I had just cleared my tenth standard exams. It wasn’t a shining report card, but good enough to get me admission in any Junior College across the city, in a subject of my choice. I chose Maths. For three nights, my father did not come back home. I saw my mother break a bit, every day. For me, it was about deciding the course of my life. For him, it was ego, a jab at his masculinity, and a questioning of his “owning” his female child. I had known he was unhappy about my decision. I hadn’t anticipated a grown person’s ability to destroy a child’s sense of security and justice. When on the fourth day, my mother tearfully mentioned a threat of Divorce, I gave in. I went and returned the Maths books, and reluctantly bought thick books of Biology, a subject I hated.
Years later, when he was dying of Cancer, I admired his fighting spirit. I felt bad for him. He had been a proud man. And he never depended on anyone for anything, all his life.
But I did not forgive him. Not for what he had done to me, because frankly, I turned out fine, and went ahead with my life, exactly the way I had planned it. I did not forgive him for breaking a good woman who worked hard for her family, and who loved unconditionally.
Women can’t have it all. You can be an admired academician, with the love and respect of thousands of students. You can be a revered, soft spoken Principal of a Post Graduate college. You can be a talented singer, whose voice is the life of every house party. You can be a wonderful wife, who chose to put her family and marriage before herself, every single time. But a man will threaten to divorce you, because you could not get yourself to stoop to the level of destroying your daughter’s sense of self. It’s no coincident that soon after this, my mother started withering away.
So yes, I have seen the ugliest aspect of what even an average woman, who in the eyes of the world hasn’t gone through trauma and tragedy, goes through in her own home. Would my father have even dreamt of doing this to his son? I am afraid not. The sad bit is, that later on in life, he did try to make amends. When he saw the single minded ruthlessness of my focus and drive, he realized that the only way to keep me was to let me go. But I think my mother never forgave herself for something she wasn’t even guilty of. Of course, I can see all this, years later. Years after both of them are long gone. But I learned a lot about the place of women in this world from my own household.
That is not to say that we are a lost lot. But the truth is, we have a long way to go. And remember, we are the privileged lot, with our education, our empowerment, our opinions, our professions. To millions of women across the world, women’s rights are just a myth and a fantasy.
Let’s be realistic. In today's world, women really can’t have it all. Which is why, we need to try harder. So our daughters won’t have to live with this lament.