Nefarious Deliberations

The Ideal Woman – A strictly fictional account

“There is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

“I took a deep breathe and listened to the old bray of my heart. I am. I am. I am.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

“Well-behaved women seldom make history.” – Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Growing up as a girl in the city of New Delhi, in the 90’s, she was always told who an “Ideal Woman” was. And it was a given that she was to become one. When she laughed out loud she was asked to tone it down and cover her mouth. The same rules applied while sneezing loud too although covering of the mouth came spontaneously for her in that case. She was told that girls should sit a certain way, “Close your legs, don’t let the gap show!”. She was told that girls should walk a certain way, “Why must you take such long strides? People would think there is something wrong with you!” When she started wearing pants instead of skirts she was made to feel uncomfortable because it was rare for a girl to wear pants at that time. Hushed voices and made up words were used to discuss menstruation, although due to the very many restrictions on menstruating girls, the whole world would invariably come to know if and when she had her periods. It would always be something like that. Don’t play like a boy. Don’t dance like a boy. Don’t get dirty like a boy. Don’t stay out after dark like boys. So, growing up she always thought that being born a boy must be such a huge privilege.

It took her a long time to undo all that damage and she’d had to wade through the muck of patriarchy to get there. There were instances all through her life when she thought,” I wish I was a man.” Some were unbearably painful and so shocking, that she would refuse to leave the safety of her bed and room. The problem was that she felt that the society frowned upon girls and women who said anything in retaliation of misbehavior directed towards them. For example, once when she was going back home from school, some boys catcalled her and her friend. When she started to say something back, her friend asked her to keep quite. She said, “There is no point in attracting more attention.” After that, as such incidents continued, she learned to be submissive. If some random guy made indecent comments at her, she would ignore him. If someone made lewd gestures, she would go on as if nothing happened. It went on until the first time she was molested. That’s right! In a bus chock full of people, during rush hour, she was touched inappropriately. A man three times her age kept rubbing himself on her and she froze, there was nothing that she could do. So, she got down at the next stop and silently went back home. It was her mum who told her to never back down in such a situation and handed her a big safety pin to stab with should the need arise, and have no remorse.

It was like a revelation! As if the clouds had finally parted and she was shown a new way of life. She was being told that it was okay to retaliate? Wow! It was as if she was shackled to her beliefs for so long and could finally… finally break free. As if she could let out the breath that she was holding in for so long! So, that’s what she did. Once, when a guy flashed himself at her, in broad daylight, within the confines of their “safe and secure” block, she ran behind him, shouting for the security guard (who was busy taking his afternoon nap) to grab the sick bastard. He got away of course. But at least she had the satisfaction that she did not just stand there or worse act like nothing had happened. And after that whenever someone “unintentionally” rubbed himself on her, she’d very intentionally stab him with her trusty pin. The yowl of pain each time she did that was like music to her ears. A stomp of her foot, a dig in the ribs by her pointy elbow and sometimes even a fierce eye contact would be enough to scare them away. The fact that she could hit back was revolutionary to her, she became wild, with this new sense of freedom and blossomed with unending amounts of confidence.

She would dance in the streets like nobody was watching. She would speak her mind like everybody was listening. She would ride her bike so fast and would go so far, feeling the winds whipping through her hair, with a big grin on her face. She would throw her head back and laugh out loud and no one could ask her to cover her mouth. She would look people in the eye and demand the respect she deserved. She was stubborn and absolutely steadfast in her pursuit of what she envisioned for her life. No one could tell her to back down, to stand by the sidelines and watch the boys play. She left the stifling New Delhi to work in the daunting Bombay. She worked crazy hours, sometimes even 14 hours a day, and no it wasn’t to impress her co-workers or managers, it was because she genuinely wanted to learn and be the best at her job. She would go back home late at night, with no fear, not because she still had her trusty pin with her, but because she knew who her adversaries were. They were cowards and scared little minions of patriarchy, that could never stand in her way.

People started asking her parents, why they wouldn’t put a leash on her, how could they let her be so independent. They didn’t know that it was her mum and dad who spurred her on, who pushed her forward constantly, who wouldn’t let her admit defeat. They were told no one will marry her. Conditions were put up so that she could be the “ideal bride”. “You must give up working!” she was told, “You should not dream of studying further!” they said, “Lose your weight and become more agreeable!” they demanded. They didn’t know that their cutting words, instead of pulling her down, only made her more resolute to find her own way. So, she married for love, to a person who had no problem with her weight or her opinions. She went abroad to study. She worked hard to achieve her dreams. When she got pregnant and had her baby, she made the tough decision to let it all go. But it was her decision and she was proud of it.

Now as she gears up to begin a new chapter in her life, she looks back on all that she has lost and all that she has gained. Getting ready for her first day at her new job, while smearing her lips with her bright red lipstick, she thinks about all those times she was told she wasn’t the “Ideal Woman”. She smiles at her reflection, as a radical realization dawns upon her, that the idea of an Ideal Woman is just that, an idea, a myopic perception, a romantic foolish notion that every woman is a victim of. She was not ideal, and thank god for that! She was an out-spoken, opinionated, headstrong, foulmouthed, hellion of woman and fuck if she wasn’t proud of that. So, she puts on her heels, holds her head high and proceeds towards this new adventure, with a sense of newfound power that came from the knowledge that she doesn’t have to be an Ideal Woman, she doesn’t have to live up to the unreasonable expectations of the society or the world anymore.

She is allowed to fail, to be flawed, to be terrified, to be emotional and sensitive, to be passionate and furious and fierce, to be ambitious and determined, to be an individual, and not just a mother or a wife or a daughter. She was a woman and that was enough.


  • Ravinder K A

    As usual brilliant story telling.fantastic imagination.what to wishes and blessings for your new challenges

    • Shruti

      Thank you so much pappaji for your constant unwavering support, your precious blessings and your priceless advises.

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