There were many instances in my life when I have asked myself whether I would want to be born a ‘woman’ again. The answer to this pondering has always been in the affirmative. It would seem at various times that characters from books and authors who have been close to my heart would just spring out of the covers and each one would accompany me for a short while, as I would meander through both the rough and the green patches of life.
First came Enid Blyton with her delectable books about ‘Malory Towers’, and I could almost merge into the book and live with the girls in their boarding school and relate my own life at the boarding to theirs. Malory Towers is a girls’ boarding school located in picturesque surroundings by the sea in Cornwall. Like Darrel Rivers, the protagonist, I too aspired to be the head girl of my school!
As I grew and stepped into my teenage years, Mr Darcy almost swept me away as I would dreamily stepped into the shoes of Elizabeth Bennet. Jane Austen, the author of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, enthused me to delve deep into this book of manners that laid down the rules as to how women ought to be.
However, with age I grew out of the stereotypical way of how I felt as a woman. Simone De Beauvoir’s ‘The Second Sex’ made me reflect upon many points that we as women have to conform to, in order to ‘belong’.
As she had rightly said, “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.”
There were times when I could feel the words that she wrote, “...her wings are cut and then she is blamed for not knowing how to fly.”
In ‘The Bluest Eye’, Toni Morrison further reinforced the fact that a woman becomes a woman not because of her looks. As a girl child she is always made to believe how important it is to be ‘fair’ and conform to the standards laid down by society where beauty is concerned. Pecola Breedlove bears a lot of contempt as a child because of the colour of her skin, till the end as she is led to insanity, she craves for ‘blue eyes’.
In ‘The Palace of Illusions’ Chitra Divakaruni portrays Panchali, the wife of the Pandavas from the Indian epic ‘Mahabharata’, as a powerful, strong, and independent woman, an equal to the men around her rather than subservient. She presents Panchali’s life as a series of choices made by her, and not the people around her, giving her a voice in the overwhelmingly patriarchal society that was ancient India. Panchali seemed to emerge from the mythical epic and conveyed a firm message to all. Each time I read the story the words of Divakaruni reveberates, “Stories changed with each telling. Or is that the nature of all stories, the reason for their power?”
Then came on Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat, Pray, Love”, whose subject was herself. Reeling from a contentious divorce, a volatile rebound romance and a bout of depression, she decided at 34 to spend a year traveling in Italy, India and Indonesia.
“I wanted to explore one aspect of myself set against the backdrop of each country, in a place that has traditionally done that one thing very well,” she writes. “I wanted to explore the art of pleasure in Italy, the art of devotion in India and, in Indonesia, the art of balancing the two.” She took me along with her on her spiritual quest and thus made me realise, “To lose balance sometimes for love is part of living a balanced life.”
I owe it to all the aforementioned female authors and many more, for leading me through the rollercoaster of life. Three cheers to all the women who have held their ground no matter what!
In the words of Simone De Beauvoir: “What would Prince Charming have for occupation if he had not to awaken the Sleeping Beauty?”