I have something to tell you. It’s not a confession because I don’t have a secret story that pounces on my heart every time I have a solitary moment and pushes me into the ocean of guilt. I know the statement might have drained the spirit with which you started reading this piece, but I do not care now. I don’t want to care about it because I have something to tell you and it is important.
Do you remember the day when you asked me if I had a secret buried inside my heart? I had so many, but I decided to tell you not even one of them. After reading this, do you feel betrayed? Do you think that I have been dishonest to you? Are you scared of the secret that I have preserved in my breast for so long? Tell me what are you scared of more: the secrets or my lies? Let me tell you something. The secrets are not important. You knew I had my secrets and that is why you had asked me that question in the first place; that is why today, when I told you that I have something to tell you, you had to listen to me. If you knew it for a fact then what are you so scared of now? The content of my secrets? Are you scared that I may not be as good as you thought I was? You know I can simply tell you that I should not be blamed for your error of judgment or height of expectation and shirk the matter here itself. But, I won’t.
All the big nations have their secret, every great person had theirs and I am certainly not the first person to have kept something from you. Yes, I know that the next thing that you expect me to say is that I kept something from you because I did not want to lose you. No, that’s not the case. One, because it sounds very filmy to me, a line that has now become a cliché, but more than that I don’t think I was ever scared of losing you. How can I lose you when I never had you fully? You were never absolutely mine. Yes, a part of you was mine and it was important to me, very important to me in fact. It still is.
You remember Rose’s line in the movie Titanic– “a woman’s heart is an ocean of secrets.” I kept a secret and lied about it because it would have hurt you. You wouldn’t have left me of course after knowing it because you loved me too much to do that. But, you would have been hurt. I am not defending myself, believe me. I do not need to. Why should I when I know that you will never leave me? The part of you that I own is always going to be mine no matter what. Are you contemplating my next line again? Do you think I seek forgiveness? Do you think I will ask you to forget my mistakes and love me again or atleats try to? No mother, I won’t. Did that offend you? Do you think I am taking you for granted? Do you think your disapproval or approval does not matter to me? It does, mom.
You know it for yourself because you too are a woman. You know we have secrets. You know we cannot stand in front of the world in our nakedness because it exposes our onlookers more than it exposes us. This frightens them. You remember all of you thought that I was a little wild as a child. You always chided me when dad pointed it to you that I was not sitting properly, was being very loud, and was being very chirpy and uninhibited in my actions despite all your admonitions. I knew even then that somewhere deep inside you knew that all this was not my problem alone. You must have faced it too. In my not sitting properly or in that so-called provocative manners of mine you know, by all definition, was innocent. Your chastising me for my behavior was just a way to align my conduct with the known ways of morally good behavior and manners. There was nothing wrong in my ways, mother. When I sat with my legs parted, the world judged me a wanton. They said that I was not brought up well; I did not come from a good family; I was not of a good breed. Don’t you think it was just a way they had devised to camouflage their sense of guilt that arose from their desire when their eyes could not resist marauding between my legs? They could not face me because they could not bring themselves to look into my eyes when they knew that I had caught them inspecting my bust. Do you think I am getting bold? Do you think I am talking like a loose woman? You know why you are angry with me now. Because I am telling you that which you know is right. You are more sad than angry because you know that whatever I have told you are not new, nothing that you are not aware of but something that you never had the courage to acknowledge. I know it hurts you and that is why I kept my feelings a secret.
You know, I enjoyed the gaze that admired my body and when those eyes did not hesitate to meet mine. I suppressed that enjoyment because you said it was not a proper thing to do. I enjoyed when the stalker I felt for became my lover. But, you asked me to discourage him. I enjoyed beautifying myself physically and intellectually so that I am noticed. But, when I was noticed and appreciated you asked me to feign innocence. You did not let me be myself even within the four walls of our home because you were scared of incest. It’s our collective fear as a member of a cultured society. But, of everyone, atleast you know it very well yourself and not because Sigmund Freud told you that incest is only natural and that is why it is so forcefully suppressed in our culture. Because you know that the daughter may idealize her father in ways that is strictly prohibited and that the father’s love for his daughter may have sexual undertones.
Do you know what will my brother say to all this? He will say that it is important to maintain a status quo. Even if we think all this is natural, yet we need to make rules and codes of conduct, allow certain things and suppress others because we should strive to make lives less complex and this is the aim of human civilization. Is this really true? Who decides what civilization is? Who decided this definition of human civilization and set these goals? Does it make any sense that we should begin hating our own desires in the name of civilization? Isn’t human history rife with instances where suppressing something has had adverse effects? Don’t we complicate things more when we don’t do things that we desperately want to?
Sorry, that was an emotional outburst. I apologize mother.
Of course I understand your point. There is the morality question. Even if we want to do something we should not harm someone else’s interest. That is basically being humane. I understand that we enjoy the freedom to do things but not the liberty to do whatever we please to. Therefore, we need these codes and customs to censor our desires and actions.
I know even if there were a few men ( sometimes also women) sitting out there and deciding what we should do and not do as part of human species, it is not only us who have suffered by their rules and regulations. We all have suffered in our private quarters. We have suffered because we did something which was not right or wrong per se but were proscribed by the codes of the culture of our society for the collective good. So, in that sense, I have not done anything that is unique. My secrets are not exclusive. I have not done anything that you or men and women like us did not desire to do it themselves. Of course now you want to tell me that just because there is a large number of people who are fellow sinners, it does not decrease, in any way, the quantum or significance of the sins committed by me. Mother dear, as I have already told you, this is not a confession and I do not seek either forgiveness or redemption, but still I am telling you all this not because I want to unburden myself but because I want to unburden you. If you thought that I had secrets then you were right. If you thought that I am not a conformist, you were right. You were right because you were my mother and because you were a fellow woman and a fellow human being. I was not radical in things I did because it wasn’t anything new. I was radical because I did not feel a sense of guilt which I “should” have.
Are you still hurt, mother? Do you still feel that I betrayed you? Do you still feel that I was dishonest to you? Do you still think I should be guilty of something? Yes, I should be guilty of lying to you. But, why should I be? I lied for the common good of the world and my fellow human beings. I lied because my truth, though common, was meant to be left unspoken. I lied because I was a woman and I was meant to suppress my desires and so I suppressed the desire to confront you with my reality. I suppressed myself because when I spoke out, people thought I was not feminine enough. What should I be blamed for? For not surrendering myself? Did you not enjoy when I spoke, when each and every utterance of mine was bold and true? You along with rest of the world loved me for my boldness, you listened to me enraptured but before that you were awestruck to know that I had a voice. I had to speak incessantly to make you all used to my voice. And when you all came out of your initial stage of stupefaction on hearing my voice you felt jealous and men felt weak and insecure. Then you tried to suppress me. And that is how I realized that I had a voice that was potentially subversive. I realized the power of my secret. I realized how important it was for me to lie to maintain the status quo, for the greater good of humankind.
I am bad, as you say. I am a liar and a wanton and a slut and a vamp and selfish, ambitious, dark and scary. I have kept to the margins and culturally unintelligible because I am a manifestation of your own dark and deep desires that you are so scared to let loose.
I had to tell you all this because mother, you misunderstood my silence as my weakness. I am not weak or timid. I am silent and secretive because I know if I tell you something you will lose your sense of balance in this world. Because you will become like me and I am a threat to you and your world which is desperately trying to maintain ‘status quo.’