I’ve always felt like an outsider in the family. The only person I could relate to was you. I remember you telling me about your childhood and how you would be always have your head buried in books, finishing a novel in a day.
One day, I too began reading. I read and read and read. It was proof for me that I was your daughter. I would tell you about the books I read, the authors I liked, the huge collection I wanted to build. It was so easy talking to you. On nights when you were in a particularly philosophical mood, after a drink or two, I would sit and listen to you. Mumma and my brother would soon wander off, bored. I would stay and listen. You would say things like “only my daughter understands me”. The biggest compliment I have ever received from you.
Growing up, I felt very proud of you for being modern. You would never talk to me about getting married, or learning any household chores with the aim of impressing future in-laws. I never told you this, but I would boast about you to my friends.
Now I’ve grown up. I am doing my masters and on the way I have acquired opinions – plenty of them, actually. I don’t think that it’s possible to study literature and continue being a clean slate.
Of course, I shared them with you. Finally, we could have a two-way conversation. But you rejected them and oh, how it broke my heart. I would tell you of new theories I had learned and you would say “you need to learn more”. I would say I have been taught and have thoroughly researched these topics and you would say, “Beta, you talk too fast. It’s so difficult to understand you. If you go for any interview in life, they would have to be patient with you.”
I would still try to get you to listen to me and you would say “this is not how things work”.
I’ve been home for two months now, since the lockdown. In these two months, I tried my hand at digital illustration. When I looked at you, you merely nodded and smiled. I also took a test and scored really well. You said “it’s good” but couldn’t understand why I “didn’t score as much in the finals”.
Today, Mumma was sick so I took care of all the household chores. You smiled at me and complimented my efforts. Today, I tried again to tell about something I learned, about how gender is a social construct.
You said I’m wrong and that it’s all natural. The mother gives birth and so she must feed, it’s there in nature. That a woman would cook and a man would be satisfied with that home-made meal.
I elaborated my point and explained how society dictates our actions. You said firstly that I talk too fast and secondly, that women do a great deal for their family – “yet there are some who do less and you might be one of them”.
Papa, I learned something new today. In our house, we teach women; we educate them. If they speak of what they have learned, we stop them and tell them how wrong they are. But we do educate them.
I wish I could tell you about this, but I talk too fast.
Simran Kaur is a literature student who has a cliched love for reading, writing and Greek mythology.
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