Because the pace of life in India is much slower, I have had plenty of time to think about my life, where I came from and how I got here. Although I am about to start a PhD program and come from a family that is considered moderately affluent, I am not married and I do not have children. Worse, I have opinions. Being a woman in India is difficult on many levels but being an Indian woman in America is no walk in the park either. None of this is new to anyone who has read my blog.
I am learning to moderate myself. I am not liking it but I must adjust because this is my parents’ world, not mine. If I were to call out every indignity or insult, my parents would probably leave me at home every time. More importantly, I seem to invite this attention because I say things like, “I don’t need a husband to take care of myself” or “I don’t want to have children.” Clearly, I upset their world views; I challenge their beliefs. Some might call me a coward for not confronting every insult or hurtful remark, but why would I want to subject myself to it? I won’t change their minds. For them, I am an anomaly to be kept away from the children so I do not set a bad example. So, I keep quiet a lot. It got me thinking of how I used to be, railing at everything with little use for strategy.
Here in Kerala, I conform but there was a time when I did not. Over a decade ago, a few people in my Indian church in New York tried to kick me out because I decided to divorce the husband who married me only to come to America. Many of these people had known me since I was small. I was a member of that church long before these members even came to America. Truthfully, these people just did not like the fact that I stood up for myself and would not let them bully me. The leader of that group, a man, told me I was not a “girl”. In his eyes, he was handing me a crushing insult because I did not fill the standard role of a girl in Indian life. It was rather silly to use that insult on me. It betrayed his lack of awareness of women like me. He relied on limiting gender-assigned roles from his childhood in Kerala. Most of us who fight for equality don’t see ourselves as girls anyway. We are women. We are adults and we have functioning brains. We do not exist just to cook, clean, and to carry babies. Even back then, I did not defer to men just because they lived and breathed. To be clear, I also did not just listen to women either. I listened to reason and logic. I used evidence practices to make decisions. In short, I was an adult even if he only saw me as a little girl without enough sense to listen to everything he said.
To be continued in Part II – Stay tuned.