Are you aware of what your daughter has become? You, like every other mother on this planet, claim to know your daughters better than anyone ever will; but tell me mother, how, do you suppose, that you’ll know a person best when you barely know her? Yes, you did give birth to me, but that doesn’t make you an all-knowing force in my life, I’m afraid. You have no idea how much I hate being tended to. Yes, I hate it when you stop me from doing things because you know they’re bad. I absolutely detest the idea of a knowledge passed on. I like to live the knowledge I’ve earned on my own.
My knowledge may not be true to you just as yours isn’t true to mine, and we can blame time and the generation gap for this difference but what you’ll never blame is the single word that defines a life you’ve already lived and a life I’m yet to discover: Experience. I may fall if I climb a tree and scrape a knee, or both. But you know what, mother, I don’t care. You’re bothered about the scars it’ll leave on my skin, but have you ever spared a thought about the scars left on my soul when I am forced not to do something my heart aches to do?
You were liberal. I will not say n to that. You let me cut my hair short, you let me have all the guy friends I wanted, you let me take up sports, you let me wear guy clothes, you got me the material things I wanted, you let me go to good schools and even let me go to college! You let me ink myself and dye my hair and have boyfriends when I was only sixteen. But you didn’t look twice at the girl who cried herself to bed each night. You weren’t there when I was breaking down and grabbing blades to cut my entire body open and burning my skin to feel alive.
Oh where did you go wrong, mother? You didn’t raise a straight child! Like everything else in my life, my sexuality has two ends. It does. I am bisexual. I have a girlfriend now but I won’t introduce her to you partly because I know you’re homophobic, partly because we’re not confident making it public, but mainly because I don’t want you know it. I don’t want you to know me anymore; because you didn’t know me for a long time before this. Please don’t be surprised. You were working when I was seven years old and I took care of your younger daughter when you weren’t home until evening and all we had in the name of a parent was a drunken father who couldn’t talk straight to save his life!
Yes, you were the man of the house, but the problem with men is that they cannot be mothers. When you became the man, you were no longer our mother. You did everything you could to give us a comfortable life – you earned, and cooked, and rushed us to the hospital when needed, but you were always a wife before you were a mother and so you spent nights in hospitals with your husband in the emergency ward while your two little girls stayed alone all night locked in a house all by themselves, afraid to step into the dark kitchen when they wanted to drink some water.
You’ve been a good wife, I suppose, like all Indian women should be. In the stories grandmother tells of you and your brothers when you were all little, I hear about me. Somewhere along the line you fell in love and your fire extinguished and you turned into an ordinary Indian woman who took care of her husband and of her kids and did everything she could to keep afloat a boat that had no bottom. You were steering an anchored ship. Your husband was, and is the anchor. You daughters, the crew, are ready to abandon you. But a true captain, I think you’ll go down with this one drunken hell of an anchor.
You have a disease, mother, but don’t worry, most of the people suffer from this one. I’m a lucky survivor, I must admit, but you have a very bad case of ‘what-will-the-society-say’ syndrome, locally known as ‘log-kya-kahenge’. You worry about the thoughts of the world. Do you know why that’s bad? Because the time and energy you waste in thinking about what others think, you aren’t thinking about what you can do to make yourself happy. And it wouldn’t cause me much concern, for a huge number of the people on this planet share your invisible suffering, unless, of course, you applied the teachings of these sufferings to me and tended for the wounds I haven’t yet endured.
I am not allowed to put up photos on the social media where I stand alone with a guy anymore, not to mention I cannot visit anyone nor call anyone home. If I keep myself engaged in after college activities you show up in college and lash out on the HOD and counsellor. You threaten my friends. You threaten me, you question my character and my personality, and you question my faith, even!
Yes, you are a Hindu and I am your daughter; yes, I do have a tonne of Muslim friends, and yes, I have reverted to Islam long before I knew of their existence. But you don’t know this, like the many other things you don’t know about me. You are afraid that I’ll turn to Islam one day, because ‘log-kya-kahenge’ but, mother I already have turned to it. It’s been years!
Did you ever look up from the computer screen, when you sat in my room, and wonder who you’re sitting next to? Sure, you’re sitting next to a weak and sensitive creature you did the favour of brining into this filthy world some eighteen odd years ago, but who us she? Is she nothing more than your offspring? Isn’t she an individual? Doesn’t she have dreams and aspirations and wants and needs? Are all needs as material as they seem to you?
I ache to pray, sometimes, and as Ramadan approaches I dread that you’ll find out that I’m fasting and throw a fit. I hate to be related to you or your husband or your second daughter. I hate to be related to any of your relatives. I do not have a family. This is most definitely not a family. Family doesn’t snap at each other with every word they speak. They don’t push people to the thoughts of committing suicide.
Why don’t you just let me live? Do not curb my freedom, I beg you! I am not your bonsai plant that you’d keep cutting in an attempt to stunt its growth and shape it as you please. I am a human being; an individual, with my own free-will and thoughts. I want to exercise that will and live a life of my own, unashamed. I do not want you stopping me because people will talk about me. People will talk about me today and forget about it tomorrow; that is not what bothers you. What bothers is that they will question ‘what family does this girl belong to?’ and even when I say I do not have a family, everyone will point at you. That is what bothers you.
Oh you are a nice woman, alright, but as everyone is, you’re selfish. And I am your daughter, by a choice of fate, and I am equally selfish. If you choose to play the role of the jailer in my life, I will play Houdini and I will earn my freedom. You probably don’t know this either, but I am a real-stubborn bitch, and I’ll do what it takes to get my way. You lived your life, mother; now it’s my turn to live mine to the fullest and make it count.
A Suffocated Daughter