Pain of Being a Woman
And a woman must find a man to continue to exist in the world.
Gauri was born in a village, almost three hundred miles away from Kathmandu. Her parents, one would not consider rich people, but they had enough to feed nine children. She was married at the age of eighteen. The groom, raised by a single mother, had a respectable landholding. It was a sort of proposal a village girl would die for.
She understood die was the perfect word when she reached her spouse's house. Something was terribly wrong in the family. Her mother-in-law was a psychopath. Now and then she was pulled by her hair, burnt by firewood, scratched on face. Her diligence never paid, her tolerance never imbibed, her pacifism never reciprocated.
“I can show you the signs of cruelty I suffered at the hands of that woman," she says pulling up her sleeves. Deep scars are visible on her both arms. Though she doesn't want to cast aspersions on the dead woman she admits, "The woman was a slander to the entire womankind that has been glorified as Mother." The word mother reminds her of a perforation, the pain that she tries to hide behind her façade.
She is not much educated, not even graduated from High School. She cannot fathom complexities of human psychology. All her life she did not wished for big things to happen, ephemeral pleasure was what she expectantly looked for. How could Gauri, who has not heard of Freud, understand behaviour and the mental state of her mother-in-law whose husband died too early? Sexual deprivation is inherently dangerous. The woman envied private moments shared by her son and daughter-in-law, searching for every pretext to separate the couple not only in the light of day but also at night.
She made her son and Gauri sleep in different rooms. Sometimes the sick woman was dubious about her arrangements, and hence she spread her mattress next to her son's divan while her daughter-in-law had to sleep in the room next door. Her hubby was pliant, never argued with his mother and slightly indifferent towards his spouse.
"He was foolish, actually," she says of her former hubby. Presumably, oedipal thing was at work.
It is a warm winter morning. Gauri is basking in a delightful languor, life is reasonably happy at the moment, however, she shivers at her past. "Sometimes, the woman entered our room at night and slept between me and my husband,” she says looking away. Her eyes are brimming with tears, but suddenly there is a twinkle. "And when she was dead I tried to make up everything I had missed."
Interestingly, her mother-in-law's apparition appeared when she shared the bed with her husband. “It was a spooky feeling, you know."
Struggle for Consolidation
After tolerating the brutalities for couple of years, she left her in law's house and went to stay with her mother. She tried to occupy herself most of the time being a Communist cadre. She studied political papers, learn how to make speech, and arrange a mass meeting. Hoping for emancipation, she became political activist. But then, she never climbed up from the basics. She was a discarded 'object' for the society. Nonetheless, she was not a kind of a woman who would be easily intimidated. After her political debacle, she opened a small shop, selling groceries and women’s accessories such as bangles and beads. Her siblings and mother particularly, had been very encouraging. At first, she felt awkward to sit all day long, but then slowly she began to take it easy, even when men flirted. Some males, who had been aware of her conditions, advanced amorously.
In this part of the world, body is everything for a woman. She has to have fair complexion, beautiful face, curvaceous torso, and most importantly, she must practice celibacy until marriage or after the loss or separation with husband.
"How long could I stand coquetry and save my body," she asks sharply. She knows something about the women movements, not a staunch feminist though. She gave up her shop kipping. Times seemed to change for better reasons. When her mother-in-law died she went to live with her spouse, her life took a steady course. At 41 she begot a boy child. "I was never so happy," she muses. However, fate had stored something poignant for her. Her child died. “I was a cursed woman actually." Her wrinkles grow deeper.
Gauri had never read 'do it yourself' books but she decided to carve her own path. She left her husband and married a widower. He was a respectable man, people fussed less about him and disgraced the wretched woman. Some crazy people wanted to storm into the couple's house and flog them. Others, though no sensible themselves, said they would be spared only if the new husband paid thirty thousand rupees to the old one. It was agreed. "After all we have to survive this society," she frowns.
Struggle for Existence
Something seems to be patching up and something not. Her step-son living in Australia cut ties with his father. "How could you forget mother by marrying again," she enumerates his words. Another son stays in Kathmandu and communicates very often. The only thing that's working is with her stepdaughter. Yes, off course her brothers and sisters are also happy for her.
"After all, only a woman can understand another woman," she says while praising her married step-daughter. In fact, it is not about understanding another woman. Daughter is happy for her father who had become lonely after her mother died. The three children were married and away, and the father was living in abject pain threshold.
Gauri’s step-daughter is married few miles away in a nearby village. Very often she comes to visit her father. During the meeting she expresses her love hugging her father, kissing him, sitting on his lap. Gauri stares at the bonding of father and daughter, she is envious, but cannot deride them. She throws things and slams the door or speaks arrogantly.
Her husband cannot understand what’s going in her mind. The woman who was denied everything in her prime age thinks that is unnatural way of conveying love for father. She cannot go into direct confrontation with her stepdaughter, though. She must not shoo the people who accepted her marrying the widower. In Nepal, a woman must do without a man when hubby dies or abandons her, but a single man has to find another wife whatever his age might be.
If her wish would be granted what is it that she yearns for? “The only wish I have is may the Almighty make me a man in another life cycle.” Her face is drawn as if she tasted a bitter gourd. From the earliest time, the thinkers have talked about the issue of man and woman. Even Plato said: I thank God for I’m not a slave or a woman.