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In Between

Of Borrowed Bikinis

It’s what families do to me. It’s what my family does to me. This feeling that they are taking away from me what is mine – my body, my space, my idea of who I am and who I want to be like. It feels the way bodies sometimes react to danger. Like how 5 seconds before your body knows it’s going to touch concrete, it cringes and you taste blood in your mouth, like air squeezed out from your lungs.

I am 14, puberty and all. We are out on a holiday. I spend most of the night thinking about touch and sex and love only to be woken up rudely by mother at 6:30 in the morning. I have barely slept and not fully recovered from fantasies. We have to go out for a walk, all of us together, with the family. I don’t want to go, I say sleepily. I don’t have a choice because they can’t leave a girl alone, all by herself in a hotel room. The reason makes me slightly mad. Now I really don’t want to go even though I am wide awake because mother is being stubborn again.

No, we have to go because we have to see the sun and anyway I get to sleep at home how much ever I want. I fight, they shout, we leave. On the walk, they have a new problem. I am not looking happy ‘enough’. I have to enjoy because I am out with family. I didn’t want to because I didn’t feel like I had control over my body anymore. I had wet the bed, with no time to bathe or change, I was out for the walk with wet panties stinking from between my legs. I felt sicker because they were all watching me, forcing me to look happy.

I am 17, I have PTA. Mother gets there 30 minutes early and stands behind a pillar to watch if I am talking to any of the boys. Fast forward to 5 years later, my sister and mother joke about dad’s expression if he were to find out that she gets dropped home by her male friends on their two wheelers.

I am 20. I have a bad headache. Mother wants the grinder repaired. There are 3 other people at home perfectly capable of getting it repaired. But mother is convinced that I have to go. Maybe because she is mad at me for being in love (which I was), maybe she is mad at herself because she didn’t have enough evidence to prove it, maybe she is mad at me for lying, but for now she is mad at me for not waking up soon as she screamed my name to get the fucking grinder repaired.

I am 20. I want to go for a sleepover. She throws her plate of food away because I asked her why I can’t go. Every one at home is mad at me because she hasn’t eaten that night. I didn’t go for the sleepover.

I am 23. I get a job in Mysore, which isn’t too far away from home. Surprisingly they agree. But mother has cried thrice already because I looked ‘too’ happy to go to another city. I can’t find accommodation. Mother and father have BP issues so I have to quit. I spend more than a month at home, unemployed and depressed and now I have to stomach the fact that my sister is going to Pune to work. ‘They have people we know there’ ‘You’ll get a job soon, don’t worry’.

I am 23. Another sleepover. Dad yells, I yell back, he says he is going to slap me, mother lets me go.

I am 24. I have lied enough to learn that I don’t have to deal with any of the drama at home if I keep lying. So I keep lying.

I am 25. I have to wear a Saree for a cousin’s wedding. I don’t want to wear it but she looks tired and unhealthy and apparently her menopause becomes worse when I don’t wear a Saree. So I say ok. My sister doesn’t have to wear one because our clients only like chubby girls. When she puts on enough weight, she will be forced into a saree and made to stand in front of strangers who will rape her with their eyes. But now it is my turn to be raped.

I feel naked in a saree because I don’t want to wear it. I might wear a bikini and feel more clothed so long as I have decided to wear a bikini. I can’t talk to them about this. I don’t think they will understand.

I am 25. I am going to travel alone for the first time. I am excited. I don’t care that I had to lie to be here, doing my own thing, paying with my own money. I am glad I am here. They can all go to hell because for 3 days now, I am the master of my time on a holiday that I am paying for, where I will wear bikinis and run on beaches. I will think about the Saree later, when I have satisfied my body with a bikini.

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In Between

Nothing here

I gruelingly remember my undergraduate years at Jain College. Blow after blow, bully after bully, fight after fight.  A lot of my time was invested in either escaping said bullies or trying to confront them in my head, making speeches. I made terrible friends, wasted all my time in a college that was as aimless as its students. I didn’t know what I wanted from my career. Too much time was spent worrying about potential love failure. Too much more time was wasted in romance that didn’t blossom when it had to.

Being in love can be very exhausting. At 16, the exhaustion seemed weightless.  Also, I was too young to notice that I was exhausted. All my decisions were based on him.  Where we would eat, where we would go for the vacation, where we would make out next, which movie to watch, what lies should I tell at home, what excuses aren’t already taken. Not far behind was also the lurking, overwhelming sense of whether or not all of this was worth it.

I hate to admit, but maybe falling in love at 16 wasn’t really an achievement as I hoped it would be. I must be the bigger person here and also say that mother was probably right. I can never be so sure about this because back then, this wasn’t a house that encouraged a career in the humanities. Marriage proposals from men two decades older than me were considered and pursued with much enthusiasm just because I was anyway a B.A English student.

But my misdirected rage against them was no excuse for having exploited 3 prime years of my life, chasing nothing, but they didn’t seem like nothings then. They were what caused me dark circles – prolonged wait and hope for calls that never came, for text messages that were never returned, for love that remained unrequited long after I was his, and he, mine.

I don’t know how we’ve made it this far; maybe because for a good seven years of my life I gave it all of myself.  With every promise, every wound, every funny story, every fight, every touch. I did write now and then but they were all a bunch of things I could never tell him out loud. Like how much I hurt because of the sudden intense moments of love I often felt.

It doesn’t hurt now because the pain is all too familiar. The love remains and so do struggles of memory and hurt and fear.  I pass by that college every day on my way to work. On bad days, I cringe when I pass by those demon gates, on better days I laugh and feel secretly relieved about the disconnection I have managed with the college and its people.

It’s not as if I have outgrown the girl I was behind those gates. I still run after love in more or less the same ways. Except that my capacity for exhaustion seems to have plummeted down to obscene levels.

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In Between

I am not PMSing

And then there are days like these when somebody who really cares about you will strip reality and lay it bare for you to look at and wonder. It’s not something you have never heard of before. You have heard of it, but just in twisted ways. It is just something you have been taught to be really afraid of, something that your parents dread happening to you- which is the simple happiness of being alone. Now that I’m beyond being mad at society and all, I can look at this shit and continue being mad at them.

I mean, look around us – everybody and everything seem to be fixated upon instilling this fear of being alone in us. And they are doing it beautifully. They won’t come to you directly and tell you that it sucks to be alone, They will fill your head with a whole lot of crap about marriage and kids and family and love and this paranormal idea of ‘the one’. It’s a freaking conspiracy. Movies will take away 3 hours from your goddamned life just to tell you that there is someone out there for you and that your sole reason for existence is to go and find this person. T.V shows will be named after finding somebody significant in life and they will also run a whole set of 9 seasons to bloody tell you that the idea of ‘the one’ is real. And we buy this shit because we have been trained into believing that we need love and nourishment and that family is the most important thing and that human beings are incapable of living alone.

The only argument they have for pulling this shit is that we are not animals. And that because we live in society, we need order. But aren’t animals way happier than us? Why does this gross insistence on family life not acknowledge beauteous things like choice or options or even priorities for that matter.

Why does living alone have to be dreaded? Are we so disgusted with ourselves that just the thought of spending time with ourselves drives us into manifesting a whole civilization hell bent on forcing people to live with each other and produce babies? And aren’t there enough babies already? Somebody seriously has to start working on that. I mean, why are there so many babies? Is it legal?

Why are people force fed into this condition to have babies and in so much excess? First, you complain about not getting paid enough, then you go have babies? Why? Because some lame ass man wrote something crappy about marriage and kids? This baby thing is seriously scary man. And nobody seems at all worried about it.

Some really unhappily married couples couldn’t see that the others were unmarried and happy so they had to pull them into this mess. Whatever the reason, all around us is the barking mad view of a culture that doesn’t see choice as a way of life because it sees itself way too much.

Yes I am ranting because I am mad at this. I was 16 when I first fell in love and went straight into believing that I would live happily ever after with him. And I am still with him. So this is not a post break up angst. I just really think we need to look at living alone as a choice and not something that we should run away from, all our lives.