Story : The Second State

~Indira Prasai~
Translated by Dr.Anita Dhungel

“Amita, What is this you have done? Not even in my dreams had I envisaged you would disgrace me in my old age. What is lacking in Sambeg Babu? Why are you nurturing dishonorable relationships with Anuttarit and Anawarat ? What about your two innocent youthful children ? You need to think about them as well! Sambeg Babu, my son-in-law is akin to divinity and I have presented you to him. So, be advised Sambeg Babu’s tears will jinx you forever.” After many-a-days I had gone visiting my mother to inspect her health and fitness. It had been just a moment since I had gotten to my mother’s house, and when unable to hold back her harrowing inquiries any longer, she started enlisting her distraught concerns before me.

To confer upon this subject with my already aged mother was hopeless. Besides, I really didn’t have sensible solutions to my mother’s teeming disapprovals. Still, I did raise a question, “Mother, weren’t you comparable to a goddess as well? And didn’t your parents revere my father like a deity and offer you to him too? So, was it the spell of your mother’s tears that abetted my father to advance in his job, acquire powerful positions in his career, facilitate him to become affluent, which then allowed him to travel worldwide and profusely experience the luxurious indulgences of the world?” My mother listened with her eyes fastened steadily onto my face for a few seconds, and then she professed in a perplexed voice, “Don’t talk about your heavenly-departed father’s soul in such a manner Amita! Concede that he is a male! Men from prehistoric times never dwelt in only one nest. Even a society cannot indict such kind of male deed. We are women; we are the genus that are purported to exist and endure within the decree of their husbands.”

As customary, my mother decanted her grievances concerning me in consent with her eternal archaic dogmas. I had been listening, hearing, and beholding these shabby lop-sided creeds performed before me, since my early childhood, but never was in accord with them, ever. I never considered the exclusive gender stratification fixed by males as noble and virtuous. In fact I find sameness in the transgressions committed by the whites towards the blacks; indiscretion executed by the elite bourgeois towards the poor low class people of our own country; and the control, intimidation, and disregard carried out by the males on the females—as alike. My mother was subjugated by this very same cultural philosophy, which malformed her into becoming a conceptually incapacitated creature. Ironically, she now stands tall amidst these lop-sided women, like as if she is the spokesperson of this same society and culture. Intuitively, she performs the popular Nepali proverb to the word: She is like the bull whose eyes when accidently blown out (ruptured) during monsoons imagines the world as evergreen. Similarly, my mother’s mentality has been so manipulated and restricted that she sees monsoon even during droughts. My mother comprehends only the governed reality of a woman, because she has been coached to believe that a man’s reality is to spark and control existence.
I can boil and swell over with rebellion in the inside, but it is difficult to cause alteration in those beliefs, overnight. In fact, if you repetitively drill a healthy newborn child with the notion that she is crazy, subsequently she will really begin to believe that madness truthfully, is her saneness. Consequently, she will act correspondingly—like a mad person—all the time supposing that she is a well-balanced thinking individual. In other words she is totally transformed into a mad person. In a similar manner, this male-dominated society of ours has forevermore-threatened woman with: “You are weak, you belong to your husband, and because you are his property, you shall be exploited and subjugated by him.” That is why I have observed many weak women in our society who extol and regard themselves as exceptional commodity when subjugated, dominated, oppressed, used, and exploited by their husband’s. My mother stands as a specimen of such women. For that reason I fail to submit to her ideologies; in other words I am neither proficient nor accomplished to yield to her advice, uncritically.
Despite having a blissful married family life with my mother, my father had spousal relationships with other two women. My mother did not protest against my father ever, believing it was a man’s fortune to have and keep as many women he desired and that it was a woman’s karma to deserve this kind of destiny. I was almost past my adolescence during that time. My father used to visit us for a day, every other week from the new domiciliary that he had embarked upon. On the day of my father’s arrival, I would sunnily look forward to note the ecstasy and elation glowing in my mother’s face. That evening, for quiet late up to the night I would hear hushed indulgent murmurings emerge out from my parents’ bedroom. But, by the time I woke up—late into the next morning, my father would have already left for his destination. And my mother’s face would now have become dim and murky—analogous to sunniness gradually liquefying into sudden dusk.

In those days I used to ask my mother, “Mother why did Father leave so early? Why has he left living here with us?” My questions in all probability stung my mother’s wound more. She would obtrusively keep silent for some moments, and then after several minutes with tears threatening to inundate her face she would avert her eyes and look away into the empty space and say in an expressionless voice, “My dearest, if your youngest step-mother chances to find out that your father comes to visit us, even if it be for a night, it will be problematic for him.” When I used to hear my mother give these kinds of justifications, hundreds of piercing questions would crisscross my heart and soul. Observing my mother’s facial expression bereft with pangs of separation for her beloved, I could not muster nerve to probe her with additional inquiries. But those very questions was fashioning a formidable rebellion within me.

The look on my mother’s face—of eagerly awaiting my father; of my overjoyed grease-painted mother, who acted like she was receiving a divinity the moment my father arrived (except for me his presence was a harsh reminder of his desertion); the fidgety eagerness that shaded my mother’s eyes and bearings, were tips of fervent hope for his next visit—and these images troubled me immensely. As a matter of fact, more than what I studied in colleges and at universities for many-a-years, I was mercilessly absorbing at home the un-forgetful lessons of life.

Because of the feeling of righteousness that mother had towards father, and as father practiced injustices on mother—a mutinous roomer was emerging from within me. But until I was married, these emotions and feelings remained concealed within me in such a manner that even I stayed oblivious of it. After my wedding the audacious occupant within me progressively commenced to search for her entitlements. Each night when sexual intercourse transpired between Sambeg and me, I began to imagine and categorize Sambeg as my father and a man. But the anxiety that alarmed me most was the angst that smoldered within me. The angst was: I did not wish in time—particularly from this relationship—to alter and become just like my defenseless mother. During that time I confronted the conflict within me and also waged war with myself. I did not want to be like my helpless mother and shed tears my whole life. My aspiration was to reach the state that my wily father had moved into and experience the pleasurable indulgences of life.

I agree completely with my mother’s opinion of Sambeg. That is, I acknowledge my husband is equivalent to godliness. There is nothing wrong in him. He is very honest and sincere about me and in our relationship, but to my senses he is a culprit, for being my husband. I will never permit him to modify into a man just like my authorial father. Probably, because by nature women need to conceive in the womb to create—so that may be the reason why the males feel they need to rule over her. In fact, since the discovery and advancement of family planning procedures and because of the commercials and advertisements by media houses, there really does not exist any distinction between a man and a woman? A woman by practicing these methods can decide when and where to conceive and become pregnant. Hence, these days she has gained control of her body and has become more powerful than a man. I have read details described in history books, that powerful people always rule the world. The one who reigns is the sovereign and the one who is governed is the vanquished. I cannot explain these things to my mother. She is that kind of a person who becomes happy when ruled. She could certainly not conceive becoming a sovereign and the fulfillments attained from that power position. I suppose, humans can never fulsomely appreciate delights, possibly without experiencing it themselves.

The drive behind such lengthy rationalization is nothing else, but just a submission of evidence: about my complete authority over Sambeg. Actually, if I concur to social obligations and liabilities, it is forbidden for me to have dealings with the two: Anuttarit and Anawarat. Still, I grant upon them the status as my other spouses, despite having a first husband. I gain gratifications from them besides Sambeg. Besides the rest of the men that I have come in contact with, these three males are whom I have exchanges at a regular basis—that is every day. I distribute and spend definitive time with each of the three. If truth is told, out of the three I achieve boundless contentment with Anawarat. All my three males yearn for my affections and aspire that it be directed towards them singularly. They do not appreciate my involvement with the other beside themselves. All three are awfully envious of each other.  Each contests to influence and control me. Ordinarily, these masculinities masterminded authority on women and cast-them-off as expendable commodities, but now because I exploit them they have morphed into expedient resources.

For that reason occasionally these three resist and try to challenge me. It is not that I have not practiced Chanakya-niti like a respected chief to squash their mutiny successfully. I have already told you before also that out of the three the one male who I love ardently and allow residing with me is Anawarat only. I acknowledge and endure Anuttarit and Sambeg because I consider them my accountabilities. That is why I spend three days in a week with Anawarat, and spend only two days each with Anuttarit and Sambeg. Their face becomes despondent and melancholic the day their turn closes for that week. While bidding adieu until the next time, they look with eternal desire woefully shimmering through their eyes, all the while attempting to inflame and entice me to return early. I gain immense contentment during these specific moments in time.

Besides this I am equally proficient in my household responsibilities. Just as Anawarat and Anuttarit are covetous for copulation and companionship, and just as they are appeased by me, similarly Sambeg, whom society has set the designation as my legal husband, is equally covetous to copulate and cultivate camaraderie with me, and is correspondingly content with me. He realizes nevertheless, that I am not utterly compliant to him. When I am thru with my phase with Anawarat and Anuttarit and go to meet Sambeg, at that moment I witness a countenance in his eyes, which I am quiet familiar with from the past. There I perceive illimitable desolation, lucidly. What I witnessed as a child in my mother’s eyes I detect the same expression documented by Sambeg’s eyes. My entire fictional gratification transpires just in that singular momentary spell.

“Amita! Come have some snacks!” my mother’s loving voice jolts me back to reality. Engrossed in judiciously evaluating my past and present I had not realized the passing of time. Dusk progressively inhabited the outside world. I did feel a little acerbic when I noted the puffy eyelids of mother. However, my mind was feeling victorious and was surfing my newly conquered flag of independence; I was in no mood to listen to mother’s never-ending archaic narratives of suffering.

Mother quietly sitting down facing me was morbidly brooding about something. I sight in my mother’s pool of woe my vague and undefined future, the social boycott and orthodox interdicts that I may need to go through. At times I feel biliousness thrusting itself out from my insides against my mother’s defenseless stature. Frustrated, I question myself: Why do women need to be so weak? Subsequently, I contemplate the patriarchal conditioning and her binding problematical situation, and then speedily I feel compassion for her.

“Mother! Your daughter no longer remains as the vanquished, but she has become the vanquisher. You should be proud of her.” Somehow I want to say this to my mother. But, it is impossible to gratify my mother with this kind of exchange. My mother’s mother had seen five co-wives and my mother had heard that her grandmother had seen seven co-wives; so, to convince, pacify, and make my mother accept that I have liaisons with other men than my husband, was a next to impossible mission. Mother is a sapling of patriarchal orthodoxy; hence it will take many centuries to nullify these generational ideologies. That is why to say these makeovers—that she notes happening in and around her during this era—is toxic, is not a bizarre matter for her.

“Amita, you are educated and comprehend everything. Do not act out on interests that are not good for you,” mother voiced her concern in an emotional tone. For a minute I was startled with her entreaty, but immediately I endeavored to be in control and in command of my state. “Mother you need not worry. You don’t understand, but there lies no dissimilarity between any man and me? I am resilient from every perspective. I can be triumphant and win all competitions if I were to participate in an activity with any man. Since creation of this world, the strong have always held power and authority over the feeble. You were weak that is why males controlled and commanded you. But, at the present moment I am strong and that is why I command over men. Mother, I have done nothing wrong. And there is nothing new-fangled in this conviction as well. This is just a changeover in human standing and conduct.”
My mother listened to my conversation in a dazed manner. How much was I successful in communicating to her, was I or wasn’t I able to commune to her these ideas, I have no inkling whatsoever.

(Source : First Published in Asmita Magazine : A leading Feminine Magazine of Nepal, on 1998)


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