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The Past a Prison

I often list, in the middle of the night, how far I have come and how many things I have done in life. I know I have not done much, but it felt good to count all my little accomplishments and feel a sense of self-satisfaction.

Is this a good thing? I believe so. After all, if we look back and see the great heights (or not-so-great, as the case may be) we have covered, we would look at the mountains in front of us and think that, well, we have gone a long way so why would it be a problem to scale a few more miles?

So what is the problem? For me, it is reliving the past so much and basking in it that I found myself wondering if the present is as good. The past is safe; it is comfortable. Everything is familiar, and we are accustomed to it. When we have left an occasion or a person, often we find ourselves unable to think of anything but the good.

Like yesterday, for example, I was stuck in a train station in the middle of nowhere because of an accident. There was nothing but storage chambers and darkness all around me. One lady kept on complaining; a group of people were shouting drunkenly. The glow of the station lights was harsh, unforgiving against the rails and concrete and the faces of the anxious passengers. At that time I was frightened, unable even to leave my seat to go to the restroom; now I laugh about it and tell it to my friends. Where is the horror and the anxiety that I felt back then? They were all eclipsed by the relief I felt, and had become an ingredient for a good story.

And then there is  the future. It is uncertain while the past is set. One can pluck the grandeur of the past and makes it one’s own. That is much easier than working towards a future that appeals to us. Now this is the core of the problem. If we continue to hold on to our safe-zone, to the past that we know is not going anywhere, how are we going to progress? Knowing how far we’ve come gives us hope, true, but let’s not live counting our past ‘glory’. Let the past be a lifeline, not chains holding us from living the present to the fullest and looking forward to the future.

On Gender Roles

As a child, I have a concept of what I want to be, and it wasn’t a lady. I liked Power Rangers more than Barbie, wore jeans everywhere, continued to climb trees and fight with boys until they suddenly had growth spurts and expanded to twice my size.

I was a source of vexation to my parents. They keep telling me that I should behave; that I should be a lady. How, I would ask, do I achieve that? They would provide me a list of do’s and don’ts that would make me a true woman.

This sets me thinking…what if I don’t want children? What if I want to be a journalist in war zones? Does that strip me off my status as a woman? Does that mean that I am a man, or something completely different?

Society has this concept about masculinity, femininity, and gender roles…like mass-produced clothes of the same size and style. It does not matter if they do not fit you. One’s own preference is of little consequence. People give us this pair of shoes, tell us to wear it, and like it. In this subject, at least, man and woman truly are equals.

I find this classification rather silly. Ever since the dawn of time, there has existed this taxonomy separating man from woman. There are so many differences in characteristics, expectations, and roles that I can’t help feeling that we are not of the same species.

Why do we have to be certain things? Wouldn’t it be better to be ourselves than to be a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’? After all, who’s to say that men can’t take care of babies and women can’t work? My uncle does perfectly well in raising his daughters. My mother is the most methodical worker I know. Why the labels, if we work better using shoes that fit?

Still, I see the charm of having this perfect image that we could aspire to be. Without it, most of us would not know what to do. The issue is not about having a certain view; it is more about forcing ourselves to be exactly like these ideals. For heavens’ sake, we are not perfect! We shall never be, no matter how hard we try, for the simple reason that we are human.

The image we have of the perfect man or woman is, for me, good when used as a handbook, not a prison. We are at heart a man, a woman, a child, and something greater we can’t hope to describe. Why should we strive only for one and disregard the rest, when all of them make us what we are now?