I was 18 when I first went to a party where there were many people of my age group smoking and drinking. Till then our parties were about food and music only. I was at the brink of being an adult and had rudimentary knowledge about sex and sexuality.
I was also not even aware about what exactly is sexual harassment, because there was practically no interaction with men. I was from a girl’s school, only went out with my girl friends, siblings or parents, had no boyfriend, most male friends were more like brothers, others were friend’s brothers; and being a gawky teenager hardly anybody noticed me on the streets. I was anonymous and invisible.
I started going to college at 18. That was the time I was exposed to the feelings of utter confusion of choosing between ‘what I want to do’ as opposed to ‘what I am supposed to do’ to be accepted as an adult among adults.
That was also the first time I started regularly travelling by bus. To me, the road side romeos were a different breed of people, who were nasty men, best avoided, glared at, or hit with the umbrella or water bottles. They were not civil and not at all found among the society of people where we lived.
At the party, the first question I faced was my about my age. Then I was asked, what will I drink. I had never had a drink till then. I refused and there were counter questions, why? A question for which I had proper answer. I was confused from then on.
I had some replies, “Because I don’t want to drink”… “Because I am here to enjoy”… But almost every answer I gave got me a volley of more questions…and it happened regularly.
If I said, ‘I don’t want’… I faced many remarks… “Do you think it is a bad thing to drink”… “How can you say you don’t like it, when you haven’t tasted it”… “You think we are bad people that we are drinking here”…”You don’t have to get drunk, you can just taste”… “Are you scared of your daddy”…
…followed by more jibes… sometimes deriding, sometimes angry… “Why don’t you get your father’s permission to drink”…”How can you enjoy a party, when you are not drunk”… “You have to experience everything in life”… “Its all part of growing up”… “How come, you are from LSR and you have such block headed ideas”.
Till date I never really could make this connection of my Alma Mater with the choices in my life.
I was not very verbal or vocal and I felt I was being cornered so I never argued over the issue of drinking and smoking or its bad effects, versus, my choice in leading my life my way. I found it futile & juvenile.
I used to quietly refuse or smile and say no, or agree to take a little bit mixed with some soft drink.
Finally one day a guy said, “If you think we are all a bunch of drunakards then why are you here”, and I started declining the invitations.
I was sick and tired of being labeled — A behenji, a Low society girl, You know one of those govt. aided school girls, A prude, Mother-mary, homely girl and what not.
By the time I was 20 I knew for certain, how I wanted to enjoy being at a party; and getting drunk was not my kind of enjoyment. It happened at a New Year Party. We were all offered rum punch and I had picked up a whole bunch fruits floating in it and merrily chewed them. Before I knew what hit me I was sombre and sitting quietly in one corner on the floor with a girl-friend of mine. I felt like puking.
A guy almost 10 yrs elder to me, my friend’s elder brother’s friend, came and sat next to me and started asking me if I was ok or not. I nodded & said I am giddy. Soon a couple of his friends sat down next to us. This guy, suddenly laid down on the floor and put his head on my lap and said, “Hey you don’t mind na, I just want a head rest”… It took me a minute to realize what he was upto.
I shifted my legs so fast that his head hit the floor and I pretended to puke on him and he immediately moved and I got up. I told my girl-friend, about what happened and we left promptly.
After that my resolve to say ‘NO’ got even more stronger. I was prepared with my answers.”I do not have the stomach to hold alcohol. I don’t want to lose my alertness when drunk, cause I know anything can happen to me when I am drunk”… That shut people up to a large extent.
This was the first time I felt what is harassment and not from any loathesome road-romeo, but a civil, highly educated guy, rather man. My giddyness was his first indication, that I won’t protest.
After that I have been to hundreds of parties. I tasted almost every form of alcohol there was available, in large and in moderate proporitions…but I am always resolute about, how much I want to drink, what I want to drink, whether I want to drink at all or not, how I want it mixed, etc.
I did get drunk once at a New Year party at my home. I was so drunk that at 3 o clock in the morning, I threw out the gate crashers, screamed at someone for breaking one whole bottle of ‘Old Monk‘, made all my friends sit in a row on the floor, while I cleaned the entire house and then moved on to clean the kitchen. It has a become a joke among my friends, “If you want your house cleaned, get her drunk.”
Alcoholic substance has a different effect on my mind.
I have even got raving drunk on HOLI thrice after drinking Bhaang… I was stoned for 5 hours, talking nothing, just dreaming…and meditating.I was always particular to come back home before it hits me and never to drink among unknown people. Never giving in to undue pressure or judgment.
The same happened to me when I refused to take to smoking. I like the feeling of smoking. I do it occasionally if I have company.
I have smoked marijuana several times. But knew when to stop.The bottomline is even if I know and like smoking, I don’t smoke, by choice.
Every time I said ‘NO’ to a proffered cigarette, I got a raised eyebrow, “What??? I thought you were progressive”… Yes darling I am progressive, I just don’t want to kill you with passive smoking.
“What’s wrong in smoking, everybody smokes. Your health has more hazards from the food you eat.”Yes dear, I have more hazards from being around people like you.
Or I just turn around and fix my gaze and tell them, “Why is is so difficult for you to NO for an answer?”
As I developed Migraine and went through several medical tests, I recognised that my body is not too happy with alcohol or smoke. I reduced drinking and smoking all together.
When I got married the exact opposite started happening. None of my husband’s friends would even offer me a drink. If I asked for one, they would first look at my husband and then back at me sheepishly, “Oh sorry sorry, I didn’t know you drink”… as if to ask him for permission. Some times they even asked my husband what I would drink and he would come and ask me.
So my husband made it a point to always ask me aloud in front of his friends, “Shall I get something for you”, making it clear that I don’t need his permission, but he needs mine to make me a drink.
Yes often women rely on their husbands to make their drinks. I do it too, but not always. At the same time I have accumulated enough knowledge to know what I want. Once when I directed him, mix this, mix that, a dash of this and a dash of that, that raised eyebrows as well.
“OH! I didn’t know your wife is a mixologist”…
… “No actually I used to work as a bar tender before marriage”,…. I winked & smiled at them.
Even today often I meet people who don’t understand or accept my ‘NO’, as an answer. For them if I am saying ‘NO’, that means either I am being too coy, shy, regressive, prudish, behenji, snooty whatever.
Alternatively if I say ‘YES’ — I fall into the category of, fast, loose in morals, slut, not respectable enough, not responsible enough etc etc.
2 decades have passed and I have never tried to fit in any peer group of adults, which didn’t accept my choices as my own. I flit from one circle of friends to another. Whenever wherever I have felt or was reminded that there were some unsaid rules or norms to belong to the group, ideologically or morally… I stuck out like a square peg.
The judgements about me, my character, my behavior, my past have never stopped and never will in future as well.
In fact even now that half my life is over, people come up judging me with my past choices. They seem to be more worried than I am about my life. ha ha ha
But then what they don’t know is that I am very very adamant when it comes to making choices of my life. I am very clear about what I don’t want and nothing on this earth can make me do it. Just as I am very clear about what I want. I am also well equipped to shut them up with the right polite words.
I have many reasons for my choices. I either tell them, if I find the person receptive enough or I ignore them. I am an adult and I have a right to my choices. I am an adult and I don’t really need approval from everyone about the way I want to live my adult life.
I don’t feel angry, I don’t feel shocked. Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn. I never did.
That is what I would tell my young friends who are on the brink of adulthood. If you feel you are being pressurized or pushed into doing or being something, or behaving in a manner, that you are not happy with, just to be called an ADULT, or to be accepted among adults, then its time you introspect, re-think your choices, assess the possible repurcussions and be prepared to be accountable for the same choices. But don’t give in because everybody is doing it or you would be judged if don’t do it.
That is the whole point of being an adult. Not always conforming or being a part of what the rest of the adult world thinks or gathering more and more adults in your way of thought or behavior; but knowing and respecting your mind, body, heart and soul, their signals, your instincts, and your experiences, that
“My mind is mature enough, to understand what my choices are in life. I am the sole person making them and taking the responsibility of those choices. Nobody makes my choices and nobody takes the responsibility if the choice goes wrong. I am an adult and I can think for myself.”
In the end you are, what you choose to be. So choose wisely and be accountable for it.
- #India-A letter to young men who protested against rape #Vaw #mustread #sundayreading (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- “This is about you and me”: RJ Balaji on Men #mustread #Vaw (kractivist.wordpress.com)