28th February 2021 | Dear Anand

28th February, 2020

Dear Anand,

On the rarest of rare mornings, I sometimes wake up before all five of my alarms which are set ten minutes apart go off.

On those mornings, I sit on the side of my bed swinging my legs and most days my eyes get fixated on this fraying thread on the floor carpet outside my bedroom door. The rip is getting longer I have to admit. I am also aware then of the quiet silence in my room and the distant trickle of traffic outside. The air most mornings are laced with whatever flowers I have in my room that week. Quite often I’d get over the carpet and then stare at my pretty pink toenails or unshaved legs or my fingers that are always in need of a pedicure.

This morning I found myself tracing the grove lines around my mouth. I’m afraid that scowl on my face from the past few months is turning into permanent trenches where unsaid things go to hide. I used to laugh a lot. Actually growing up that’s the one thing I always got into trouble for. Laughing. Good girls in my community didn’t laugh out loudly. We were supposed to smother our laughter behind our hands. Our bubbling joy and celebration was not something to be displayed in public but rather behind pardas where it didn’t reach the ears of men.

But I haven’t heard myself laugh for time now. The thing is I won’t even get in trouble for it anymore. I made sure I redefined those rules for every woman who would walk after me on that same road.

But that’s what people who’ve walked on that road before you, the fighters who inspire you, the defiers you look up to, don’t tell you about freedom. The price you have to pay for it. Toni Morrison once wrote “Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.”

The 6.40.a.m one jolted me out of it. It is only the rarest of rare mornings that I wake up before my alarms. I rather prefer my usual mornings where I’ve overslept and rush into the day without thinking of anything otherwise but the first appointment in my work calendar.

But mornings like today, when I get up and walk over the fraying carpet line and step into a warm bergamot and patchouli (something about those two smells together) lathered shower, I stand there under the running water for some time. Breathing in. Remembering how long it took for me to get here. Where the air, the space and even the fraying carpet is all mine.

I just have to relearn to laugh again. Will you come listen while I remember, Anand?

Love,
Shyamni.

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