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Remembering Aaita

In the last few months of Aaita’s life, Dad would often tell me on the phone that he hears her soul fighting to escape from her body. And, she would put up a fight with her feeble arms and legs. Her entire body had shrunk, and she looked like a curled up cotton ball. She would peacefully sleep the entire day. And shout and shriek at night. She would talk to people from her past.

When she breathed her last in Assam, I was far away in Delhi. I was leaving my office when I got the news. Death suddenly sucked her out of my life and left a huge void in my heart. It took me forever that day to board the metro. The entire way home, I stared at the oblivion and let the tears flow. Life never prepares you for a news like that.

My mind kept playing the last conversation I had with her two years back. We were sitting on the verandah, with my bags all packed. I was to return that day to Delhi after a month long vacation. She asked me if I am ever planning to get married. To tease her, I said, “Yes, Aaita. I will get married and go far away”. “Further than Delhi?”, she asked. “Yes, near London”, I said, because she had heard of London.

The next few days, I often found myself lost in her thoughts. How she would apply coconut oil in my curly hair and tried to comb them. She perhaps thought she could make the creases of my hair go away with her bare hands. How she would scratch and pat my back until I fall asleep. How the white noise of her radio always wake me up. How she would always smell of betel nut. How she would utter some mantras to a glass of water to cure my aching stomach. The realization that she was no more was hard to sink in.

She was a widow for the greater part of her life. I always saw her in all white clothes. I would insist to paint her nails in bright colors and she would tell me, why she can’t use colors. All her life she lived in a religious and patriarchal way. I was too young to question her methods and ideologies. She was too set in her ways to be liberal.

I am writing this from Cardiff now. Three hours from London. When I told her I will be in London, I never meant it. And yet, I am here. Still struggling to finish this one piece that I decided to write, right after her death. It has been two years now and still I fail to find the words to describe how I feel.

After her death I wanted to keep something of her with me. I asked my mom to keep her spectacles. One thing which she never parted with until her death. It just felt the right thing to preserve. I am yet to take it. I just couldn’t muster up the courage to see or touch her spectacles. I thought when I will be ready, I will take it. But, I guess I will never be ready to accept the fact that she is gone.

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We should all be feminist- Book review

We should all be feminist by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

This book is adapted from a highly appreciated Ted Talk given by Adichie, which goes by the same name. Of all feminist books that there is, I believe this will appeal and reach to the masses easily. Not because, it was written by a well known feminist, activist, and writer. But, because, it is written in such lucid and beautiful manner that it is understandable to everyone.

It is an essay on feminism expressed fiercely and persuasively by Adichie. She explained in the simplest of forms the definition of feminism and how gender issue is so deeply ingrained in our society. This is a personal journey of the author. She draws moving experiences from her own life to prove her point. One cannot read it without nodding their head in agreement to each word written in this book.

It starts with an incident when Adichie was first accused as a feminist, and how she went on modifying it’s definition to prove that being a feminist doesn’t necessarily have to be a men hater, unhappy, western influenced woman who couldn’t find a man for herself. And, it ends with her fiercely accepting that she is a feminist, and why we all should be.

She delicately mentions incidents which gave her the ugly picture of vicious gender gap that there is in the society at a very young age. She writes about how society stereotypes many things based on gender, and how we have learned to accept it as normal, “If we do something over and over again, it becomes normal. If we see the same thing again and again, it becomes normal”.

The qualities that make people praise a man, not necessarily be admired when possessed by a woman. Our gender prescribes us specific roles and society expect us to adhere to that. We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man“, because this is normal.

She urges that we should change our culture if that is what is stopping us from giving equal political, social, and economic right to men and women, “Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture”.

Adichie also gives an apt reply to all those who questions the need for feminism. She says, Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general—but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.

Adichie at the end emphasized that ‘We all should be feminist”. I would emphasis that we all should read this book atleast once in our life.