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Manush ki bolbe? (aita niye onek chinta)

  • Published at 06:46 pm April 19th, 2018
Manush ki bolbe? (aita niye onek chinta)
The privilege of being female: at birth people discuss our complexions, at certain stages of our lives they discuss our weight, and throughout our existence, and sometimes even after, they dispense judgment on our actions. What do they say? In our childhood we are sweet. Sweet, sweet, sweet; maybe a mishte pare na for those of us who are not inclined to play with other children or are overwhelmed by large gatherings or who do not want to embrace everybody and anybody. Come teenage years we can either remain sweet in the form of lokkhi, the one who is obedient and quiet, or we can transform into bettomeez, the one who questions the status quo. Lokkhi is well done and congratulations for not developing or displaying agency, for successfully demonstrating that our will is subsumed under that of our parents and other ‘murubbis’. Lokkhi is desirable as it indicates our parents have been successful in raising “well-brought” up girls, as in those who avoid conflict, and that of course opens up greater marriage market opportunities. There is a continuous comparison between the bettomeez and the lokkhi, and the former is chastised thereafter. It is not the done thing to express emotion, to voice concern, to counter what adults say, to be a self  - starter, to take initiative or to be an independent thinker. It is far better to be a lokkhi and agreeable and take the ‘poramorsho’ of significant adults when taking important decisions. We acquire bettomeez traits from our friends or from the screen; we learn how to be bettomeez out of ignorance, because we do not know any better.  We can either be a lokkhi and an average student, or a bettomeez and a brilliant student; it is perfect if we can pull off lokkhi and brilliant, but we are placed in the dire ‘khobor achey’ category if we happen to be bettomeez and ‘porashonay ekdom bhalo na’. Often baaje meye, shoitan,character kharap and other such (defamatory) descriptions are kindly thrown in for good measure with ‘khobor achey’. What if some of us are unobtrusive and strong willed? Neither lokkhi nor bettomeez? Bhalo kintu jeddi. There has to be a ‘kintu’, a disguised objection that it is not desirable for a girl to have a will of her own. There is hope though. If we are the ‘khobor achey’ type, kintu, we manage to find a good husband (please refer to my Jamai’der Chinta) we can graduate to dekhlaa! koto chalak.  I am not sure that is a promotion, but hey we are married, and by being ‘chalak’ we have managed to ‘fashao’ a nice boy. Conveniently he does not have any agency to oppose our ‘chalaki’.  Maybe he is too lokkhi. Tsk tsk.   And whatever happens to some of us lokkhi girls? Well, we deserve the best of husbands, but it is expected we will remain quiet and obedient after marriage. However, if we do happen to speak out once in a while, if there is the slightest hint of agency, we are reminded of our place, as in agey kichu chilana or baap maa kichu shikhai nai. A few of us lucky ones might get away with ektu beshi emotional. Developing our own voice is unreasonable, and conflated with a surge of hormones rather than a boost in confidence and rationality.  What if we do not accept that we are merely being emotional? What if we have expectations of our own and express them? What if we assert ourselves? We are then relegated to jhoggraitta,or matobbor If we take an interest in financial matters, we are lobhi or greedy. If we express ambivalence, we must be disturbed. If we are unable to settle down we are ‘beshi’ fussy. If we do, but decide not to depend on our husbands and to go to work to earn and give ourselves what we feel we deserve then we are ‘damn care’ about family and home. For the sake of peace, if we choose to stay at home and look after children and keep to ourselves, then of course we become kichu korey na. I will stop now. I was a kichu korey na for several years until I returned to education. Then off course I was asked ‘why’ and ‘what is wrong’? Now that I write, I am beshi kotha boley or money hoy attention chachhe. It never ends… Chintamoni grew up in Dhaka, where she will always belong, but never quite fit in. She is an enthusiastic traveller, a compulsive procrastinator, and a contumelious raconteur.