Growing up as a second baby girl in a large Marwari joint household, I was made aware very early, about my gender. I should have been a boy. Not my parents – they celebrated the curly haired, bright eyed baby me wrapped in red silk. But from my extended family, there was this subtle disappointment. As if I had done something wrong by being born as I was. I had no way of expressing my indignation in words, so I made up with a lot of loud gurgling, spit sprays and tantrums. Even before my feet touched the ground, I knew, I was a rebel. (An unintended one, but a rebel nonetheless).
Studying in a girl’s convent school came with its own highlights and lowlines. I loved the camaraderie. There was no Y gene to disrupt what we were going through in our blissful pink journey of hearts, flames, puberty, gossip and long meaningful conversations. On the other hand, since home had no boys and school had no boys, I had no clue till I was thirteen what I was supposed to think or feel about a boy. There was just no experience of the opposite gender (Papa, of course, was Papa and I never saw him as a man).
Time and again I have seen the world tossed and turned with issues revolving around gender equality but strangely in the three decades of my life, I have never asked myself how I feel about being a woman. As a seeker, most of the time I am truly not aware of my gender. I am simply flowing from one experience to another more as a soul than a woman. I live in a home where no one really lives by stereotypes and am married to a man who does nothing to discriminate or make me feel as a different gender. So, at home, I lose my sense of gender. I just am. Without defining myself as this or that.
However, when I go out, I am distinctly aware of being a woman. It comes in the form of being aware of my proximity to others, and my security. It comes in the way people speak (sometimes very highly and sometimes downright derogatory) about women. It comes in the forms of opportunities – some which are saved exclusively for women and others for men. Suddenly I become aware that I am a woman.
It was only last night that I sat and asked myself, how do I feel about being a woman. Triggered by a few incredible women whom I had hosted on my talk show, I just wanted to go on an inner quest on being a woman. So here I am, doing what I best do – flowing, writing, discovering…
I love being a woman. I really love being a woman. And truth be told; I would not have it another way. I love the depth of emotions I go through. I love my versatility. I love the inner strength I carry. I love the way my hair flows, my skin glistens, my eyes twinkle and my lips move. From the inside stuff to the one outside, everything about being a woman excites me.
As I dwell deeper, I realize being a woman has gifted me with certain inherent traits. I think the first is my ability to feel one with. Women are such natural givers. Feelers. It is so easy for us to connect to others. The inner world of emotions is so defined, so loud for me. And life almost seems to be happening on two planes: one on the outside, and one within. Yes, we get accused of being a bit too emotional – but to be honest I do not know how else to be? And I love the way yesterday one of the women said, “When someone asks me why you feel for so many things, I simply ask them – why don’t you feel for so many things.” We are, what we are. And yes, emotions are such an integral part of us. While we work on being more emotionally intelligent – losing our emotions would feel like we have lost a part of us. Why would we?
I love how women are naturally versatile and multifaceted. For most of us, balance is not a word we need webinars on or require reading books for. We just are natural role-shifters. We can be that tender caretaker to a babe, or the passionate person at work – we can dab our cheeks and lips and look beyond beautiful and don the most tattered T shirt and tracks and tell the world, “I just don’t care!” We are in so many ways the melting pots of paradoxes and we love it.
I don’t know if I can speak for all women here, but I can definitely say for myself – I cherish feeling respected for being a woman. It is a recognition of this Truth: as a woman we have had to fight so much more for even the little things that men can take for granted. Unknowingly we carry the pain and strife of generations of women before us, and I personally believe if I am acknowledged for being who I am, it makes me feel understood. I also deeply celebrate protective love from a man, or even from fellow women. It makes me feel the softer parts of me are being recognized. And I expect to be respected as an individual. For what I have done with what I was born with – for what I added to being a woman. For the experiences I went through, the stories I told and didn’t, the battles I lost and won.
But more than what anyone else does for me or how they make me feel, I recognize, it is important for me to understand what being a woman actually means to me…
Being a woman is a lot of things. It is being vulnerable and resilient – often within the same hour (and sometimes minute!). It is sometimes as heavy as a thick, scratchy blanket on a summer night, and sometimes as light as golden butter upon a toast. It comes with its own eccentricities and mood swings. Fun, and possibilities. Whims and fancies. Cream and cheese. Potential and dreams. Vision and strength. I love being a woman – and for the generation of girls to come, I hope I pull and push against all the confining lines of my gender and if possible, erase them altogether. Let me begin with telling every girl out there, growing in New York or Kazakhstan, “Hey Girl, we are so much more resilient, powerful and beautiful than we believe! I love being a woman… and you?!”