She walks, talks, cries and laughs. Pretty ‘normal’ to all of you. She was taught ‘normalcy.’ Normalcy for women means endurance and keeping a piggy bank inside: a bank where she will deposit her pain, wounds, wrath, anger and memories. And she is expected to throw the keys forever.
Memories of that darkness her mother told her could bring shame to her. Her mother also taught her that shame is only a woman’s prerogative. She is shamed for not wearing a burqa, for not cooking food well, for not having a low voice, and even the noise of her breathing can bring shame to her. Shame, shame, shame – all can bring shame to the women! A father was so ashamed of his dark-skinned daughter that he became an alcoholic! And finally disowned his daughter for another wife. How could he bear such enormous pain! And an extramarital affair and wine rescued him!
So her memories were shameful, as her mother said. She locked her memories as her mother hushed her when she showed her the visible wounds, the wounds she suffered in the four walls people call a ‘safe space’.
But memories have memories too. Time and again, those memories flash on as Meta brings back your memories on your timelines. Meta gives you the option to mute or share. But for her or women like her, there is no other option but to mute the memories, gulp down the tears and behave ‘normal’. Normalcy and status quo is expected to fully be women’s endeavours!
Memories of those dark groping hands inching towards her body, scratching her tiny buds, biting her thighs and tearing up the hymen (the existence of which she knows later after that virginity test of the ‘suhag raat‘) flash on and numb her.
Her husband calls her frigid and eccentric. The shoving of the crowded bus, the greedy eyes of the men, the groping, and the smell of her first boyfriend to her last husband all trigger her hushed memories. She lives in limbo.
She tries to heal. But the cotton balls that she put on her wounds after those dark encounters of childhood only grow with time. The darkness engulfs her, overwhelms her and finally, she gives up when the lines between the memories and her present seem blurry to her. What’s the difference between the man who raped her in childhood and the man whom everyone calls her husband forces her every day! When both do it inside the four walls of her home with absolute impunity!
Now, you, the readers, are more curious about who she is! Does it matter? It’s memories of talking to you, memories of your very near and dear ones. She might not be that unlucky like the ones of Hathras, Delhi and Kamduni or she might not be Surekha Bhotmange. But is she really lucky enough?
It’s all the hushed, suppressed, throttled memories talking to you. The memories of drawing rooms, bedrooms and homes that smeared darkness and she were never allowed to heal. Remember, memories have memories too. They can talk back, even from the graves.
She refused to be her mother, she teaches her daughter that shame is not only a woman’s entitlement. Yes, her memories have found her voice and today she is talking out loud.
Moumita Alam is a poet from West Bengal. Her poetry collection The Musings of the Dark is available on Amazon.
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