I often recall my childhood days when my cousins and I would get to meet each other more often; boy what a riot that would be! From my father’s side of the family, we were four brothers and five sisters, I being the youngest. My maternal cousins were of course much younger then, so I couldn’t quite reveal my demonic self as unapologetically as I did with my equally mischievous yet doting paternal cousins. Placing our age differences aside we would indulge in pulling each other’s leg, watching horror or comedy films, going on picnics and gorging on restaurant (junk) food every time we got together!
Over the years life has taken us in different directions where we have forged new ties and made new commitments as a companion, as a parent or even as an ambitious professional. But I have realised of late that in spite of our being so preoccupied with our respective lives that have moved at varying paces like parallel universes, our bond has remained intact, quite effortlessly in fact. I suppose it is the pure honesty within the relationship that has refused to fade off with time and so, on the eve of the release of my book ‘Goddess & Whore‘, I wrote a text-message to my eldest cousin brother, without a second thought.
In dizzying nervousness I sent him an image of my book’s cover that hadn’t yet been revealed to anyone. After that I waited in excited anticipation for his response that I have always greatly valued. After a couple of minutes I received a text message that read:
‘The title and artwork look exciting and provocative! What is the book about?’
This was a question that I could answer even in my sleep these days since I have had to ramble on about the book in the press release, the book’s cover and other collaterals too. In fact, I must have sounded just as rehearsed as I had feared I would as the well-manicured words poured out of me:
‘Goddess & Whore is about a woman’s journey, after she decides to disentangle herself from all her social identities, relationships and abuses only to discover her true identity. This story is conveyed through a collection of modern poems that question traditional mindsets and relationships even as they celebrate life and the bonds we share with each other. ’
The number of questions tossed at me from the other side was now increasing even as the time gap between them was steeply declining. I decided to rise to the occasion and brave the barrage of questions with utmost precision and honesty. We spoke of every dreadful word that had given me sleepless nights, like: promotion, marketing, timelines, pricing, et all. Anyway, just when I thought that I had managed to tackle the more difficult questions, I was asked why the book was titled Goddess & Whore. This had also by now become one of the FAQs that I could answer in a trance, though I still stood by every word I uttered:
‘Well you see, we dwell in snap judgments and extremities. We either glorify women as a mother or a goddess expecting her to be an epitome of selflessness, or we blame her for being a home-breaker or a whore! We are so used to stereotyping women that we are not able to accept her as an ordinary human being with desires and aspirations and her share of inadequacies and imperfections.’
Until now most of what I had explained had been received with appreciation and without the slightest demur. But following the last reply I sensed uneasiness at the other end. After a brief pause my brother replied:
‘You think men are not stereotyped? You think they have it easy?’
Those last few words suddenly seemed to stir within me a zillion stray thoughts that I wouldn’t quite say I was a stranger to, though it was very rarely that we dealt with it on an ordinary day. Things like, ‘It is not usual to see a man emotional. They don’t cry or get hurt as easily’ and so on. Men too are judged all the time. And more often than not they aren’t even granted the allowance to play the ‘victim’.
After some thought I informed him that the collection represented every human being as anyone could relate to the inner quest, the urgent need to realise one’s purpose in life, just that I had chosen my protagonist to be a woman…for a reason better known to me. I typed back:
‘Thankfully, poetry allows several equally plausible interpretations with no right or wrong answers but just an honest experience. The poems represent the eternal conflict within every human being and the constant search for a sense of peace. Hence, as the book mentions on its back-cover too, the poems represent the transformation of every human being in the course of his or her journey towards self discovery.’
He wished me luck and left me with my thoughts once again.© Madhurima Duttagupta 2013