My feminspiration is a woman friend whom I’ve known for ages. Lets call her Asha, because she wouldn’t want her name to be known. She’s a strong woman with a great career, she’s a doctor and juggles her life as a mother, a wife and a doctor beautifully while she tries to fit in a little time for her self growth. And she’s able to do all this despite living with her in-laws who are extremly conservative and who monitor her every move. Asha does not come across as strong, as she doesn’t state her views forcefully, or defy her old mother-in-law. Spirituality makes her question again and again whether it’s ethical to get something at the cost of another’s person’s pain or suffering. Sometimes she questions so much that I get tired of her because I can see quite clearly how she is exploited or that its necessary to put your foot down sometimes. As a result I withdrew from our friendship and continued on my own path, which she often said was strident. It may not be her way, but it works for me to be vocal and to say what I want.
My friend came to visit me after a long gap of 5 years. I wondered why, since we had lost touch apart from the obligatory birthday and Diwali wishes. As we sat together, at ease with the comfort that comes from long years of friendship, and yet a little puzzled and apprehensive because of the long gap, her story unfolded. Or rather, she unfurled it for me like a brightly coloured silken flag.
A close friendship had developed between Asha and another, younger women. They found great pleasure in each other’s company, walking together, talking together and supporting each other emotionally. They began to spend more and more time together and Asha’s family objected. They always objected to everything she did in any case. Even though, by now, in the gap that had ensued in our friendship, she had become the sole earner of her family because of circumstances that made it difficult for her husband to earn much. As her doctor’s practice grew because of the loving, careful and personal attention she gave to each of her patients, she had less and less time for herself. Whenever she had a couple of hours she spent it with her children or in boosting her husband’s flagging spirits as well as interacting with her cantankerous in laws. Despite this, when the extended family noticed Asha’s friendship with Unnati, they came down on her like the proverbial ton of bricks and began to tell her what to do. Namely – to stop seeing her friend.
This time Asha didn’t listen. She responded very strongly. She told them how much Unnati means to her and was very firm about the fact that nobody can stop them from meeting. She has not come out of the closet with her family -she hasn’t specified to them the nature of her relationship with Unnati but she herself is aware of it. She’s also very certain that she deserves this relationship. Which is surprising for, since she always puts the wishes of others before her own.
They say that when the lion roars, other beasts cower. And now that Asha is roaring ( not about everything, only about Unnati) her in laws and other tormentors have suddenly backed away. Now that they see that she can be determined, they have had an epiphany of sorts. They are now aware (without her having said so) that she is the bread winner of the family. Should they annoy her too much and should she leave her husband and in laws, life would be difficult for them.
If Asha really wanted to, she could go her own way, live with Unnati and leave all the problems behind. But Asha is far too generous and thoughtful to abandon ship. And it wouldn’t be wise of her to do so, considering that as a doctor she’s part and parcel of a very conservative community who will not support, condone or even understand a lesbian relationship. So she remains with her husband ( to the anguish and anger of Unnati – who makes life difficult for her with jealous outbursts and demands that she leave) and her in-laws, balancing things, snatching at small scraps of happiness, living her life as best as she can in the face of great odds.
She’s my heroine because she embraced her sexuality despite her age, career stereotype, conservative background and the timidity of her own nature. I wish her every happiness.