I was struggling into my bra when Saba called on my cellphone. I had a choice: I could take that call and fasten my bra later. Or—and that’s the choice I did make—I could fasten the obstinate clasp, feel more secure, and call her back. These seemingly inconsequential, small but significant choices a woman makes every waking hour define the quality of her life far more significantly than all the other, more ‘important’, much ‘bigger’ issues. It wasn’t just about the bra, of course. I was running a little late for an important appointment and couldn’t find the right footwear...it had been ‘borrowed’ by a daughter. I should have ironed the new jacket from the flea market, but hadn’t. It was hanging like a limp, shapeless shroud around my shoulders. My mind ought to have been sharply focused on the content of the lecture I was to deliver half an hour later. But it was making sure I didn’t forget to throw my cellphone into the over-stuffed tote...ohh, and the reading glasses! As usual, I had to rush back from the elevator to locate them—come on, come on, come on.... I had been scanning the headlines moments ago...where the hell was the bloody chashma? I retrieved it from under the wet towel I’d carelessly thrown on an unmade bed (damn!), I’d also forgotten to switch off the fan. Both lapses are seen as cardinal sins in my husband’s book. When I finally got into the car and called the organisers to say I was running 10 minutes late, making the standard Mumbai monsoon excuse everybody understands and accepts (“hideous traffic, flooded streets”), my slightly flustered words were met with an embarrassed interruption as a young man stuttered, “It’s perfectly okay, ma’am...you see, your lecture is scheduled for tomorrow.” Oh heavens! I really could have taken Saba’s call and forgotten all about the bra.
Most women go through life severely sleep-deprived, especially if they’ve raised children. Most are mildly, even severely malnourished, sometimes without realising it. Most neglect their own medical issues, big ones and small ones. Most refuse to acknowledge that they are ever tired, bone-tired. Most postpone key personal decisions if they feel those clash with family interests. Most spend their entire adult lives feeling guilty about something or the other. Most suppress their true selves, so afraid are they of rejection. Most play-act, especially with their sexual partners. Most suffer from low self-worth, no matter how successful the world thinks they are. They do all of this hiding behind invisible screens.