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.
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’.
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?
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.
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,
If we take an interest in financial matters, we are lobhi
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.