Power Of Words
I wished I was a boy. I wished I was a boy – a chant I remember saying so often. Hoping that if I repeat it enough times, it would magically come about, a direct consequence of growing up in a city, where sexism and misogyny hid deep in the self-proclaimed progressive people. I was envious of boys, specifically my triplet brother, because, seemingly, he was allowed to do everything I was not.
The incident which marked the beginning of my descend into such a mindset transpired unforeseen on a seemingly regular evening.
“Have you no decency?”, I turned to a group of women and froze, my heart pulsing hard, and my throat closing in when I saw the displeased looks on their faces. A group of ten-year-old girls playing cricket in the playground shouldn’t be this controversial, but apparently, it was. I felt like I committed the ultimate crime and was put on trial.
“The absurdity! When did girls start playing games meant for boys? Go play something else.”, one of them remarked. I desperately wanted to counter back, but I found myself paralyzed by my insecurity. It was then I vowed that I would never subject myself to such scrutiny again.
I kept true to that promise. I was repressive, limiting myself to only certain activities. Inevitably, I felt like I was stuck in a cage, the unbreakable bars of the cell crafted meticulously by the sharp words of those around me. Maintaining that promise proved to be hard, not because I dared venture out, but because I faced criticism for apparently everything. When I visited my aunt one summer her words were, “What are you wearing?”
“Why, it’s just a shirt, aunt.”, I chortled out, convinced she was joking. She wasn’t. She went on to ramble about how I should be more modest. I was exasperated. Is this how life was going to be for me?
The revelation crept up to me subtly one day. Our school had organized a book fair event, and a panelist of authors was brought in. Halfway through, a friend pointed out how there was only a handful of female authors present compared to the male ones. It surprised me, not only because of the lack of representation but also because I had failed to notice it, and how normal it seemed to me. The other friend next to me shrugged, saying it wasn’t a big deal, and she was surprised they were even present, as female authors weren’t as good as the male ones. It was then I realized the impact of seeing people in power and leadership who looked like us.
It shocked me that we were starting to think that way and talk like that. Completely unforeseeable to us, the pressure to conform was slowly turning us into one of those women from the playground. As simple as it was, it jolted me awake. I finally decided to break my promise and embark on a voyage, which proved to be a difficult and emotionally trying quest. I knew that doing so would require a tremendous amount of willpower and commitment, but I was ready. I had to learn to be adamant about not listening to the voices around me. I would need to replace those negative words and counter those with words and voices that were positive.
Books! That’s where I found my true comfort. I purchased and read tons and tons of different books to the point where I literally had a library in my own room. It had such a positive impact on my life and outlook. It astonished me to see the strength of just words in action, how it had the power to bring down or uplift a person. The latter in my case. I read and let the words resonate with me. In doing so, I pushed myself into situations I never would have done before. I advocated for equity and inclusion every chance I got. I wrote in my school columns, local newspapers, and addressed various topics during our school’s assembly. In doing so, I gradually found my voice and became more outspoken and open-minded for the right causes. All these years, I thought that I had to be a boy to gain my freedom. But life became so much easier once I understood that I could not please everyone nor was I obligated to. I know the journey has only started and I have a long way ahead of me, but I promised myself that I would never let any words bring me down ever again. I want to end my narrative with a beautiful quote from the book, sense and sensibility, which when I read it really inspired me at the time.
“I wish, as well as everybody else, to be perfectly happy; but, like everybody else, it must be in my own way.”