Why are you absent, woman? Your entire presence is misrepresented, misinterpreted and often so distorted that it is equivalent to your absence. What are you, woman? Are you like the characters in raunchy Bollywood scenes that men write by undermining or overestimating the ovaries for the sake of crispy green notes or box office theatrics? I don't understand, anymore.
What exactly is feminist awareness? Is it when you are too worn out to slap your molester in a bus or is it when you are too eager to? Is it the characteristic analysis of Medusa and Diana on my bleak academic paper or is it when you fume at the exclusion of Mahasweta Devi's Dopdi Mejhen from a DU syllabus? Or is it when, you slap me across my privilege and part your saree while counting your bags of wheat and three brown children? Or is it when you depart from your cubicle in an uniform and return home to cook and despise it? Or is it when you love the smell of added spice on a Sunday? You confuse me!
But, whatever the definition of your existence is, I like to be around you. I like to be acknowledged by women for wearing a flower on my head or for voicing my opinion in academia, in politics or just for painting a vibrant confusion or for making tea and selling it to intellectuals on the sidewalks of Jadavpur. I am delighted when I am acknowledged by women. Why? They are taking the time to surpass institutionalised oppression and pat each other on the back. They are taking time to put aside an abusive partner somewhere, the need for dowry, taunts about their biological clock, economic depression, domestic violence, a neglected mother here, a yelling father there, three eve teasers on their way back home, even marital rapes and rapes by distant relatives that will be pacified with a "hush, hush". They are wiping their eyes, clenching fists in anger and laughing to cope with collective trauma, trauma of fellow women.
So, when that day, Adwitiya sat Srijata down and read to her one small story by Lila Majumdar, I had a revival. My mother asked me to read Pather Panchali and I did when I was in class 5. Women pass down internalised patriarchy because they have no response to their trauma. Wait, no, they are not allowed to respond to their trauma but then the same women also pass down books. Women pass down lullabies, rhymes, small fragments of Literature to one another despite their huge absence in academia. My mother is a machine, she works and works a little more. While teaching me to read, she has forgotten to read. However, when you are 22, your mother suddenly becomes your annoying, paranoid daughter. You learn to feed her, nourish her broken limbs, fight with her for her own good, you fight her and her internalised patriarchy. You fight her habit of not responding to her trauma and mostly you fight her tendency to surrender. You teach her to read, read herself more than her books.
You get tired. But, you know, on this particular instance, when you cry or you struggle not to cry, either way, a fellow woman will sit by you and give you the recognition you needed as a teenager or as a stupid child. This "simple" act will fill you with hope, an innocent hope that is somehow greater than the statistics of women being killed every hour in your vicinity. Suddenly, you will feel like you are born again, and in this version of your life, you will be closer to your mothers. Your mothers will be born again, this time, through you, within you. What will the paradox be? You will learn to realise that you did not even need to be pregnant to be able to birth such stability. It was always there, and not in your ovaries.