Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Not So Mary Virgin


The ‘We’ in Virginity…

There are fables of virginity in many cultures. I would write 'all,' but I'm afraid that would be a gross generalization; one that I can't vouch for. So, let's just lead with - there are fables of virginity in many cultures. Virginity is so freaking valued sometimes that it's taken to completely different realms; women become Goddesses by virtue of forgoing the use of some organs of their bodies. I could vex on about the nexus between property law and inheritance, de-racination and racial purity, religions, myths, medicine and contraception, intended and un-intended patriarchal reproduction of the State or Nation State, the phenomenon of the animated womb, but I'm going to stick to the personal. The personal, I can talk about.

This body is mine, but everything and everyone has had me believing so many different things about it for so long. All this, all of it...the way I'm supposed to be; conduct myself in public and private; everything was already in place before I took my very first breath.

I came out into this world where the most basic level of social existence is determined by my hardware. Let's say the word, right? Here we go, I'm going to type the letters now and it is going to spell that word.

VAGINA.

My mother would be so scandalized (then she'd say it to scandalize me in return), but that's part of why it's important to say it. 'It' is not my favourite word, not by far. But, it's just a word, along with 'ovaries', 'Fallopian tube', 'menstruation', 'tampon', 'bra' etc. Something drives us to whisper most of these and I don't see why that should be. You got it, you...don't flaunt it, but you can say the word. No, saying them isn't feminist or cool or what have you. They are words and unless used in a lewd context, they mean what they mean and that's about it. It's the same for men too, women don't have the corner market on shame, but we've been dealing in the trade a little longer or perhaps just are situated in it in more obvious ways. Twenty four years of existence is not enough to decode what all these ways are, but as the years go by, I'm beginning to get a clearer picture. It's important to demystify this stuff once in a while and I'm sure that the moment I'm done writing this, the thought will be locked in a vault somewhere, taking shallow breaths and waiting to be pulled out and dusted off and taken for a twirl again. But, the old Derridian anxiety persists... the anxiety that everything I say only exists in the moment of utterance and then it's gone, but aaah! What if I write it down?! And so, I did. But, in ten, twenty, thirty years or even right now...it will mean different things to different people.

Difference is a beautiful bitch! Or non-specif, geneder-less swear word.

What was I saying? Right, so...virginity; a gnarly subject for myth, legends and unfortunately reality. Why gnarly? Because, believe it or not, how virginity is written on to the body of a woman (in this case a middle class Urban Indian woman) can be just as violent as the expectation of the promise of sex can be. It always has to mean something...being a virgin, not being a virgin. That's how it is here sometimes. I mean, people aren't going around asking random strangers on the road and on public transport - "Excuse me miss? Have you had sex?"..."No?!"..."How about with yourself??" That doesn't happen. But everything, as my father says, is a product of "Sthan, Kaal and Paatra" (translation: place, time and the individual); that's how I see myself too. A twenty four year old, Bengali woman, living in New-Delhi, India, with an Anglophile education; a far-placed subject of a British colonial past and the current psycho-social refugee of the Cocacolonization infused nation and most importantly and inescapably so (I have to love it & I can't help but hate it), a citizen of my family (family, historians will have us know, is the cornerstone of any state); with one foot in the quicksand of garbled-traditions and the other in this fallacious-misinterpreted-misappropriated idea of the modern...I stand everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Plagued by an absence demanding a presence and all that is present is precariously shifting.

Where is all this coming from? What is all this feeding into? And what the flaming fudge does it have to do with virginity, specifically mine? For me, it all boils down to this little day-old anecdote.

I crashed at one of my best friends' place after having attended a marathon concert (all music all day, lots of booze and smoking and some smoking up - I did none of those things and lived on O.J all day because I didn't want to...I'm not a supposed prude, I'm allergic to cigarette smoke and I didn't feel like a drink). We came back to her place well after midnight and got to talking. Most of it was nonsense, but some of it still stuck with me after a marathon sleep-session; a tiredness induced whopping 10 hours!

My friend has had sex. She's had a fair bit of it by her own account. She's had it when she was part of a couple and she's had it casually when she was unattached. She is not a slut (I actually believe that no one is). She is a brilliant, bright and vivacious woman who knows what good sex feels like and so on occasion she wants it; she finds a willing partner who will be respectful (or so we would hope) and then her needs are sated. It's not dirty or scandalous, although, I'd imagine it would have to be sexy for her...or them? I guess...let's just get back to the topic at hand.

I on the other hand, am a raging virgin. I'm so much a virgin that people can (apparently) tell I'm a virgin. I've come to a point in my life where I feel like I have to write about my raging virginity. We were discussing precisely this. She'd started dating a guy who had been chasing her for nigh a year and a half. 
So...they dated, but then she saw that he was like some Indian men - obsessed with their mommies, armed with double standards and ideas of propriety; the entire combination let to them parting ways.

Why?

Because she wasn't the type of girl you could take home to your mother. She wasn't someone who'd make a good wife. The things he loved about her? Her honesty, her openness, her joy, warmth, the fact that she would treat her male friends the same as her female friends...that she felt like a 'bro' (I guess), that she spoke her mind; the things that let him become a part of her universe, they became points of contention when they were finally together. He became jealous and possessive, asking her to drop all male company. And, I've been told that, that is apparently what often will happen with some Indian men or I guess some men in general. How is that fair?

Now my friend might go for an arranged marriage. Her 'choices' will be evaluated; people will look into if she has been involved with other men. If she's had sex before; the men that come to meet with her, her prospective mate will be curious about it, try and pry it out of her in conversation or ask her directly. It's a question often asked of women and seldom asked of men (and by seldom I mean almost never). Virginity (sadly) gives us desired cultural capital.

This friend is often hit on by other guys in that social circle. Word travels, men kiss 'n tell all the time. "She's sexy...she's enjoyed sex with someone, so logic dictates that she might as well enjoy sex with me."

Men will often imagine they are in love with us and that is dangerous.

I might have to go into an arranged marriage too. That happens here just as sure as you butter your morning toast (that was an awkward as heck simile, my apologies). But, my friend said, I'm lucky. I haven't had sex or dated a whole hell of a lot. I've barely even had a kiss! I'm incapable of a casual anything (or at least till date I've been incapable of it). I'm a rare commodity in the 'marriage market.' She said that men often think something along the lines of "if she's had sex before, casually, then she'll do it again." But, the fact that you wouldn't (usually) want casual sex or have a reason to have it when you're in love and committed to someone, escapes them. So, when it comes to me, a raging virgin, this school of thought careens into a world where the guy who 'gets' me will have won a penile duel with every man out there who couldn't get to me first...*sigh* all those nameless, faceless men he beat. So...if I haven't done it before, then I won't do it again? I'm somehow less liable to cheat too!

Well, gentlemen, I am a virgin...and so much more curious about sex by virtue of not having had it. How will that thought fair, I wonder? How do I feel about being liked or loved, in part, for my virginity or being understood as this desire-less, supposedly pristine woman; a product still in its original packaging. Frankly, the thought of being liked for my virginity is disturbing and a little disgusting. That kind of virginity is neo-mythical.


I do hope to have sex eventually...and definitely before my virginity becomes... vintage.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Silence

Silence... Abject... Poor -

The inability to say to a shop-keeper

"bhaiyaa, kitnai main diya?"


Silence... Suppressed... Afraid... Lost

Confused... Hurt... Powerless Silence.


Silence - Silent anger... heralding protest

Fighting... Disengaging... Shutting Down...

Powerful Silence.


Silence - a litany of Noise

Radios blaring in autos

Stereos thumping in cars... directionless energy

Horns... Swearing Dilli-wallas... Construction sites alive

The ugly face of Development... Wasting youth... Corroding age...

The Silence of the Noisy City.


Silence - Ready caressing hands... Naked secrets in the dark...
Hands on keyboards... Hands signing... Speaking hands - Silent Gestures.


Silence - Cold... Dead... Unspeaking Silence...


Silence - Loving eyes... Embracing smiles...

Silent greetings... Silence Everywhere...

Saturday, February 27, 2010

My Brain - the more i use it, the more i lose it!

This will be the first, hopefully, of many wondrous musings of the useless kind... Read, laugh, comment, get bored... I am absurd and I have no illusions, except for the ones that I care to preserve! Make what u will of it... "nothing comes of nothing" - said Lear, but I, my friends choose to disagree vehemently!!!



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What is nonsense? Why am I so drawn to it? It is a powerful and seductive urge to laugh like a horse on Prozac – Neigh-hihihhihihihihihi… It is the sudden need to scratch my hand and hit the next shiny, natural patch of God ordained barrenness that comes in my site. I have nothing against bald men or women, or dogs… Yes there are bald dogs, it is true… Though I always wondered if the little things were ratty extra-terrestrials who conspired to be bought up by rich heiresses… I shall not name who… *wink *wink to rule the world at a later date.

I for one cannot bring myself to think that people are that dolty., right? It must be something the rat dogs do. May be they secrete some sort of dodo – brain mush making gases. Something of that kind.

Wait what was I saying????

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Struggle - A Short Story

I wrote this a couple of years ago. I would really appreciate your opinion on it. If it seems to end abruptly, that's because I am hoping to write a second part. It's a tad bit dramatic for my taste now, but whatever...

'Struggle' - A Short Story

By: Pallavi Datta.

Red brick upon red brick, a city of smoke, almost as if drawn with sooty hands and bits of charcoal. Gray skies, broken glass-windows, and rickety three-wheelers on dirt roads. Kilometers and kilometers of wires hanging on street poles, an ugly black jungle of burning rubber and there is still no electricity in my little room.
A yellow hue illuminates the rotting paper on the desk. The sound of a scratching fountain pen is what I wait for. A thought, a memory, an incident, the exciting, the mundane, something, anything… my pen almost scratches the surface of the paper once, pregnant with black fluid, waiting to set free that one drop of ink that would perhaps paint my future.
Old jute slippers next to sour milk on the floor, a cupboard with four shirts, two pants, they are all that I own in this city.
A sudden rap on the door makes me jump out of my skin, it makes my heart flutter, makes me spill the one cup of tea I had wrangled out of the gully-tea shop on a loan. I told him that I would pay him back. And with what, I asked myself. May be the money I don’t have to pay the pan-walla for all those smokes, or may be the money I don’t have to pay the rent the landlord is asking for now.
I never realized, exactly when it was that my struggle to become a published writer turned into a futile one for survival.
Food, a roof, to sleep I must have a bed; all protocols of society dictate that one must ‘have’. Have clothes, have water, have food, have knowledge, it all really boils down to having money. I see that if I am to write today, I cannot live tomorrow because tomorrow has a cost in some rupees that must be had…
I call this, this room, these four walls, this moth eaten sheet, this tainted mirror, the foster home of my lost hopes. When they first read my work, they told me to forget about it; apparently my work had nothing to offer. I created a world full of old ideals and virtues that are bought and sold today as cheap as a bar of soap. What was it that I hung around for then? It was over as sure as it had never begun. But, can an end have no beginning?
I look at the little steel Tiffin on the bed, a lid with “Prokash” etched on it in Bengali by my mother. Inside are some sweets, her ten odd dreams for me and her prayer to kali-ma for my safety. My home, that tiny steel box is a piece of my home, and as I open it, I go back there. The sweet taste melts in my mouth and I remember now, the kitchen smells of coils and Aunchi auntie’s sweat as she wrestled with the plates the in the washing area on the floor. With the taste gone, I am dully wretched back to this room. I am defeated, the words are lost. I see only these fragmented images, as fragmented as I am. Only a shadow of who I was lurks about the corners of my mind. Just a line today, it is a color without a picture to put it in. As I sit over the desk for hours, into the putrid night, the wind blows out the candle, I can still smell the burning wick. This room is a wound; it is the essence of my entire existence, four shirts, and two pants. This room is me.
I will go back home… may be another month, then I will go back home once again. Till then I exist, perhaps they will come back to me, my words, perhaps they will come back.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Write Off The Bat


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Bathe Religiously.

By

Pallavi Datta.

Nilimaa was safe now. She was safe and though she had never really been cold, she felt warm for the first time in a very long time. She had asked for help. The world, her parents, her in laws, even Raman, her husband had taught her but one lesson in life, ‘never ask for help’. She grew up in Delhi, where truly no one belonged to a caste or religion. All that seemed to matter was money and how much of it one had. Were you the auto type, the bus type or the chauffer driven type.
Nilimaa, made the terrible mistake of falling in love with Raman. Suddenly friends who sat at a college table, content in the happy oblivion of being dressed alike, and going to the same coffee shops were compelled to think of religion. They would sit down and ponder the meanings of words such as ‘Hindu’ and ‘Muslim’. They made a real effort to see the difference. Perhaps driven by a na├»ve understanding of what those words meant, and what those words meant to them, they came to a decision.
Nilimaa married Raman. Nilimaa became Nilam. He had promised her the world, its every comfort, it was a small bargain in return, she thought. She exchanged her name for his love, and his family’s acceptance. But soon the life that they had imagined, this consumerist utopia that a city like Delhi had offered was not enough.
Nilam longed to be called Nilimaa, it was the name her parents had given her, and she could not fore go that love to seek an entirely new name and person.
The days seemed to run in to each other like faulty wiring. They were all the same; the same painful pang of a wasted education would burn Nilam’s skin as she slogged on the stove and cooked for ten people. She cut the vegetables with misdirected anger and cried in to the onions as they died a guiltless death. She washed their clothes, and as she wrung the water out of them, her breathing became rapid almost in a frantic ecstasy as she imagined the item of clothing was Raman’s neck.
On one of these days, Shikha ma, Raman’s grand mother walked in on Nilimaa’s personal shame. Nilimaa was on the bed, on her knees, reading the afternoon namaaz.
She wasn’t beaten… They gave her food, but no one talked to Nilimaa. It was as if she was lost in a dark silent cave, but the cave some how was floating amongst a busy road on a hot and noisy day. The stillness was daunting, things never changed. Nilimaa was stuck, stuck in a home full of people whose love for her was subjected to more ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ than anyone would care for.
She gave up her name for them… Now she was being asked to give up her beliefs in this loud silence. The demand was in the way they would receive a plate from her hand, shrink away; functional but somehow disgusted, it was in the way they looked at her…
So, Nilamaa would give them what they asked of her. She would compromise who she had once been. But Nilimaa would bathe religiously.
There is a bathroom in west Delhi, where every morning, a naked woman kneels on a wet floor. She puts her hands up to her face and asks for respite. Nilimaa asks for forgiveness, Nilimaa asks for help and she believes it will come.