Chapter 09.03 - Small Town Girl

Small Town Girl? Absolutely! That’s “yours truly” for you. Small (a very very very small town), by the virtue of its size (people generally tend to know each other through some other) and because of the age-old thought process of the individuals that make up that society.

Someone once told me, “You are a woman of few words”. To which I retorted, “Affirmative. I have very few... I have very few words in my vocabulary”. Albeit, I bet if this guy sees my website, he would change his mind. And you have already seen what I am implying, haven’t you?! BTW, this was my idea of opening with something funny. Welcome back, my dear comrades!

Through this chapter, I wanted to talk a “little bit” about the smallness (whoops! “age-old-thought-process”-ness, I meant) of the society which I grew up in - the then norms (who knows, maybe these hold true even today or maybe not, you never know, evolution being but a natural progressive thing and change being the only constant), and my indulgent upbringing (if that’s the way I wish to put it).

Hopefully, you guessed it by now that I loosely use the words, “little bit” - for these are subjective. What is in little bits for one may not be such for anyone else.

“Dares To Dream” refers to her upbringing as indulgent because it’s not measured by materials, by spirit (or spirituality), rather. In that, it let me be myself for one, and second, I was always provided what I wanted. Now, now, please please please do not be misled into believing that it is out of pompousness that I say I always got what I wanted - for I never wanted Money, Mercedes or a Malibu beach house (well, at least not in those days). Dad, are you gloating over it in gratification? Sigh! At that time, I wasn’t even aware these existed...

Ok - Money, maybe yes (or “Definitely, Maybe”?), I was aware it existed (because Dad gave me pocket money). I was just trying to rhyme the three M’s (Money, Mercedes, and Malibu beach house), which are so quintessential L.A. - Oh, yes! Your very existence stands challenged sans these! Please don’t get me wrong here, if you can’t get me right - I am sure, you can safely attribute this to my notorious, acerbic sense of humor so that we can put this behind us (like everything else)... And yes, I was referring to Samantha and Smith’s beach house at Malibu, from “Sex and the City”, The Movie.

Taking up where we left off….I was saying, in my childhood days, these M’s were not a part of my “wish list” as I wasn’t even aware these existed. Is that why they say, “ignorance is bliss”? Oddly (or sadly?), my indulgence was well within the means of a middle-income parent. I consider that an indulgent upbringing nonetheless. See what I am saying? No worries. You will. Soon. However, I don’t seem to see what I am saying either, so I better put my glasses back on… Uh-huh. That felt better!

Now that I can see things clearly, my dear comrades, let us begin this profound journey (profound as in, intense, not unfathomable - at least I would like to believe that), with some very basic society norms for starters and we’ll deal with the more profound (here, unfathomable) ones in the later chapters… that is, once we have allowed the more ludicrously frivolous ones to marinate for a while… hmm…which ones would those be? Good question! They all seem ludicrously frivolous to me! Hence please allow me to present these below, not in any particular order (just the more ludicrous ones first)… Disclaimer: In doing so no offense is implied (knowingly or unknowingly) to the believers and followers of these norms.

The Age-Old Thought Process - aka, The “Norms”:

Need I say like any other chauvinistic society, where a man defines the code of conduct and all the rules apply only to women, while the men enjoy complete freedom of thought, speech, expression, action and what have you, here too, a woman would be treated like a leper…

On a side note though, is there such a thing as a non-chauvinistic society? If I learnt this right, “woman” is not spelt as “womyn” and “women” not as “wymyn”. [This one is not my original. I thought I heard this somewhere when I was growing up or something]. Anyway, it gives me solace, when I think of it like this that “men” are always after us “women”, chasing us, woo-ing us and what not. Sounds good! Let’s come back to one such (chauvinistic society), where a woman would be treated like a leper (by the society at large) if she…

· Wore jeans in public. Whoa! If you committed this crime what happens next? Since it’s a small town, news spreads like fire (especially such type). Pretty soon, the members of the opposite species (also referred to as, the anti social elements) will know you and from then on, you would be referred to as, “The One In Jeans”. Contrary to what might be expected, it’s not considered respectable (in the “small” town that I come from), if the members of the opposite species know you, are desirous of knowing you, are ogling at you, or for that matter if they are giving you their undivided attention. Either way, you would not be considered “socially acceptable” material.

· Were nocturnal. In that, she preferred late nights or night-outs. To date, I could never comprehend, what is it that you can do during the night that you cannot during the day?! Insights please! Anyway, norms are not meant to be reasoned out with. Are they?

· Had any boy/man friends. Yes, that is true! What a boring society you would think. Huh? The only relationship a woman is supposed to be getting into is the one by “marriage” (that too, with the “Ideal” match that her parents hunted down for their beloved daughter). Hmm…my theory on “Ideal” matches? Now, do they exist?! Interestingly, Sis (being the more “socially acceptable” normal kind) never had one (i.e. boy/man friend - or did you, sis? Its okay, you can tell me! I will love you anyway!), never talked about one during my growing years and since I idolized her, I never realized there was this other species until…until…umm…can we hold on to this one for a little bit longer please? I will, in the chapters to come, explain my “natural” (and “normal”) evolution - at least in this one area. I just don’t think the time is right, yet. If I grew up in a society like this then how come I ended up having…I think it may be a good idea to just deliberately stop here (because in no way can we gently pass!)…yup, you got that one right - “The Solitary Reaper” by William Wordsworth - I think I learnt this in Kindergarten or was it? For those who haven’t a clue of what I am talking about, the first few lines of this short lyrical ballad go like this…

Behold her, single in the field,

Yon solitary Highland Lass!

Reaping and singing by herself;

Stop here, or gently pass!

Now you are up to speed!

As I was saying, you will learn what I was implying (about the story of my evolution to “leper-hood” - hey, did I just coin a new word?) through the chapters to follow. For now, please let’s keep it a hush-hush thing (to be buried in chapters where my Dad will never be able to find it - assuming he survives having perused through the chapters before).

Before we push along, I do want to throw “some” light on the institution of “marriage” so that you can better understand where I am coming from.

Marriage is defined for a woman as an act of leaving her parents for absolute strangers, so as to then mould herself around them. Did I mention that men, even after they start earning, always very proudly live with their parents? Sounds more like the plot from the movie, “Failure To Launch”?! Ha! This one is for real. Through this marriage, a woman is supposed to have forsaken her parents and come to terms with this new set of parents in the form of her in-laws. She is supposed to start living with them (happily ever after?) and address them as Mom and Dad. Of course in many parts, after marriage, a woman is “allowed” (by her in-laws) to freely call her “original” parents (to talk to them) once in a blue moon and some in-laws would be going too far (in their kindness) if they “grant” their daughter-in-law “permission” to visit her parents, once in a while (for what ever reason). Most women (when they become daughters-in-law), succumb to this custom quite naturally.

Parents are supposed to spend money on their daughter’s education and then even pay the market price for the guy she is going to get married to. The market price is referred to as “Dowry” and it’s paid in cash or kind or both (per the demands of the in-laws). The more the education of a man, the higher is the demand (from his parents). And if a man has been to the United States, is working in the United States or has prospects of ever going there, then the sky is the limit (for their demands)! Which is why parents think of their daughters more as burdens (you bet! It costs them a fortune - they have to pay through their nose if they wish their daughter a “happy” life). The payment is not a one off thing at that, once your daughter is married in a household, you have to cater to all the needs of this new household from that point on. The investment is huge (and on going - perpetual is more like it). Are the returns worth it? There are no returns. Maybe, yes, if your daughter is being kept happy. For there are so many dowry deaths where women are burnt alive or beaten up if, the money is not coming through from their parents or the demands are not being met. The scope of all these customs tends to vary by region and is governed by various other factors.

Apparently, a lot of girls don’t want to get married for the fear of desolating their parents (“Known Devil is better than unknown Angel” type thing, I guess). Disclaimer: This in no way implies that parents are being equated to devils. Please. It is just another proverb.

I think that I am so opinionated on this subject that I can go on and on like this forever expressing my “strong-socially-unacceptable-passionate” views but, I think this will suffice our purpose.

And this, my dear comrades, is just the beginning (of the laundry list of the so called norms). Please note, not that these are published in a society newsletter (and circulated) as “The Ten Commandments” or something (it would be unjust, wouldn’t it? because here we have a plethora and not merely, 10). It’s just one of those things you pick up observing those around behaving in a certain manner so as to be more “ACCEPTED” by the society.

Oh! Here, this one is close to my heart…

It is a very popular notion, (in this society, again), that, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” (another one of those ludicrously frivolous ones). However, my alter ego’s grandmother used to say, once you (as a woman i.e.) learn how to cook, your “Monster-in-Law” (err…mother-in-law) is going to make sure you cook all your life for the entire family. This goes back to the previous bullet, where remember, I mentioned, how a woman starts a new life in a new home for her, after marriage (her new full time job being, taking care of this new household)?

Evidently, it is not just the parents but also the environment that moulds an adolescent, so I clung on to this wise grandmother’s invaluable insights and hence never quite developed any liking whatsoever towards cooking - which is also why I was sure I was never going to be able to make it to a man’s heart ever, having eliminated this route altogether.

My interpretation of the popular notion? I wonder, if it should be rephrased to aptly say, “The way to your husband’s heart is through his stomach” - because you are expected to get married to an absolute stranger and then make it through his heart (by supposedly, feeding him good?). So, if a woman could not make it to a man’s heart? You got that right again - she probably doesn’t excel in her culinary skills! That’s what it is.

Upbringing - Thy name is Indulgence:

Like father, like daughter - “Dares To Dream” is (boastingly) her Daddy’s girl. The Mostly audacious thing from the previous chapter, remember? Audacious - as in carefree, not careless. Umm…carelessly, carefree? Oh sure! By all means!

Meaning, when you mix my Dad and my Mom in the right portions, you do get a perfectly sane outcome (that being, sis, beyond doubt). “Yours Truly”, on the other hand, it’s just the wrong mix. And there is logic behind it (if you don’t concur with what I am saying)…

It is said that two entirely different individuals, get attracted to one another (opposites attract) and get married, only to spend the rest of their lives trying to change one another. You guys would wonder why I am mentioning this when, the society that we are talking about, does not think of "marriage" as such (as a mutual attraction of two individuals towards one another). You are right - it does not, however, that is how my folks came together. Well, there is a difference though, I do think that they were like minded - in that, Dad really liked Mom and of course Mom likes herself (well, who doesn’t like her) and so they had something in common - Liking for my Mom.

When likes attract there is but only one possible outcome - all positives (In other words, Sis). Makes sense? Okay, let’s get to doing some simple math here -

(+) and (+) = (+) or

(-) and (-) = (+)

However, a lustrum (which is the gap between sis and me) is a long time for two individuals to come to their senses and realize they were in fact the exact antipodes of one another. Under these fresh developments if they now try to produce an offspring see what happens…

(+) and (-) = (-) or

(-) and (+) = (-)

And that’s exactly what goes through when opposites attract.

BTW, don’t worry too much if these pluses and minuses are baffling you a little. Making these textual, it would read (if you equate + to a friend and - to a foe),

· My friend’s friend is my friend.

· My foe’s foe is my friend. (Sad, but, true!).

· My friend’s foe is my foe.

· My foe’s friend is my foe.

Flabbergasted at my genius? Don’t be! As much as I would like that, I have to give credit where it belongs - for this one it goes to my high school (freshman aka, 9th grade) math teacher.

The point being, mix opposites in any proportion and the outcome would be negative regardless. By that, I mean if you take positive attributes of one and mix with negative attributes of the other. And negative here of course, relates to a leper, someone who is a born rebel, who rebels without a cause (and without a care therefore also carelessly, carefree?), who likes to do what she likes to do. My stance on life? “Nobody tells me”! Meaning, nobody is going to tell me, what I am supposed to be doing”! That’s just me and I am Dad’s exact replica! This thing (the audacity) of course, comes from “Pampers Audaciously” (thereby making yours truly the incorrect mix!). No offense to you Daddy dearest, all I am trying to say here is if you would have only contributed less (in my making i.e.) there would certainly have been a higher probability of my being “acceptable” (just like all the other normal, “socially acceptable” human beings).

Phew! So much so for a memory jog on the previous chapter. Are you guys ready to explore your “Dares To Dream”’s indulgent-middle-income upbringing? It’s about time we did that, huh?

What I am going to pen down next (or is it key down?) is nothing but the appreciation of all the small things in life - the spirit that I was talking about earlier (that brought about the “indulgence” in my upbringing - at least in those days). Isn’t that what the famous poet, William Wordsworth is also trying to say through, “The Solitary Reaper”? - That, simple things can give longer lasting pleasures…

· Dove. A very popular “imported” soap (OOPS! my sincere apologies to the ardent Dove fans, it is considered a beauty bar - not just soap!) in social circle I come from (which happens to be just another soap in the United States) was a big deal to be used in a household (consider social circle the superset of town). It was priced some 30-40 odd bucks (in those days) if I remember correctly. “Dares To Dream” was the only person in her household who exercised the privilege of having her very own, to scrub against, when everyone else in the family (and outside) would just look at it with a feeling of awe, what was then the most expensive soap in the market. Must I admit this made me feel very guilty about it? But then, please try and understand that, I was my Daddy’s little brat, nothing could deter me! On the other hand, not that I was ever stocked with it or anything, I got a new one, once I had depleted the previous one. Now, do you see how it’s indulgent, yet well defined - certainly not luxurious?

Moral of the Story? We can either choose to bask in the glory of things we have or whine about the things we don’t have, cannot have or are not allowed to have… So why not make the most of what is with us and be grateful to God for it?!

· Education. “The rents” gave me the best of education - they sent me to the best school in this small town. More about my school life in the next chapter, “School Life Is Long”.

· Marriage. “Dares To Dream” was never raised to think of marriage as her ultimate goal in life. She was never brought up thinking she eventually has to get married one day (so why not sooner than later and so forth) - when almost every girl has this instilled in her that she has to get married one day (which has to happen in her early twenties - at least that’s when all parents start their hunt, that we spoke of a while back).

· Cooking. Dad never encouraged me to spend time in the kitchen (and you now know that it is not purely due to him that I do not know how to cook even today). Although, sis (like all other “normal” human beings) transcends in her culinary skills and would say that one should learn how to cook so that at least one can feed one’s own self, is self sufficient in that (which, again, is a good school of thought - certainly not my type of school, though). As for Mom (“Most Lovable”), she was indifferent (in a good sense) - she just loved me for whatever I was or did or did not do, for that matter (no questions asked, no expectations set - come to think of it, could it be that she knew it’s best not to set oneself up for disappointments?!).

· Clothing. This was one area Dad never interfered with. I can neatly put, that it was his area of indifference. However, Mom was very opinionated when it came to wearing “short” clothes or if I were to wear jeans with my shirt tucked-in (speaking of eloping with a guy for love - when it comes to one’s own children, we tend to become "overprotective much"!). If we look at it from her perspective, it is one thing to renounce the world for a man you want to spend your life with (and to have fled with him in order to accomplish that) and it’s yet another to be looked at by all other men as a hot babe or something. C’mon now Mom, can you blame them? Simply put, Mom strongly detested “exposures” of any kind and she was very vocal about it. “Dares To Dream” has had vehement oppositions from her. Hmm…I think you must have inferred who used to win these arguments.

Assuredly, this is what I was referring to as “Indulgence”. My childhood screams - “Dad! You are spoiling me!!! And you should know that I am simply loving it!!!”.

Remember, I said somewhere before, in that epoch, parents were not very particularly excited about having daughters? Well, for the majority of the population, this is true even today. Which is why, prenatal sex determination remains illegal - for the fear of subsequent sex-selective abortions.

I have my parents to thank for all the more - for they decided to bring me into this beautiful world. Shouldn’t we all be thanking ours, for what we might have been otherwise taking for granted all this while? Not everyone is so fortunate. Not everyone is as fortunate (as we all are) to be able to see this astounding creation of God’s.

What follows is a weird incident. I was visiting my Dad’s guardians in Bangalore (in my late teens/ early twenties?), when my aunt (the female of the guardian couple) felt the need to apprise me of a conversation that they might have had with my Dad (sometime in the past). Through this conversation, she claimed that Dad mentioned, “One shouldn’t have to father daughters”. I never could get myself to ask her the context in which these words might have been uttered and therefore the background which might have been the basis for such thoughts to have come to Dad’s mind. For some reason, I could never get over this incident and often wondered after, if it would have been better had my aunt just kept that to herself? Not that I was taken by surprise or anything - that is the very society I lived and grew up in so I knew exactly where it came from.

Even though, on the contrary, I have known myself to be otherwise. All my life, I have been Daddy’s little princess (again, not that I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth or anything), an untamed horse (mare), his spoiled brat, a tomboy - always doing things to please him in an attempt to win the place that he had given to his “content, submissive and docile” daughter (sis).

I want to thank my aunt today (this so called guardian), for this incident has had a significance of its own and to a great extent has been a vital ingredient during my formative years. Again, I can choose to fret over it or think, is there a lesson I can learn from this, something that will help me become an even better individual? Easier said than done, you think? A little, maybe - ever since this episode, “Dares To Dream” decided to be a son to her Dad. That’s what her journey has been to date and even though she tries her best, how far do you think a leper can go? We’ll find out!

Let’s close this one on a hymn (that I also learnt in my kindergarten)…shall we?

Give me Joy in my heart, keep me praising,

give me joy in my heart, I pray.

Give me joy in my heart, keep me praising,

keep me praising till the end of day.

Give me peace in my heart, keep me resting

Give me peace in my heart, I pray

Give me peace in my heart, keep me resting

keep me resting till the end of day

Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning

Give me oil in my lamp, I pray

Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning

keep me burning till the end of day

Give me love in my heart, keep me praying

Give me love in my heart, keep me praying, I pray

Give me love in my heart, keep me serving

keep me serving till the end of day

May God Bless Us All and Give Us The Strength to Become Even Better Individuals...

With Every Passing Day…

With Every Passing Incident…