Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Handbag

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.

Know thyself

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!


Mira's mom said...

Beautfil Dipali, beautiful and at the same time, so very true!

Indian Home Maker said...

Lovely...and true. But thank God, that's one beautiful ending.

neha vish said...

How beautiful. This was the first post I read today, and it has put me into a certain mood.

How utterly beautiful.

dipali said...

@ mira's mom, indian home maker, neha: Thank you kindly, ladies!

Mampi said...

Beautifully written Dipali.
Such a wonderful statement of the truth that stares most of our women in their face. Glad that she has come through the crisis successfully.

Mana said...

Lovely and yes, very true!

Anonymous said...

It is so true - But then the victory won after a hard battle is really cherished. I salute the person.

Anonymous said...

She was taught
to bottle up her feelings
and speak her thoughts.
In the first years of marriage,
she just wanted to be
well-liked, pleasing and appreciated.

It was many years later
that she realized
the silent ones
are taken for granted,
To be heard, she had to
speak up first.

Anonymous said...

oops. 3rd line should be "not speak her thoughts".

Nat said...

enjoyed that one dipali. me being me, relaxed after knowing it was a happy ending.

Anonymous said...

your post script was most heartening. i wonder how the husband is coping.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

This was beautiful. :)

More power to your friend. :)

Eastmancolour said...

Ooh nice!!

me likey very much!!!

Aanch sent me over :)

Brenda said...

I love how you revealed your friend's reality without demonizing the spouse! It makes this a truly wonderful, honest piece.

Choxbox said...

gave me the goosies - know a few folks like your friend. not all 'happy' endings, but oh well.

Pinku said...

what you wrote is beautiful, what ur friend achieved is better still...congrats to u both!

सुजाता said...

बहुत सही लिखा आपने । हमारे आस पास ऐसी बहुत सी स्त्रियाँ हैं जो हैंडबैग़ सा जीवन बिताती हैं और कभी खुद से सवाल नही करतीं । अच्छा है कि आपकी मित्र ने अपनी आइडेंटिटी को पा लिया ।

एक अच्छी पोस्ट के लिए शुक्रिया !

चोखेर बाली
first community blog in Hindi on gender issues.

Gouri Dange said...

ah dipali, that line from saigal - i can hear his voice delivering it. have you heard 'kaun bujhaye - tapas mere man ki?

Unknown said...

Lovely. Dips, and so heartfelt.