The Hell In Our Mind
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Did you look at her ****? Asked my classmate.
We were in college. I felt blood rushing to my ears. What if my mother or father heard this? I thought.
“No, I didn’t. Why?” and there followed unnecessary volumes of gyaan.
This girl from a rich business class minority in India was one of the most meritorious in our college. She was also supposed to be very beautiful, and (now that my classmates had too much talk about it, I couldn’t ignore), also had a nice figure. There were fan clubs after her. Some were also jealous of me as she often talked to me and my friend Shafi after the college. She had a heart more beautiful than her smile!
Everything changed one day. She had a bad accident. Without helmet, she suffered many injuries to her face and had multiple fractures. She recovered well, but had a totally scarred face, a twisted arm and a limp as remaining deficit.
Like magic, all the fans disappeared. Her worth as a female in their eyes was suddenly reduced, thanks to her exterior. The attention shifted elsewhere.
Once, while walking back after college under a wet evening, she asked me “Do you think I am beautiful? Answer the truth, what you feel”.
Just as I paused for a second for the right words to say “Yes” without sounding artificial, she added : “Say no. Because I hate the word ‘beautiful’ now”.
From books to scriptures, from Hollywood to Bollywood, from cultures to parents, men and women have insisted that the only woman worthy of being a woman, the only woman worthy of living a life full of love, attention and praise is the beautiful, young woman with a great body who can bear children. Women who are not physically endowed, who cannot bear children or compensate for it by different methods, who are not earning for the family are considered equivalent of ‘useless’ in our so called civilised world. Rarely do marital ads desire “Honest, Truthful and Caring” people, we know what they all demand.
Where do others go, those who are not physically attractive? How do they accommodate to men or even women drooling over physically attractive bodies?
A lot of Zen taught me: “Everyone is beautiful but still think they are not”.
But it did not answer why the humans evolved to love only the exterior. By no means that is any sign of intelligent evolution. A beautiful young lady gets a lift faster, a phenomenon amplified in movies, with her showing off more skin to stop traffic. Aren’t we missing the obvious?
Recently, in my OPD.
“Doctor, I am not considered to be alive. My being is useless. I have stopped eating now. Suicide is my only relief” she said, amidst unending sobs. “This world is made only for useful women, I am supposed to be useless”.
Very intelligent. Elegantly dressed, sharp in her grasp of the situation. Well behaved.
Last week she had had a blackout.
Her examination being normal, I had asked her carefully if she had any stress. The answer came out in the form of an ocean of tears as she choked, she still wanted to defend the secret that hurt her.
After a cup of water, she made up her mind. “Doctor, please never tell anyone, that I told this to you. I cannot have children. The doctors who treat for fertility are trying their best. There are issues on both sides, but my husband does not want to talk about it to his parents. They presume it is all my fault. Although my hubby is well educated, his parents are quite orthodox. It is four years since marriage, and now I have become the target in my own home. When my husband is out, I am left to bear innumerable taunts.. I tried telling my mother in law in confidence, but she declined to believe that her son had any fault. Now they want me to leave, but they cannot openly say so. Where will I go now?”
“My husband talks to me now as if I am some unwanted burden. He just snaps or shouts and prefers to stay away from me even when at home. We have a purely mechanical relationship now, where I serve as his robot. I never imagined such a loveless life”. She paused till another bout of humiliating thoughts were swallowed. “I was working when I married. I quit my job in anticipation of pregnancy. Now he says I should not join till I have at least one child. Work will increase stress, the doctor says it may affect my becoming pregnant”.
“You need to meet a counsellor together” I advised her.
“We did. My husband refused to see her again. My in laws use many bad words from different socio-religious contexts, so humiliating! My self esteem is all gone. Is a woman useless if she can’t have a child, Doctor? Do I become a lesser human if I don’t become a mother? I desperately want to have a child, I had so many dreams of motherhood, I am suffering this myself, but now I feel like an orphan with no one in the whole universe”.
I reassured her and sent her to a fertility specialist who was also an excellent counsellor herself.
With so many excellent facilities and experts now available for assisting fertility, treating infertility and aiding child bearing in every possible way, India is at the forefront in this field. Add to this the cheapest treatments compared to the developed world, and best trained doctors. Still, there are cases where couples cannot have children. All the blame is automatically placed upon the woman. Leave aside the inability to have children, the woman suffers “denial of human being” status with this fault of nature.
There are so many laws against discrimination. Yet, one of the worst open discrimination in the world is against people who are physically unattractive, especially women, more so if they cannot have children. The change has to start from within each of us. How we think, what we say and how we behave must all change to eliminate this discrimination, worse than racism, because it comes from one’s own!
Yo mama cannot be ugly, hence no other woman can be.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
The Hell In Our Mind