To celebrate this month of Being a Woman, Vibha Women’s Co-Founder, Ganesh Vancheeswaran has captured a topic which to me, spells what quite a few of us women folk experience sometimes ( hopefully a phase that’s passing)! After all, it’s in a state of mind 🙂
While motherhood involves many sacrifices, it definitely does not mean giving up on yourself. But, that is exactly what many women have done.
This Woman’s Day, do you want to change something about yourself?
Ramya opens the door to her flat to let me in. She is glad to see me. She is an old acquaintance, who I was meeting after nearly six months. Though we had never been close friends, we were good acquaintances. We had gotten to know each other well when we lived in the same colony for three years. I remember her as a spunky girl, filled with a zest for life. Outside of her job as an architect, she was keen on a bunch of things like trekking, dancing and cycling. Why, she even used to find time every week to volunteer at a small school in our locality!
When she got married, she moved away to another part of town. But we continued to be in touch, meeting off and on. I had met her husband too on a few occasions. A pleasant chap with a ready smile, I remember telling myself.
Some work has taken me to her neighbourhood today. I remember that she lives in the area and think it’ll be good to catch up with her.
I call, she answers and says ‘yes of course, you must come over’. And so, here I am at her flat.
As the door opens, I am puzzled. The woman at the door looks so different from the Ramya I know. For a few seconds, I actually wonder if this is she at all. Gone are her hallmark features: a wide smile, a face brimming over with vitality and a very eager manner. In their stead, I see a woman who has lost weight to the point of looking skinny, a tired face, drooping shoulders and a look that can only be described as ‘drained’. In short, I see a listless woman who is making a brave attempt at smiling.
My mind is in a daze. I hope she doesn’t read the shock on my face.
We get talking. She tells me that her husband is at work and is expected home any time now. He works for a leading construction firm and is doing well in his career. He is ambitious, spends long hours at work and frequently brings work home too. I notice that our conversation is disjointed. While she is talking to me, she is also feeding her son, who is about six years old. She answers me in short sentences, looking distracted all the time. Sometimes, she doesn’t even look at me as she answers. Her eyes constantly flit from my face to her son – to her maid who is dusting something – to the clock and then back to her son……And all the while, she is talking. I have the surreal feeling that she is addressing several other people in the room.
Ramya tells me that she took a year-long maternity break and then got back to work. But, when her relatives and a few friends started questioning her decision (‘Are you sure about this?’ ‘But what about the child? How can you leave him and go to work?’), she started feeling extremely guilty. And when she could not take it anymore, she quit her job and turned housewife. Ever since, she has hardly stepped out of home, spending all the time looking after the child, the husband and the house.
I think to myself ‘No wonder you look like this. You need some fresh air, girl.’ But I refrain from voicing my thoughts, because after all, I don’t know her too well. Something tells me this is her personal space…and I am not close enough to go there.
A little later, I ask her ‘You are looking tired and weak. What’s up?’ She shrugs her shoulders and mumbles ‘Oh, nothing. Aise hi yaar.’ After that, the conversation goes something like this:
Me: ‘But you used to be very healthy. You have gone pale and look weak. The change is pretty dramatic.’
She: ‘Really? I hadn’t noticed.’ A short pause and then ‘But, I am feeling ok; so, chalega.’
Me: ‘Did you have lunch?’
She: ‘Of course. A paratha.’
Me: ‘Just that? But how will that be enough?’
She: ‘Oh, it is enough. Anyway, who notices yaar? One eats whatever is there. I had so much to do today, you know? Fold clothes, buy groceries, pay some bills…. and then, this little fellow woke up. In between all this, I just didn’t get the time to eat properly.’
Me: ‘But you can eat after you have taken care of your son. After all, he is what…six years old now? He’ll keep playing as you eat. Or, your maid can be with him for some time.’
She (with an extremely unconvinced look): ‘Yeah, I know. But Mayank really needs me. How can I leave him alone or with the maid?’
Me (it is my turn to look unconvinced now, but I let it go and change the topic): ‘We are off for a fortnight from Friday. As soon as we return, you must come home. Charu (my wife) will be happy to see you too.’
She (surprised): ‘Oh. Where are you guys going?’
Me: ‘To a place called Fort Kochi and from there, to Thenmala. It is a beautiful hamlet up in the hills of Kerala.’
She (with a wistful look washing over her face): ‘Wow. Sounds like fun. Wish I could come with you too.’
A small pause later, she continues ‘You guys just up and go on the spur of the moment. I love that. I often tell my husband about this habit of yours. I wish we too could be that way.’
I smile in a slightly embarrassed manner and say: ‘But you too can be just like this, you know. It is not as difficult as it seems to you. You just have to allow yourself to take these breaks. ’
She (lost in thought): ‘Hmm….but somehow, we are just not able to do it.’
By now, she looks positively distraught. I sense her dilemma and don’t want to rub it in. I talk about this and that for a few more minutes. Just as I am about to leave, her husband Amit walks in. We shake hands and I stay back, talking to him for a few more minutes.
As I finally leave, Ramya says to me earnestly ‘Call me when you folks return from your vacation. I will surely come over to your place. We could even do lunch somewhere and catch a film.’ Her face lights up as she says this, but I feel a pang of I don’t know what. I say ok.
As I drive back home, I am deeply disturbed by what I have seen and felt at Ramya’s place. Her hunched shoulders, drawn face and sober tone flash past in my mind. Something is very wrong with her. Her entire personality had changed for the worse. She seems to have just collapsed into herself! Deep at heart, I know what the reason is.
She is obsessed with her role as a mother and as a wife, and has stopped thinking of herself as an individual. It started off because her relatives and friends thrust upon her a sense of guilt which she did not probably feel herself. But then, the sense of guilt seemed to have grown on her like a cloak, covering her completely and masking her true self – the woman she really was.
And perhaps, over a period of time, she grew used to being like this…and had slowly degenerated into a zombie state. In a sense, she lost her emotional and mental fertility – and become a barren woman.
And for this, I would not blame her husband or anybody else. Amit was not a tyrant who insisted that his wife sacrifice herself for her home and hearth. On the contrary, I know that he often asks Ramya to take it easy and to go out once in a while. He has even asked her to get back to work if she wants to.
But, she has been stopping herself from doing any of this.
I have seen this happen to other women – friends, cousins, neighbours in my colony. All of them seem to have gone into a shell after the birth of their child (or children, in the case of some) and have simply forgotten how to laugh and enjoy life. They rarely step out of home, other than to take the child down to play. There is no question of watching a movie, getting together with friends, hitting a pub or going out of town on a break. In short, none of the things a normal, healthy, self-respecting adult would want to do.
It is as though, in becoming a mother and a wife, they have forgotten to be themselves. They have forgotten the women in them. Which is such a tragedy!
Dear young mother reading this, do you see a Ramya in yourself? Have you too forgotten the woman in you? Are you too leading the life of a zombie? Are you taking your ‘job’ as mother and wife too seriously? Scandalous as it may sound, perhaps you have become a barren woman?
This Woman’s Day, how about breaking out of it and rediscovering yourself?
How about rediscovering the multi-hued joys of life? How about realizing that while motherhood and wifehood involve many sacrifices, they definitely do not ask you to sacrifice yourself? How about getting back to your passions in life? How about chasing that long-forgotten dream again? How about becoming mentally and emotionally fertile again?
In other words, how about finding the woman in you again?
Do check out this nice article here: http://goo.gl/Am2UOS
More on Ganesh and one of his writing blogs : You can find my writings at http://www.ganeshv.com/published-work/ and connect with me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ganesh.vancheeswaran.5