Freedom of speech

Looking at our yapping tongues and unshuttable mouths, who would believe India was ever not an independent country- since time immemorial we have had an unhindered and boundless right to speak -other things I am not knowledgeable enough to comment on, but one thing we are really affluent with is the freedom to speak and indulge in others’ matters. And this fact hit me once again like a tornado while I was back home in India. Am I being a late reactor? Well, things take time to sink in my head , considering I had been there almost two months ago.
I am not sure about men, but all women – married or single, pretty or ugly (these are the classifications from a man’s point of view) meet these situations every other day. So every distant aunt, cousin, cousin’s mother-in-law , that mother-in-law’s friend, friend of mom’s friend, sister-in-law of that mom’s friend, aunt’s daughter-in-law, that daughter-in-law’s sister,neighbor’s neice , that neice’s father-in-law’s brother’s wife, that wife’s sister, et all –all have a birthright to question your weight gain/loss, your kids’ height, your fertility, your family plans, your income and your well-offness – after all, all women you see constitute a close-knit fraternity of which you are a part. So, there is no escape anywhere, those appendages are bound to clutch you from just nowhere and anywhere.And I find myself in a precarious and delicate condition- because if I retort it will be because of my snobbish amreeki attitude and a loss-of-roots culture. And silence is not taken as a hint to just end it but as an umbrage, so you have to also mumble acceptance and ‘theek baat hai’ and ‘sahi hai’ in between. But also the beauty of it is that you can be taciturn as you like, and without you making much effort, the conversation can still go on for hours.And today when I give it a serious that, I find that all through my trip,the only woman who did not ask me a personal question was my own mom.
So, soon as you see any of the inspectors belonging to the vast sea group I described above, there will be a head to toe inspection and I can read it before it comes out –“Kamzor ho gayee, pichhli baar achhi thi.” This I take as a compliment so I can fit into some of my old clothes, but for them it reads like – “Maybe you guys are not doing well enough to afford a bellyful of food.” Suggestions to the diet are to include desi ghee, badaam and home-made makkhan. Nodding affirmation all the time, I sluggishly attribute my sehat to work and family and questions arise about work hours , that lead to the indomitable axiom – “Teaching is best for women. Short working hours – good for family life.” I can’t beat that I know and I myself start harping about the benefits of being a teacher.
In the second episode enters my son, which looks to me like a whiff of fresh air in that stale atmosphere , but not for long. After assessment of the situation about his age and then skirting the issue with compliments about his growing height etc, comes the final blow- “So when are you planning the second child?”. I smile, I don’t know, I am not sure.But that does not satisfy the already kindled fire beneath and the wisdom and judgement is bubbling to ooze out.
So, there will be an inevitable tale about some neice’s sister-in-law who was trying to have a child and was helped by some Dr X to achieve the goals. And about some sister’s son who was lonesome and depressed because of being a single child of his parents. And if the reaction from me, the client, is not favorable enough , then comes – “Maybe after you settle down a little, when you can stay at home and look after the kids.” This surely reads as –“Your husband doesn’t make enough money, so you work to make both ends meet and that’s the reason you have just one child.”
So,all my life, my career goals, my bank balance, my son’s personality, my husband’s paycheck all are under scrutiny and observation and question for all and sundry. There lies the beauty of our open society and free-of-charge- totally personalized, customized -marriage counseling, career counseling, dietician’s recommendation, child psychology, family-planning advice- all rolled into a one-stop-shop. What more can one ask for?

Comments

  1. And Sara, how can you forget the कितने दुबले हो गए हो for expressing warmth! This is a rather funny expression that is applied even to those who need medical attention for obesity :)

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