big inspirations. Inside the circles of limitations, they thought and did a lot more than what was considered acceptable. My mother worked in advertising in the 90s, when the rest of the daughter-in-laws were in “respectable” government jobs or were housewives. My mother spoke to and laughed with a divorcee in our family, who was always invited to family events, but no one spoke to her with kindness. All of us have stories like this, and these are the stories that make up our choices, our opinions. My grandmother is one of the strongest women I have had the pleasure of being around as an adult. When her 18-year-old granddaughter came up to her, with shaking hands and trembling lips to tell her she’d rather work than stay in college, she said “So, you don’t want to depend on your father? Will you finish your degree while you work? Now, if you do that, you have my blessing to start working.” And my uncle stood behind her and agreed. Over the years she has told me with tears in her eyes, “Be strong, stay in a job, be safe. Do not end up like me. Once I depended on my father, then my husband and now my son. I have had nothing to call my own, except my children. And to lose my daughter has been the hardest. So be strong, do not end up like me.” Of course she also doesn’t let the topic of marriage slide by that easily, it is hard for her to understand that I want to marry when the I feel the time is right. But she has never once made a huge fuss; I guess she never wants me to depend on a man the way she had to. And to lose a daughter made that fact a larger part of her life; the only existing part. In her I see constant evolution. I would never imagine her to be this free with me, and my choices. I guess she grew up a little with me and I cherish being a part of this side of her. In our little boundary of culture and tradition, I have found a way to steer away from what is called normal, by working “unconventional” jobs, having “unconventional” friends, listening to “unconventional” music, wearing pants and t-shirts.

And in the journey of finding myself and not making conventional life decisions, I have demanded a special kind of respect that has been earned on my own; and as life would have it; I am always surrounded by the women who have broken the conventions. “He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.” Friedrich Nietzsche. So make that first step and trust me, you’ll be flying higher than your imagination; do not fear, do not drown in facades of realities. Just start somewhere. Choices are everywhere. They make us the person we are and we are the reality of this existence. Choose wisely, and life will choose you back. Do not give up, and do not give in.

I leave you with lyrics from Amos Lee:

“I am at ease in the arms of a woman.
Although now,
most of my days I spend alone.
A thousand miles,
from the place I was born.
But when she wakes me,
she takes me back home.”

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