Monday, June 18, 2007

The Cliff-hangers

When we were kids (i.e, till the age of 18), life had hardly begun. We were carefully cocooned in our little safety zones, that little did we imagine life could get worse than preparing for mind numbing exams and putting up with crazy professors.

Back in those days (sigh), I remember a very popular question that people would throw at you, at the pretext of keeping you entertained during those long train and bus journeys to and from college (which was situated at the heart of nowhere). Such questions were termed as 'mokkai' by many , including me. An example of such a 'mokkai' , "Imagine that your mom, dad, sister, brother and friend are all hanging from the edge of a cliff. You have the power to rescue only one... just one! Whom would you pick?" When such questions were thrown at me, I would imagine throwing the brainy quizzer down a cliff, with a haughty smirk, "What a stupid question! Like there is ever going to be such a situation! And what is the point of this ramble, really? BTW, I have no brother or sister!"

But a few years later, I've come to realize,  a sad realization at that, that such situations do present themselves in life. The cliff is nothing but a metaphor. Life demands hard choices and try as we might, we can only pick one.... letting go of others. An average Indian woman with orthodox upbringing looks down a cliff with a bunch of people/things hanging from it.... mother, father, career, potential life partner, etc. And as the inventor of this game decided, you cannot save everybody/everything.

It's unfortunate that generation gap poses a huge rift between parents and children. These complications are somehow more acute to women than men. I fail to understand the panic attack that parents face in the name of getting their daughters 'settled'. Some girls eternally fret that they will be turning 25 soon, their reason being, "My mom says girls lose their beauty and charm after 25... after 25 it gets increasingly hard to find men". 25 seems to be a dreadful turning point in the lives of single women. The focus is to somehow get married before that age strikes you.... even if that marriage be devoid of love. "Love! What in the name of God has it got to do with weddings?!" - parents howl.... and that's how the rift starts.

The other day, I was asked by a frantic friend, "Hey, when is it too late for a woman to have kids? 30, 35? Hope its 35! I want at least two." So there we go, lets add a couple of potential babies hanging from the cliff too, shall we? Somehow there are far too many pressures-- coming from a traditional setting, the need to please parents is a major priority, but this conflicts with the fact that most of us believe in marriages to be born out of love, and not out of horoscopes and castes. As women, we need to stay beautiful till we get married, find a partner by 25 (whom we truly love AND our parents truly love), try to establish a career that not only satisfies us, but also satisfies our parents, and is 'compatible' with the career of our potential life partner, buy a house, a car too, and have kids by 30. Nice template ain't it?

As hard as we strive NOT to follow the template, we invariably are made to feel guilty and fail in one or more aspects... resulting in the metaphorical cliff, forcing us to make the toughest choices. We need to let go of something that we equally value in our life, in order to gain something. Reminds me of one of those dreadful 'Holocaust' stories... a woman being asked by a Nazi soldier, which child of hers she was willing to sacrifice to save the other. Although our situations are never as cruel, they are painful enough to make us realize that we can't get everything in life.

And the cliff scenario is recursive. Each one of those cliffhangers in one's cliff has a situation of their own... their own cliff with me as one of their cliff hangers. As agonizing it is to watch oneself being let down, it is equally excruciating for the 'rescuer' to make that decision. Is it ok to let go of the cliff to save ourselves the pain, or is it just cowardice to do so? For better or for worse, I can live with the fact that I chose to let go of something, than go through the rejection of being let down.... or is that just an excuse to cover up insecurity?

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