I am the hypocrite in question. I know everyone is one, but I am more so when I am home. And my home state is Kerala. I speak for hours about women liberation, about feminism, about spitting on the face of patriarchal chauvinists and being true to oneself. However, all of this dies out the moment I enter the capital city of Thiruvananthapuram.
Then on, I am a closet feminist, and more than that, I am a coward. Every time I smoke, my heart jumps. I look around and then hesitantly move on to the next drag. There is a part of me, who desperately wants to rebel. But the other part reasons with me on the consequences. I may not publish this article under my own name.
I told you. I am a hypocrite.
As much as I want to scream all this standing at the highest podium in Thiruvananthapuram, I am forced to remember my folks, of the unbelievable shame it will bring on my family. Oh, I forgot to mention, I am a girl.
My folks do not know that “despite” being a girl I smoke or the fact that I drink. Last time I was home, my mother complained about my education. She told me that I behave the way I do (which is, going out and meeting friends whenever I am there), could be attributed to their decision to give me a better education. I wanted to scream at the top of my voice. I do not think my education asked me to spent time with friends always. I do that because I like doing it. Of course, what bothers her is how it would affect my “marriage prospects” and the kind of “questions” that will be directed at her by the “society”.
Now, coming back to my education, I do not think any education teaches an individual to smoke or drink. But sometimes, and only sometimes, when you have a mind of your own, you actually believe in something called liberty. Liberty and freedom in their true sense! But the biggest crime you can commit in the state which once had the much-touted matrilineal system of succession is to believe in gender equality.
I wanted to tell her that, what my education gave me is a degree to secure a job. Sadly, that is just it. The purpose of education ends there these days. But, in the process, I also learned a lot of things – I read between the lines and actually understood that thinking is not a crime. Believing in freedom is not a crime either.
I wanted to tell her all this, repeatedly, in the most logical way possible. Then the thought vanished. I remembered that the last time I threw all these words at her, she merely dismissed me off saying, “you throw fancy words to get your own way”.
I strongly believe that I should not be ashamed of being myself. I cannot go and hide somewhere and then do things I like because I fail to see the point. Whose sensibilities am I offending here? Once again, why am I just a prospective bride and nothing else?
I have not decided yet if I want to get married or not, and even if I decide to I know that my marriage will be a personal affair and will not be a lavish social circus. Does that surprise you too? And, even if I do not get married, I intend to have children. Whoa, rang a bell didn’t it? Yes, I do not mind being a single mother, yet none of you guys who are thinking that I am readily available in a platter just like that will ever have a chance at me. That is because you are a sick pervert. So yes, opting to be a single mother does not stoop my dignity levels or self-respect. IT SIMPLY DOES NOT.
I am yet to say this aloud without offending people. I need more time to break away from that very obvious and suffocating fence of conservative bullshit that my folks and friends have built around themselves. But as of now, I am a hypocrite, oh no, your hands have sealed my lips.
This is not a girl’s very desperate urge to drink and smoke in “God’s Own Land”. It is the hypocrisy I see all around that makes me write. I have ample male friends in Kerala who are totally cool with girls drinking or smoking outside the state. What happens when the same happens inside? I know for a fact that public smoking is indeed banned in Kerala, but yet I see these pocket tea stalls and shops thronged by dozens of young men every evening. Strangely, I have never seen a woman among them. And I do understand why.
During my last visit home, while my friend and I lit a cigarette and was sharing it in some corner filled with cigarette stubs, the constable lurking around who seemed perfectly fine with him smoking suddenly turned around and said “No Public Smoking” to us when he saw me taking a drag. Should this bother me? I think it should.
What happens so bad when a girl decides to smoke? That moment you turn back and stare at her you are turning that tobacco filled two or three inch long thing a symbol of the conformist in you. It refers to the rules, the place you have ascribed for a female, just because of her gender.
You do not like woman in short skirts, do you? Then, how come item dances are on the rise in Malayalam movies. You do not like a woman who drinks? Oh, wait. Did I not hear that you loved those scenes in which the actress was drinking in a movie called “Trivandrum Lodge”. The girl who runs to a medical shop and specifically asks for condoms in another movie gave you goosebumps, right? And yet, you look at me, or any other girl like me, with those unnerving stares.
In the middle of those stares filled with disgust, if you care and have time, look at my eyes, they are looking right back at you, and they are filled with rage too and more than that, contempt.
We stand on different levels, I am the one who will one day grow out of being a hypocrite, and you will die as one.
(This applies only when the writer is in Kerala.)