My dadi (paternal grandmother) named me Vedavati. It means “one who is knowledgable about the Vedas.”
The Vedas, altogether four, are a collection of hymns, rituals and spiritual traditions that provide a keen insight into everyday life in India four thousand years ago.
How she knew I’d grow up to be the wise, smartass, independent, strong headed, agnostic embodiment of these religious Hindu scriptures, is anybody’s guess.
Part of it may be because I am an only child, born to Indian parents in an era when female infanticide was prevalent. I never thought of myself as a second-class citizen. Boys were never better than me. At anything. I never played “house.” While many four-year old girls around me brought out their utensil sets pretending to have tea parties and elaborate dinners, I sought to play doctor or lawyer or mechanic. Ladles and saucepans bored me. So did dolls. I was more intrigued by board games and building blocks.
And to this day, I find it difficult to find my place in a culture that loves over simplistic branding by way of pink and blue colors.
I have had to apologize for being competitive. Most Indian women I know give in when it comes to their loved ones. Not me. Stubborn as a mule, I will not let up on my position even for my mom. (Sometimes, especially if it’s my mom.) I like to win and I don’t believe in conceding for “the greater good.”
I have dropped jaws when I’ve uttered, “I hate malls!” Almost every woman I have ever known loves doing window shopping in “boutiquey” towns. I can’t stand it. And I don’t understand it. Why would you want to walk for endless hours inside an air-conditioned, enclosed structure when you could be out there taking in beautiful views hiking up a mountain? Retail therapy is lost on me. Completely.
And then there’s the whole thing about being coy if you’re a woman. In our culture, women dare not say penis or vagina or clitoris. My two-year-old has already embarrassed many an Indian man telling them she was inside my uterus. She also knows about her vulva and her anus and we talk about normal bodily functions like urinating and defecating just as we talk about eating or bathing. Why people look aghast when they hear our conversations is beyond me.
There are a lot of things people say or do in the name of “bhartiya sanskriti” (Indian culture)…culture that the Vedas supposedly defined…Vedas that I am all-knowledgable about. 🙂
So, here I am with all my amassed wisdom over the course of almost four decades on this planet, with my unique voice and distinct identity.
Culturally I am supposed to be a demure, shy, speak-only-when-you’re-spoken-to domestic help, with womanly charms to get things done. Instead, I rely on my intellect, sharp wit and occasional humor to get by. Also, I’m a big fan of earnest hard work and equality.
I believe in myself. I live my life on my terms. And I don’t apologize anymore for who I am.