Exhaustion sets in sometimes not just by the physical work that one puts in but also when you are doing what you think is right but maybe it may not adhere to the standards laid down by society.
I am exhausted.
I am 35 years old, soon-to-be a single, childless woman and I am exhausted. I am exhausted because there is a constant judging that is happening. No, this judging is not within the courtroom but outside of it. The judging is when a well-meaning friend comes to me and tells me that I should live my life differently. The judging is when I am undermined because who I am does not work in the classic setup of the society and its established norms. The judging happens because I will not have a name to fill in the column dedicated to ‘Husband’s name’. The judging happens when a single woman, in litigation, should be seen to be too ambitious and therefore, should be belittled because how dare she think about rising in this world full of patriarchy and high moral ground.
I choose to live a life which is an open book. Some people refer to me as egoistic, others call me pretentious, many call me ‘a typical south Delhi girl’ (like it is supposed to be an abuse) yet others give me gyaan on how to live my life.
Here’s something I want all and sundry to know. My first job was selling a small equipment called ‘de-pil it’ in Victoria Market in Melbourne, while I was studying for my Masters in Business Administration. It was a piling remover and I used to earn $10 an hour and 10% of whatever I sold. I had a Dutch woman for a boss who knew how to exploit the students who were on education-visa in Australia. I come from an established, well-to-do family and the job was definitely not a necessity. I completed my MBA in Finance and also did my Research in Performance Measurement Systems in SME- a comparative study of Australia and France, for which I lived in Dijon, France.
I came back, got married, and finished my B.A. LLB. And started my first job. Thankfully, all my jobs were in startups or in establishing New Business Units for established companies and after working for many years, and reaching the designation of Associate Vice President and only few weeks away from becoming Vice President, I left it all to have a baby. A baby because it was about time to go the family way. The hormones were injected and thus, ensued the trials and tribulations faced by every infertile couple. This is when I began my practice and went into litigation. Hardwork pays. And it paid for me. I worked hard and was able to clear my AOR exam in first attempt. Then came the challenge, the challenge of being a first generation lawyer and establishing my own independent practice. In between all this, I lost 16 kgs. and from being a ‘baby-elephant’, I changed into someone who looked attractive, if not beautiful. I overcame a decade long struggle with body-shaming, complexion-related shaming, stigma attached to being childless, abuse and torture to reach where I am today.
In this journey came many amazing people who kept my spirits high, my morale boosted, who would always say that they were my ‘Jaamvant’ and I, their ‘Hanuman’, and they reminded me of the power I had in me to conquer the challenges thrown on me. I am who I am because of these amazing people and any success that I have achieved, has been because of them and my family. My family, to whom I will always be indebted because instead of leaving my side, in my testing times, chose to support me and stick by me, and caught every single stone pelted on me and continue to be my shield.
Then today happened. Today, when I am exhausted and my journey feels extremely tiring. Because today, a well-meaning friend made me question how I chose to live my life. Questions that I had variously asked myself; should I be so callous as to tell everyone about my relationship status? Should I show to the world that my intelligence is so limited that the questions I pose can be answered by first year law students? Should I think before posting a picture on instagram or facebook because someone may be judging me on my selfies and thereby, judging me on my attention seeking behaviour? Should I keep the veil of oblivion drawn on the fact that 10 years of marriage is resulting into a divorce and that I shall remain child-less for the rest of my life? Should I remain that person who stalks everyone else’s timelines but hides his/her own so that no one can know what is going on in their lives, for fear of being judged?
This disturbed me utterly. This disdain and contempt that I felt for myself, this uselessness and the many years of hardwork, went by in a blink because I realized my life was not setup as per the moral compass of society. That, I should hide my lifestory, my struggle, the challenges I overcame, because God forbid, if the world knows, I shall be judged.
No, I chose my life to be like this. I am a God-fearing woman and my moral compass is aligned to him. I believe in karma. I shall be punished for my wrong deeds and awarded for the good ones. I choose to write about my struggle because when I do so, I am telling others, that look I overcame this, so can you. I choose to take my selfies and photographs with my family and friends and upload on my social media because I want the world to know that look I love myself and these friends because they stood by me when I was about to give up. I choose to ask questions which can be answered by a layman because sometimes I am looking for a simple answer and not a complex one.
Yes, I choose to be judged by people and society. Yes, it is tiring and exhausting and affects me to greater length. Yes, my privacy setting is ‘open to everyone’. Because, if by living the way I do, has enabled or empowered even one person to find hope or ‘moral-of-story’, I think my job is done. I am leaving something for posterity. If the likes of Maya Angelou or Oprah Winfrey (and I am not comparing myself to them or any other woman), had not opened up their lives, so many women across globe would have remained under suppression, thinking this is how the world functions and so be it.
Yes, I have the right to be who I am. If people want to define me as pretentious, south-Delhi, egoistic, soon-to-be-divorced, questionable woman, then so be it. I refuse to be defined by anyone’s definition of me nor do I demand character certificate from anyone. I don’t want anyone’s attention or acceptance or conformity of my existence or how I choose to live. Judge me by the work I do or the knowledge-or the lack of it. But don’t judge me on my privacy setting because the whole point of an unfollow button is to relieve you of me. Click it. And next time you see me, don’t pity me or judge me, carry on with your life and let me carry on with mine.