I have been travelling and living alone, away from my parents since I came of age. There were many Bengali men and women before I, they did the same, one of them being Gayatri Chakraborty-Spivak. I prefer thinking of us as the free spirited lot – in a never ending quest for knowledge and education. Of course I am no way as established as her or the others before I, – the world knows of, yet I cannot help but realise that perfection towards reaching my goals or striving for perfection in itself is a Sisyphean task.
Since I left the nest, I learnt 3 completely different languages (Gujarati, French, German) – stayed in 3 different continents, made a career in art and design (and also dabbling into writing every now and then), finished my studies and went ahead with more studies (now stagnant due to a career break I have taken thanks to pregnancy) – I cannot deny facing immense discrimination (both sexist and racist – one that even stalled my career for an entire year after I finished my first masters), in it all I stood alone and pushed through. Independently. Without taking the easy way out and running back home.
Worst perhaps was the indignant chatter I faced from women I knew from my teenage and early twenties. Mostly the psudo-independent women I once called friends – from India (particularly Mumbai). Only a few truly remain friends without judging me. As an “unwed-mother-to-be” at 35+ years, you can well imagine the Victorian era “hawww” and “oh my” that goes with my name. Oh! The shame of being a woman who knows what she wants! In the East it’s about taboos, while in the West it’s about colour-class-status (not too far from casteism to be honest). Perhaps why I am sympathetic towards Chakraborty-Spivak. Cause in every way I embody the subaltern – but never in the sense of discrimination. No.
I have made a space for myself that is separate from sexist-racist oppression, and as a Brahmin woman aware of my Vedic rights, I don’t let gibberish as mindless Hindu practices (much attributed by colonial notion of gender and power) stunt my growth – so I cannot claim that everything has limited or no access within the post-colonial cultural imperialism that subaltern stands for: instead my embodiment of subaltern is rather from an independent space of difference and in the sense of displacement.
Sometimes you cannot be on the same page as your interlocutors – and the energy spent on just figuring out how to navigate water without stirring up murk, in itself can be challenging, not to mention how much more effort it may cause someone with certain dispositions such as ADHD. So todays diary was a culmination of the past few weeks of distorted communication, sense of uncertainty and the overwhelming sense of lacking proper guidance (academic and career wise), while knowing that a much joyous choice of becoming a mother can slow down progress along many paths and limit many options. For I don’t have the luxury of simply handing my child to my mother and go do my job. It can be frightening. How will I juggle it all? How can I reach perfection? Then I remind myself – perfection in itself is a Sisyphean task.
And as I have known myself – this is yet another adventure I am bravely embarking on. As was leaving the nest, and making my life – far away from familiarity.