“Of her own language”- 22 August 2012

‘A woman speaks in many languages, ….. is one of them’, said the slogan of an advertisement of a textile company many years ago. Ancient verses and treatises also spoke of multiple roles of women, and highlighted the woman as a Deity of Creation. Poetry, prose, fiction, essays kept highlighting many facets of womanhood. Yet, the woman seems to have missed the underlining message of all those: Of the need to speak her own language, to sing her own song, to live her own life. The trouble is that the woman in general and Indian woman in particular did not learn fully the science and the art of speaking her own language. On the contrary, much to Gods’ dismay, she kept reflecting what others said of her, about her, and for her. So unfortunate.

It is in this context that when one finds women speaking their own language, using their own voice — metaphorically and practically –, then one feels very happy.
When Olympic bronze medal-winning boxer Mary Kom found herself scared when people milled around her to felicitate her, she seemed to have forgotten her own language. Or, the other way round, she seemed to be speaking her own language to herself in a way. She seemed to ask herself: ‘What is so big about the third place in Olympics? Why did these people not felicitate me with such a frenzy when I won the World Championship as many as five times? Did they not notice that those victories needed much more effort than did the tournament in the London Games? Why did they not notice that effort put in by a small women like me, a mother of two?’
In a way, her private emotion may have been referring, indirectly, to the hype people attach to Olympics. But, in another way, it also referred to a sad fact that the society — Indian society in particular — notices women’s achievement only in terms of glory and not effort. Thus, the society still imposes upon women its own languages, and does not seem interested in listening to an altogether personalised voice and language of the women.
If Indian society has to convert itself in a finely civilised entity, then it will have to start listening to its women’s very own voice and very own language. And if the larger Indian society fails to measure up to this need of the times, then it is more likely to fail itself than succeed.
This is not a case of women’s liberation. That battle has almost been won long back. Yet, there are a few impediments to complete liberation of Indian womanhood from the shackles of unnecessary male domination. And one of them is the woman’s own inability to pick up her own language and use it effectively in life.
There was a woman who said to me once, “Look, for some time now, I have been trying to spend time for myself, be myself, and speak my own language. And let me confess, nobody is opposed to me doing this. Yet, I have not been able to pull myself up to the task. Within myself, I feel odd, and rather selfish, when I start speaking my own language, and living my own life. A silent sense of guilt takes over and I wonder if I am ignoring my duty and commitment to my family — husband and kids in particular.”
This is it, the woman’s own sense of unnecessary guilt. She makes all effort to excel, like did Mary Kom, but the society did not even recognise that effort. That may not be intentional. Yet, it is the woman herself who should never stop speaking her own language, using her own voice. That is the crux of good life for women.
Of course, one sees that even men forget their own language in life’s vicious process. But let us not talk about them. Let us talk about women who should not give up their own language.
The phrase ‘one’s own language’ needs a little explanation. It means the language of the aspirations and inspirations of the woman herself, not of vision borrowed from others or lent by others. This means, the woman will have to find herself through life’s processes, look for her own identity, and define what she wants to achieve. All this, of course, is a difficult affair. But if the woman pushes herself through that unrelenting jungle of self-discovery, then she has made the grade — of being able to speak her own language.

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