Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Survival in "Songsar"

Maa says that we are a generation which is less bound by rules and emotions. That we worry less, and live more. And she also says that our families (songsar, in her words) will be less systematic (gochhano, again in her words).

So, this afternoon, I was having a chat with her, spoiling her afternoon siesta, because basically I was tired of studies, and also that talking to her gives me food for thought. Well, it’s more reasons-to-rebel than the regular food-for-thought. Anyway.

I have seen my Maa, all my masis and pisis, and some of my boudis, and kakimas, worry about things which don’t matter, and completely ignore what matters – they themselves. They would leave for a wedding but constantly worry if some window is left open back at home and if a sudden rain would wet the curtains. They would go to their sister’s son’s birthday, but wonder if the baai (kajer masi / maid help) would turn up the morning after. The list is endless, and grows on to become seriously frustrating.

Yes, I have no experience of songsar, and hope earnestly that I never become like them. Not because I feel I am better or superior. No. But because I have seen them give up so much of what they like, for the sake of this elusive concept called songsar.

What is songsar? I see K clutching to her son and daughter and husband with her existence, but they go on to live their own lives. The husband has his own friends and group of evening walkers. The son has shifted to another city with his wife and son. The daughter will be married off in a few months. What is left for K? What has she kept for herself, if not the constant obsessing over everyone’s health?

You will argue that it is love. The unconditional love of a mother. I say, if only she would love herself with a part of it, she wouldn't be sinking into loneliness. I see her trying to gather the parts of her songsar, but is it not an illusion?

Take any average Indian middle-class woman - working, or not. Every time they meet, they can't stop worrying - and sharing the worries - about their homes. I have hardly ever heard middle aged regular Indian ladies talk about what they like to do, or what they have recently done, or what movie they have watched, or anything exclusively related to them and not to their songsar. Those who do, kudos to you!

I am sometimes termed as stubborn. If thinking about myself and my own identity makes me stubborn, so be it. What are girls taught from the moment they learn to understand words? That your songsar is your responsibility. Someday, you will leave your parents’ house and go to a new place and you will successfully adjust yourself with the members of the family and build your songsar. And your songsar will comprise your new family. Amidst all this, where is the individual? Where is the person who studied, worked, reached a certain position in her office? Why does it all have to be buried under the eternal concept of songsar?

I feel good when I see women giving equal priority to their own hobbies, even after being a part of the career and the songsar. Reading books, writing, driving, watching movies as a part of daily life and not only as a part of quality time spent with the family. I just hope that they don’t feel guilty for living their lives.

I am young, and my thoughts will undergo phases as I mature. They will mature with me, and modify with experience. But I want to remain faithful to these ideals and beliefs till I am old enough to leave this songsar.


shankha said...

Dear Jane (simantini) Austen,
please describe a 'Songsar' first, not that 'sobe mili kori kaj, pujo parbon e saj saj' thing! But a real definition of Songsar! cause to write on it you need to Define it first! And for my part, leave aside 'gochano', i presume songsar per se would seize to exist soon! not that i have a problem with it! i relish social transmutations!

Simantini Sinha said...

Dear Shankha,

Songsar in its orthodox sense symbolizes the trap used to capture the individualized free spirit of a person - man or woman - but mostly a woman in a patriarchal society. This is that Brahmastra used as guilt factor whenever a woman tries to fight or even ask for her own rights and desires.

Simantini Sinha.