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Eternal Sunshine

This touched so many chords in me I’m still vibrating like the guitar I’d dropped (red-faced; I’m just a very clumsy person).

I’m crazy about memories – and the only time I’ve ever wished I could’ve been born 50 years later was when I’d heard of the tiny video-camera that every person’s eyes might be embedded with, saving the memories of a lifetime. No witnesses going back on their word because they hadn’t understood Hindi (God! what was he thinking – and he wants to be a Hindi movie actor).

Which is why, what affected me most in the early days was nothing more than this invisibility of my life. All EVERYBODY could talk about was P was this, P was that. Collective memories of his heroism. I loved it, it made mon homme’s past live and told me things I could treasure and tease. And I’d braced for them and naked baby pictures – for a little, but not this avalanche. And this complete uninterestedness in anything that I might have said or done. Like I didn’t exist. Like my achievements were embarrassments which she wanted everyone – herself, the Family, and me – to forget as soon as possible – like a good Indian daughter’s public crush or a skin disease at an embarrassing place. You don’t speak about it. It hurt each time they went from school to college without stopping for my reaction, even the polite but perfunctory “oh, you must’ve been a topper as well, of course”. It humiliated me when I was cut, interrupted in public, as if I were invisible, if I’d dared to start off on a reminiscence or even a ‘yes, I did a similar thing…”, embarrassing also the person I was speaking to, who suddenly didn’t know where to look.

“Yes, bhabhiji, it is horrifying to have an accomplished daughter-in-law, and even worse to have one who doesn’t even know how to atleast show herself to be a good girl. I don’t know where to hide my face, this is after all about our khandaan.”

I gave them the benefit of human doubt, seeing as sensitive as I was, so much could’ve been just interpretation. But it wasn’t, and I wasn’t being paranoid.

Soon, I realised it wasn’t about me. It was them. Any woman. All the women. They remembered themselves as weak people, relished recounting the first ‘official’ meeting between them and their husband and how their fingers couldn’t hold cutlery. They cherished memories of strong husbands forcing them and everyone else to their will, of ‘him’ riding roughshod over ‘her’. Dominating women were shrews, and their husbands should’ve ‘kept her under his control at the right time’. Dominating men were natural, ‘she can’t keep up with him and doesn’t deserve him’. A psychiatrist could see they were trying desperately to make the men larger than themselves (but why did they have to try, if the husbands were really as strong and good and handsome and bold?). A community of wannabe Scarletts, raped by masculine Butler-eque husbands on marble staircases. A collective of compulsive masochists out of the closet.

Which is why I wish we all had accurate, boring, uni-dimensional real memories.

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