Television was the only source of the sound echoing all over the house. The channels were being kept changing between classical Indian music, sports and news by Rumi's father Ramesh. And on the other side, Rumi was sitting beside the window sipping the chai and enjoying her new storybook. 'The breakfast is ready!' exclaimed Brinda with ecstasy. Then, Rumi and her father went to the basin to perform the perfect five steps of washing their hands properly to protect themselves and the others from the prominent virus all over the world taking lives - the covid 19. After that, their faces were equally bored by eating the same recipe of poha for three days regularly. The storage of food had decreased due to the scarcity in the corona time. Minutes proceeded with only the sound of ticking clocks and then they heard footsteps coming from the stairs. 'Good morning !' Ananda said. Ananda had come to travel all over Kolkata but he was stuck because of the lockdown all over the world. Suddenly seeing her uncle, Rumi's innocent face turned dull. Her fingers were shaking, and the spoon in her hand clunked loudly onto the floor. She took it hastily and left the room to the kitchen by running. Rumi was staring at the fan circling above her head making whirring sounds. She was listening to music and wanted to delete all the noises in all the world and her screams in her head. The sweet girl was spending her abundant time thinking about death. Her eyes were watering and seemingly nobody knew the reason. She was clasping her thighs and pushed her nails into it, there became prominent red marks when she heard a knock on her door and as a reflex, she covered herself up, covered the strikes with her ladybugs printed pants, wiped out her tears, paused the playlist and went to open the door. Brinda came with a plate of freshly cut mangoes from their garden and gave it to the hands of Rumi. Mom: 'Is there anything you want to tell me?' Rumi was awestruck for a moment. Although she tried to tell everything but converted the discussion to her studies. 'I am fine ma. I am a bit late in my studies but I will cope up. Mom: ' Yeah, I noticed that too. This is the first online test where you got a b grade in maths, you have always got a grade in all your subjects' Me: 'Ma, I said Nah! I will improve ' Mom: ' Ok, I told this to your uncle and he said he will help you with mathematics from today .' Rumi was petrified, panic-stricken. The hair stood on end, her heart was in her mouth. She was standing there without motions and shaking like a leaf. She broke into a cold sweat, and she could not open her mouth to speak a word also. In the crisis going on the whole world because of the pandemic, all people were facing different troubles in their lives. There were fewer oxygen tanks for patients suffering from the disease and for Rumi - there was less oxygen in her lungs as well, in her house, in her home. She could not breathe. In the evening, she sat stiffly by her uncle to learn maths. The scary sight was being nearer to Rumi in disguise of Ananda's hand. He was pointing one hand to algebra and with the other hand, he was brushing little Rumi's shoulder with his thumb. His hands were going up, stroking the little neck of Rumi. He snatched one strand of her hair and was twirling it. His evil fingers were being circled onto the girl's face. Then the hands were reaching for down. Ananda was scratching Rumi's soft neck with his claws, and then the hand was crawling inside her turtleneck top, towards her bra strap. Rumi's legs ceased, her voice fell silent, she could not make a sound also. All was numb from her head to the nails of her legs, the fingers were cold, and she was sitting with a closed door behind. Wearing the turtleneck top on this hot summer day and full leggings also not protected her, she thought to herself. She felt that her uncle was not stuck in her house in the lockdown, she was - she was stuck in the lockdown in her own home. She tumbled, fell and fled to the bathroom and shouted hard. Rumi was moaning, screaming and sobbing. She was slapping herself and was trying to rip down her full clothes. Brinda and Ramesh came down horrifically and was banging the door. Rumi finally found the courage, she came out unhurriedly, pointed her tiny fingers to her uncle Ananda and let out all the pain ' He harassed me, he tried to rape me, he had touched my thighs before and now he is trying to touch all parts of the mine. ' After some prominent calmness, the storm came. Rumi's father's rage was coming out, his eyes became red with trickling water. Ramesh took Rumi in his arms and caressed her hair. Brinda's eyes were flowing with water, she squeezed Rumi and took her into her core. Ramesh just uttered some words which were so straight and severe to not her uncle but her rapist; ' You will get the place you deserve. A police station or better death. Now take all and leave at this instant only. '
All over the world, the journey of a woman's life is predetermined by the patriarchal society we live in – it's not an opinion, but a fact. This restricted and claustrophobic journey is sadly amplified for those girls who are born in regular, unassuming and conventional families in developing countries like India. Although I was not born to conservative parents, their parents were very traditional. So, when I was born, a second daughter, my mother was subjected to a lot of emotional abuse from both of my grandparents. Not a great thing to learn when growing up, however, it does explain why I was never as close to my grandparents as my older sister and younger brother were. I don't know how this affected my subconscious?! Perhaps, me being fiercely independent from a very young age and a bit of a rebel would be a measured behavioural outcome of the knowledge that I had of how (un)loved and (un)wanted I was by my grandparents! Anyhow, getting to the crux of the story, I have always lived my life on my terms “unapologetically”, but never used this term till it was made trendy by millennials. I worked from the age of 16, got my Bachelor's degree, left my country to pursue my Masters (1000s miles away from my home) in pursuit of freedom and independence when a lot of my peers were getting married. I got a job, lived on my own, fell in love and married to a “gora / gringo” (it wasn't a done thing at the time in my home country). All of these things were challenges in their own right, but I was never phased by them. Also, I love a good challenge, a classic trait of a rebel! I must add here, my parents and siblings always supported me at the end and stood by my decisions and even, celebrated them with me. As a child, I always dreamt of travelling the world, and I got to do that a lot with my loving partner-in-crime, my husband. However, as expected from a woman, once you're married with a job and a house, the prospect of producing an offspring was lingering over my head. Now, this expectation, isn't just limited to females from certain conventional families, it's an expectation from females, full stop. Apparently, a desire to procreate should come naturally to women…only I didn't feel that way. It took me weeks to gather courage to tell my husband that I didn't feel the need to leave a legacy behind – a child. I wasn't worried about telling him that I didn't want to use my female reproduction super powers (we share an open and transparent relationship), but what worried me was, what if he felt differently – could I bear to lose my best friend? We went to our favourite Italian restaurant and after a few glasses of wine (of course) I told him that I didn't want to be a parent, but, instead, I wanted to see the world with him! He listened to me patiently and, he replied, to my surprise, that he shared the same feelings, but didn't know how to say it. Well, needless to say I was greatly relieved! However, soon after I felt relieved, the thought of telling our parents about our decision took over and that, seemed like a huge mountain to climb. Remember, I said expectations! It's not “normal” for people to decide not to procreate – human instinct and all that. It was easy for me to tell my mother, as I tell her pretty much everything, but to tell my in-laws of our decision was very daunting. My mother took the news beautifully, as always, she supported my decision and said “as long as you both are happy, that's all it matters”. Eventually, we told our in-laws and although, it was far from easy, and it took them some time to come around our decision, they accepted it. The declaration of our decision to not procreate and overburden the planet which is already brimming with children, didn't limit to our family and friends, it's something we have to do on a regular basis by answering questions, “so, do you have children / when are you planning to have a little one / when are you going to start a family?”, to extended relatives, friends' families, neighbours, my hairdresser, my local café owner, strangers…the list is endless. I have been tempted at times to say “we've tried but to no avail” – you see, you get sympathy to that response, but not when you say you've chosen not to have a child – you get judged for it and are even called “selfish”. So, here are the questions I contemplate – why is it “normal” to want to have kids and not acceptable to choose not to? Also, why do we have to conform to the society and live our lives dictated by it? My husband and I chose, NOT to conform – we couldn't be happier and are living fulfilled lives. Years ago, I came across a very powerful saying that I always go back to when I am feeling lost and unsure - “If Not Now, When? If Not Me, Who?” I keep reminding myself not to worry about what others think and I continue to make life choices that I feel are right for me and I do that unapologetically.
It was happening when I lost my believed in love and miracle but my present boyfriend appeared like a hero in the movie.At first I was hard to get his heart open but after a few month the miracle happen he started to love me more and more and than he try to learn how to deal with a girl.He made me cried again and again but I tried my best to teach him how to deal with me and vice versa.Even if he was bad in love matter,he got more experience life than me. After hearing my whole story,he told me that what I did was wrong.All of these time I was just trying to please others without thinking of myself and just went with the flow of the people around me.He told me that I should not try to change how those people act toward me or even try to impress them. He told me to be myself,try to change myself to become better rather than changing how people think toward me so people will change their view of me and also their attitude toward me. He said that this is the only way to become an independent person.At that time I didn't believe what he tried to tell me and still acted as I always did. Even all of those hard times with my family and school life that he had to get through with me,he still stayed with me all the time that no one could ever do.He supported me with everything he got and finally I passed my high school exam.I expected that after I step my feet in this new life as a college student,I would have a better independent and a bunch of new friend that could walk with me through these four years of college life.But my boyfriend still told me that finishing high school doesn't mean life will become easier,each phases of life that complete will replaced by a new hard one.The only thing that can makes us feel it is not as hard as it seems to be, is to become a stronger person by ourselves.Everything got harder and many assignments were standing up a row to put their pressure on me. I started to understand what my boyfriend wanted to tell me, so I tried to study even harder and got many good results that really satisfied me for just a moment. At school,I tried to become friendly as much as possible and sometimes I acted as a funny person to get more attention in the hope of getting more friends and experience a new happier life than I was in high school. Despite the fact that I tried this hard, I got more haters than friends.I still got abused at home and still feel that I got no place to go beside my boyfriend. Whenever I felt upset, I always wanted to meet my boyfriend and he was always there by myself.Each time I met him I always told him everything that happened recently. I told him that even if I tried this hard, but my life still gain nothing in return. If it was not for him I wouldn't have any reason to live anymore. He hugged me and told me again to be just myself and real friends will come into my life.By got affected of his influence, in my second year of college life I started to do as he told me step by step and the result was incredibly great. I found many new friends that I had never got to feel anything like this before. They showed me what true friend is and how to enjoy life at school even it was hard to get through. By getting help of my boyfriend I won in a writing competition as rank 10th and got some rewards from the owner of the competition and my university. I became many teachers' favorite student and no one in class got jealous of me like before. My parents started to change their attitude toward and acknowledge that I had become more mature and started to accept my opinion more than before. I started to understand what my boyfriend tried to tell me and I was really appreciated for what he had done for me this whole time. I told him that everything had become better now. He said that he was really happy that he was the only person that I could lean on whenever I feel helpless. He wanted to be selfish too but it would be unfair for me. I am a human being so I deserve to be more independent in life and got many counteraction with many people. I will be got less time to spend with him but he was still happy that I found my own happiness and new goal in life beside just depend on him alone. He told me that even if he will be with me forever but he won't be with me all the time. So he wanted me to become an independent person and can depend on other people beside him in any situation. Thank to him that showed me what the true meaning of Independent and happiness. Even if it is not going smoothly as I want but it still going slowly and step by step my future will be a bright place that I couldn't imagine that I could get in to this stage if compare to what I had done and met in the past. Don't try to become someone else just for a purpose of going along with the flow of people around you. Try to be yourself as much as possible! Real happiness will come into your life with the real you. And that is the time that you can know that you can become an independent person as what you wanted to be.
On a cold November morning, after attending an exhilarating youth conference in Strasbourg, I was on a train on my way to Paris. My heartbeat was mimicking the rhythm of the rails. I was only 19 years old and blessed with the opportunity to visit one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Ville des Lumière or ‘the city of lights'. As a young woman from India, raised in a traditional family, most of my choices were made for me. This was my first step into an independent life and it was all very unnerving. An hour into the journey I met a young man who, to my surprise, was also from India. We exchanged life stories as the beautiful French landscapes of freshly cut grass, fauna and wineries painted our windows as they raced by. He invited me for a walking tour in Paris taking place in a few hours, telling me how we would explore the city guided by a tour manager who would narrate to us its dynamic history. Possessing an inherent love of the past, I readily agreed. After reaching Paris I rushed with my heavy suitcase to find the subway and caught the train that lead to my accommodation. Reaching just in time to leave my luggage, I ran back to the street and caught a bus to Saint Michel, where we were supposed to assemble for the tour. On my way, I realized that I was so intent on not being late, I navigated easily through an alien city with a language I didn't speak. A little proud, I smiled at my ability to adapt so quickly to an environment so different from home. Indeed, I was growing up. The tour was very enjoyable as I carefully observed the interiors of Paris painted with flora and Gothic architecture. We were walking along the Seine, the river which holds the spirit of Paris within it, when the sun was engulfed by thick clouds. Soon, I could feel icy droplets of rain on my skin. Each raindrop felt like a sting, reminding me that I was turning twenty soon. We ended the tour in Tuileries Garden, as the sun interrupted the rain, blessing us with its warmth. My friend and I then walked to the Eiffel Tower. Coming from India, a country with a rich heritage, I firmly believe that historic monuments that have witnessed the ravages of war and tranquility of peace are the most precious. They have a story to tell. And so, I always felt that the Eiffel Tower was merely a metallic structure unworthy of praise, much like the French did in earlier times. But I was wrong. The Eiffel Tower emitted magnificence. It was like an anchor of the city, holding it from sinking into the blue skies. We sat on a lonely bench placed on a pavilion just behind the tower, surrounded by green trees slowly rustling in the cold air of the twilight. I was evaluating the photographs I took of the Eiffel on my phone, when my companion reminded me to appreciate the moment I was in. “But we have been here for over an hour” I replied, “there is nothing new to-“ I stopped short in my words as I looked up once again at the majestic tower. It was lit up with a golden light, almost as if with a thousand candles, against the backdrop of the slowly brewing night sky. Suddenly, I could not feel the chill on the tip of my nose or the cold air in my lungs. I felt warm from the glow of the Eiffel, as if someone had tucked me in a cozy blanket with a hot cup of tea. I went to sleep that day feeling like a changed person. On my last day in Paris, I visited the celebrated Louvre. Its high ceilings that housed tremendous artwork made me feel small and insignificant. I visited the intriguing Mona Lisa painting and felt that I could never be as famed as its maker, Leonardo Da Vinci. So what was the point of even trying? The best or worst part about accepting mediocrity was the comfort it provided. I found myself walking once again towards the Tuileries garden behind the Louvre, but this time on a warm sunny day bustling with people and energy. Yet somehow, I was more alone than ever. I felt that independence was equal to isolation. I was walking beside an intricate fountain in the garden, when my melancholic thoughts were interrupted by an old man, just like the sun had interrupted the rain in the very same place on my first day in Paris. The man was in his mid-sixties with grey hair and a thick beard. He muttered something to me in French and grinned. My first instinct was to walk away but his compelling eyes held me back. I looked at him questioningly, signaling to him that I didn't understand French. He happily repeated in English with a thick French accent, “Are you thinking deeply?” I was shocked. He continued, “You should not indulge in your thoughts so deeply, enjoy the present”. He walked away immediately after, but I was transfixed. It was as if God had come to explain to me that the meaning of independence was not isolation, but the pure enjoyment of moments in life you have created for yourself. In those few seconds at the conclusion of my sojourn, I was finally ready to embrace my 20 year old independent self.