Political Stories by Volga

Political Stories-2


     Mom says my eyes are pretty. She lines them with a lot of kohl. Even my sister-in-law says, “You look beautiful with that beauty spot on your fair cheeks and the black kohl lining your white eyes!” It is true my eyes are very big – but so what? Ramudu, my sister-in-law’s son, has tiny, blinking eyes, no bigger than tamarind leaves. He and I are both ten-years old, although I am ten days older than him. But I have not seen one hundredth of the many interesting things in our village that he has. The other day there was a commotion in front of our house, and I ran out and stood there among the crowd. My older brother, I have no idea where he came from— grabbed me and dragged me into the house. My mom yelled at me: “You are a girl. How could you rush out like that without a care? I was inside the house and frightened hearing those screams from the street.”

     Everybody scolds me for saying that I am not afraid. You wouldn’t believe how thrilled my brother is at his wife’s cowardice! He frightens her and then laughs heartily when she freaks out. My sister-in-law is a perfect match for him. She closes her eyes and acts scared of everything. I tell her, “Open your eyes and see, there is nothing here to be afraid of.” But she won’t. Her eyes are also very big, but of what use are they? She seems to like keeping them closed. My mom and sister-in-law look only at the ground when they go out. I don’t understand why. What’s on the ground? Even if there was something there, how long could you look at it? They don’t care to look around at all. On top of that, mom scolds me, “Why do you stare in all directions? Look at the ground and walk,” and hits me on the head. There is no way I will walk like that. If I don’t look around when I am out on the street how will I know what is there? That kid Ramudu who roams the streets night and day, will he pay me any heed if I remain an ignoramus? But even Ramudu doesn’t know a lot of things. For example, he doesn’t know that women only need to see very little. Mother knows this very well. I am not even supposed to look at my body carefully. She yells at me and demands to know what I am looking at. As I grow older, it is particularly forbidden to look at men. Right now I play with Ramudu, but in a couple of years I won’t be allowed to. If I see him outside, I will have to go into the house. If I find him on the street, I will have to keep my head down and raise just my eyes to look at him. Padmakka, my neighbor that’s how she sees it. I have asked her why she looks at people like that and she said that it’s the only proper way of seeing. I have tried, but I still can’t see like that. Who knows how long it takes to get it right. I bet Ramudu will never be able to see like that. It seems that water should flow easily out of a woman’s eyes. The other day my mother, criticized the woman next door by saying, “She is hard hearted. Not a tear rolled out of her eyes.” Apparently women should cry readily. Somehow I get angry quite easily, but can’t cry. I get upset when I am scolded for no reason. But my sister-in-law cries, and her tears quickly cool my brother’s temper. “OK, that’s enough. Stop crying now,” he says, but even then she continues to cry in waves. When my brother and sister-in-law argue, it is always my sister-in-law who cries. My brother has never cried, not even once. It’s the same with my parents – it is always my mother who cries. Me — I just don’t like crying. My eyes look awful and my whole face turns black, smeared with kohl. This crying business is definitely not for me. And it seems that no matter what we see, we shouldn’t say or do anything about it. In my case, when I see my father coming home with a basket of mangoes, I feel like screaming and jumping with joy. But I am not allowed to do so. I am forbidden from expressing my enthusiasm until the mango is on my plate. And even then I am supposed to eat it quietly. What is the use of seeing mangoes if you can’t jump for joy? On top of that, girls are not supposed to scream when they witness something that makes them angry. Let me tell you What happened the other day. Kalyani akka was returning from college when she saw a boy fall from his bicycle. He couldn’t get up; apparently he sprained his ankle. Kalyani akka pulled his bicycle up and leaned it against a post she propped him up and steadied him as he tried to see if he could put any weight on his sprained foot. Apparently my uncle, who lives in the house across from ours, witnessed all of this and he passed on the story of what he had seen to Kalyani’s father. Kalyani’s father is also an uncle of mine, but I just refused to speak with him after he hit Kalyani. And he hit her badly, accusing her of embracing a stranger on the street. She protested that all she had done was lend a hand to a boy whom she had seen fall to the ground. He screamed at her: “So what if you saw him fall? Why didn’t you just go on your way? Who asked you to do this social work?” Well, she had to do something after she saw him fall, didn’t she? If not, what was the point of seeing? I asked my mom why one should see at all if she must remain unaffected by what is seen. She just didn’t understand. And then she asked me to shut up. Eyes have to remain closed. The mouth has to remain shut. The other day a woman who works in my brother’s office visited us. My goodness, she laughed so beautifully! Surprisingly, she didn’t have a bottu; neither did she line her eyes with kohl. Even so she looked very pretty. She laughed so beautifully the whole time she was here, but my mother and sister-in-law didn’t like her. They claimed, “The face of a woman looks horrid if she has no bottu on the forehead and no jewelry around the neck.” “Really? You really didn like her?” I asked several times. My mother’s reply was  always the same: “To my eyes, she looked hideous. I just don’t feel like looking at a face without a bottu.” I wonder if my eyes will become like my mother’s when I am her age. My goodness, if they become like hers, I won’t see anything! “How is it that only your eyes see all these things?” she asks. Her eyes see nothing. And she doesn’t pay any attention even to those things that she does see. Who knows why women’s eyes become like this?

Stree Sakti (Andhrajyothy) September 13, 1988


(To be Continued-)


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