Saturday, 18 August 2012

Every woman is an island

This post is part of Pavarti.K.Tylers's Community Blog Hop series, August 16-19.
No man is an Island, said John Donne. I say: Every woman is an island. We are the pillars around which revolves the universe and indeed our families, friends and far-off cousins. I take my own mother as an example. She graduated with a Masters in Physics, has a near photographic memory, and is a wiz and balancing the household expenses. Regardless of how lean my father’s salary was in the early days of her life first as a bride and then as a wife and mother, she always managed to save nearly thirty percent of whatever allowance my father gave her, after having paid for all the family expenses. Oh! Did I mention that she also gave up a promising career in academia to move to Bombay and become a housewife? Over the years it was she and my aunt—her sister-in-law (my Dad’s older brother’s wife) who became the mainstays of the large extended family. My father is one of five sisters & four brothers, and with large families come complex family politics—as anyone from an Indian family can testify. While my Dad and his siblings seemed to squabble over almost everything—from where to hold the annual rites-to-the-ancestors ceremony, to who’s child was getting better grades at school and remained consumed with envy about the one brother among the lot who had managed to go off to Harvard on a scholarship to study and make a different life for himself—I watched from the side-lines as my mum and aunt—the outsiders as they always labelled themselves stayed rock-steady through all the ups-and-downs. When financial-crises struck different arms of the relations and thankfully receded, it was these women who put on a brave face, kept the household going, maintain a fa├žade of routine for us the children, thus steering the extended kith and kin through storms. They were islands of calm in that tumult; and as my Mum often states today—with a confidence that comes from having weathered almost every crisis possible—that it was thanks to these sisters-in-arms that this lineage survived, thrived and pole-vaulted me and my cousins into a prosperous future. And yet I wonder if they had any time to be themselves during all those years? Did they ever find out what they really wanted in life, live their own dreams? Probably not, for there were many occasions during my adolescent years when she turned to me and said never sacrifice your own identity for that of someone else.
Hence, as I spent the last few days trying to look for a picture which best depicted what community meant to me, I was stumped.  Until the realisation dawned that I am my own community, I am an island of a different kind. For what I most want is freedom—space to be still. To be one with nature, with that life-force which breathes in all of us. Perhaps as I watched as these brave, unsung heroines sacrificed themselves for the greater good, somewhere something had shifted in me. I wonder if I have made a silent promise to myself along the way that I will not become my mother.
SOFIA in the sky, with diamond sparks of joy
So, the picture, I choose to represent my idea of community is the one of Sofia—my friend’s ten year old daughter—as she had leaped into the air, on the trampoline, in the joy of the first flush of youth. My idea of the perfect community is one where men and women are equal, and where everyone has the freedom to be themselves, or even just simply be. Is that a tall order to ask you think?

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About the Author: Laxmi Hariharan was born in India. She lived in Singapore and Hong Kong and is now based in London. She is inspired by Indian mythology. When not writing, this chai-swigging, technophile enjoys long walks in the woods and growing eye catching flowers. Her debut novel The Destiny of Shaitan is available on Amazon http://tiny.cc/szqsewReach Laxmi:

Twitter: @laxmi
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