She Built her Own Cage

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When you would speak to her, it never seemed like she didn’t come from the same place as you. She donned beautiful dresses, all picked very consciously. She would have her days; hot, pretty, traditional, simple. Even her night-dressed was n times better than what you would normally wear to bed. But don’t get her wrong. It was all in her comfort zone. She wasn’t vain, not superficial or shallow or conceit. She carried a happy wave around with her. Wherever she went, people would smile at her in reciprocation to the simple fact that she never even gave up on people who would avoid an exchange of glances with her. She appeared to be a tiny little human; bubbles of jubilance compressed to fit into her timid body. Most of the people would never complete their description about her without the necessary adjectives of innocence, kindliness, generosity and humanitarian values. If her acquaintances were to present an example of whole-bigheartedness, it would be her. They would choose from the million incidents where she was the only one concerned about issues as microscopic as the maid being worried about how she will arrange or ask for a new bucket for mopping the floors, since the last one developed a hole. She had a tendency to spread her aura. She loved and she loved with all the energy that she could garner. One of the best things about her was her tendency to spread her aura around. She had absolutely no qualms dispersing and sharing that affection with the rest of the room.

Something that she did clutch onto, was her beliefs and faith. A Baptist Christian by origin, her progenitors had been converts. Irrespective to that, however, she was marked by the peculiar and characteristic rigidity when it came to acceptance, ideology and tolerance. She took great pride in her family. Her father was placed at an extremely respectable position with the Cenral government and though they came from the poor state of Nagaland, all her whims and fancies were provided for. As much as she loved her mom, her father evidently preferred her to her two younger brothers. Brothers whom she sometimes referred to as ‘the heirs to dad’s property’. She said it without a twitch, without the slightest hint of reluctance. There was an almost unspoken ease when she would discuss such matters.

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“My uncle has one daughter. But our family is very lucky. I have two brothers, my parents have nothing to worry about.”

The way it simplified things for her and family made it sound so flowery that you would at times, willingly miss the catch here.

Once, she was having a conversation with another one of her friends, who was telling her about the new piece of land that her father had bought at her hometown. After having listened to her friend, she wondered out loud, her query about what will happen to that piece of land after the friend’s parents. The friend was caught off guard. There was an awkward moment of silence before the friend asked her to repeat and this time also clearly explain her question.

“I mean. Who will the property pass on to, after your parents pass away?”

“Their daughter of course. Me. Who else?”, he friend replied in a bland and straight voice.

“You? Well you would just get married into another family. How is your father’s identity to be preserved in that case?”

The friend couldn’t take the conversation further. There was nothing else that she could have interviewed about. So the friend simply dropped it.

The friend had been riddled and baffled. But she hadn’t meant it as an offensive interrogation. That was her concern and her genuine keenness on how the friend’s family would take care of something that her family fortunately didn’t have to worry about.

She was not very comfortable with the idea of going into shops and coming out without buying anything. Never once in her life had she stepped into a store only to enquire about the rates of a particular commodity. If someone tried taking her along, she would be embarrassed and would get extremely restless and panic-stricken. For all she had known was it doesn’t look nice for girls to do something like this. It had an “unfeminine character” to it. A girl is supposed to stay calm and compose and behave in only respectful ways. According to her, a girl should never indulge in activities and actions that hold the potential of bringing disgrace and shame to herself, her family and God forbid, her community.

She was the one person that every person would go to for some fashion advice, because she was honest and critical and she was good. But her instincts never allowed her to approve a set of clothing that undermined the femaleness of the girl. A top and jeans was fine. But a shirt and trousers would bother her. Formals with pants were a fail in her checklist and sports shoes just never worked. Dressing up seemed pointless to her if it did not highlight the femininity and the womanliness. A look that screamed fragile and elegance was always on the top of priorities. Deviance, for her meant appearance that exhaled the same qualities but with a lesser intensity and severity.

And at the end of each day, she would come back to her bed and lie down with the satisfaction that has passed yet another day, upholding her values and virtues. At the end of each day, she would rest her satisfied head on her pillow, calm by the awareness that her family and her community was immensely proud of her. At the end of each day, she would stretch her ‘unsoiled’ self, content that she did not let any other thoughts taint the virtues that she had been brought up with. At the end of each day. She would dream of paradise, not having questioned a single piece of that brick it was made of. At the end of each day, she would imagine her life in that paradise, not knowing that everything that the paradise was made of, was false and flawed. At the end of each day, she would smile, rejecting every possibility of ever knowing all that the world held for her. At the end of each day, she would step into that paradise, a prison of her own thoughts, her own confinements. At the end of each day, she would watch her paradise grow, and her mind shrink. For she thought they had a paradise for her. But all they ever did was teach to build her own cage.

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