The handbag, stashed carefully
On your chair, between your arm and your back,
poking you enough
To remind you of its presence,
And of its safety,
That’s what my friend felt like….
Valued, most definitely valued
In her marriage
As an attractive, very precious possession.
But twenty-odd years later
The handbag seeks personhood
And the right to a voice that may differ
From that of its ‘owner’.
He is a generous man, of many ideals,
respectful of women,
(but his wife is perhaps neither woman, nor person
she is his wife- is that not sufficient?)
An excellent provider, a bestower of luxuries
But dissent from her is unbearable to him,
and she knows it.
She completes him, fills up his insecurities
With her strength, but, for the sake of peace
She remains silent, strangling her opinions
Before they reach her tongue.
He can feel her discontent
Manifested in many ways-
Mostly physical- vague illnesses
And aches and pains, he pays the bills
For all the specialists, the high-end tests
He heaves a sigh of relief as each test reveals
No organic problem, no lesion, no tumour.
He really does care for her,
in the only way he knows-his way……
he needs her next to him whenever he is free,
whether he’s watching a movie, reading the papers,
or switching channels on the TV.
And as a bonus, holidays abroad, expensive clothes and jewellery
His money spent the way he thinks it should be
‘I give her everything, what more can she want?’
She knows him so well, understands all his foibles,
successfully maintains all his family ties
with gentleness, respect, and humility.
He does recognize her place in his life,
he knows how incomplete he is without her.
She values, so highly, this man that Life has given her.
But now, in middle-age, her own mind screams
out to her, for attention, for growth, for the right to be
accepted as herself,
to be more than just a handbag, to be able to say
‘ My dearest husband, I have opinions of my own,
thoughts of my own, wishes of my own.
Can I teach you, even now, to care for me and love me
As I wish to be loved?’
Personhood is what you give yourself-
Your definition of yourself has to come first, dear friend
with all of your life lived up to now…
Middle age with the comfort and security of knowing yourself.
A basic tenet- and a lifetime quest
To go deeper within, and know the Infinite Self,
The ultimate source of love, that lies within us all.
Once there, your search changes direction….
The man in your life is there still, to be cherished
And loved, as never before, perhaps, because you
Are one with the Source of all love
You no longer need mere mortal love to define you……….
( A brief aside for the lovers of old Hindi classic songs-
KL Saigal got it right-
in his compositionMain Baithi Thi,
the protagonist is searching for her Beloved-
Sakhi kaun des raje piyara-
And after exhaustive, fruitless outward seeking
(jangal, upvan, tibhupan dhoondha,
par kahin na uski ter mili)
the answer is found within-
Baahar ke naina moond sakhi, aur nain hriday ke khol sakhi
Ab apne moonh se bol sakhi, sakhi kaun des raje piyara)
To be able to love from the heart,
without the mind getting in the way,
with its habits of score-keeping and grievance collecting
and expecting , always expecting something…
that is true joy…..
The loving is no less, (more, in fact,)
But away from the mind, it sustains itself and all those around
Relationships change from dross to gold,
Detached, yet not detached- a strangely zenful balance
Definitely worth striving for…….
P.S. This was written some years ago. You will be glad to know that my friend is no longer a handbag, and now states her truth as she sees it. Yes, there have been painful conflicts, but she is no longer afraid of them. A good silver wedding anniversary present to herself, I guess!