Wishing you all a very Happy Republic Day(26th Jan), with a Short Story – that’s representative of my personal tableau as a writer and poet – to uphold the views of women’s empowerment vis-à-vis the position of women in our country till today. If as a writer I do not speak up – what’s the point of what I’m doing!
“So What?” – A Short Story.
“Offence is the best form of defense” I wrote, and he replied, “Goodbye 👍”
Then I blocked his profile on Facebook, one I had barely known – that too only online, for just three weeks and yet had become so appalled with.
It started out benignly as most acquaintances tend to…with a wave emoji in my messenger inbox “👋” followed in the next message with more emojis and – “Hello Shuva. How’re you? 🌹😊”
I clicked on his profile and found it to be of a senior gentleman in army fatigues – common to many of the photographs that were displayed on his timeline. Most were in small or big groups, other than the profile photo which was such a close up of his side face that I could not identify him to be the same as the ones in the other photos. I’m not very familiar with the uniforms or batches, though I would definitely recognise those of any of the armed forces. So, I looked at this profile closer up and found it belonging to a retired Lt. General.
Now what could possibly be erroneous with having such a respected person in your social network? Even if I did wonder how he had found my profile and why would he want to be friends with me – I did confirm his friendship request.
“I’m very well, thank you 💐” I replied and courteously added, “Hope you’re well too!”
“Yes Shuva. Am fine. Wonderful hearing from you 🌹😊” he wrote and then added in the next message “Please take care and keep in touch 😊”
In the course of the next weeks, he posted one longish poem after another as comments on several of my photo posts. I politely liked them, as I do all comments to acknowledge reading them. Then on second thought, on one of his comment-poems, even though I personally did not find any great poetic merit, or be impressed by its intellectualism, I went back and changed the like emoji to the love one, more to acknowledge the effort in writing such comments.
Then after a few days, in my Facebook messenger inbox this gentleman shared a link – which when I clicked led me to a poem of his he had posted on his timeline. I read it dispassionately. I tend to read much poetry by the international masters, so I’m not easy to please with poetry, leave alone impress. That too, when a poet, whatever his social or political standing might be, does not consider the mastery of the language of the medium of his art – in this case English, important to the elevated art form of poetry as much as the inherent concepts or ideas that his hobby may carry. The perfected brushstrokes of language and imagery in poetry impress me, just as much as rhythm and flow. But in all courtesy, I acknowledged his poem by liking it. After all he was a veteran soldier.
A few days later, I received another link in my inbox, which led me to another of his poems just posted on his timeline. To my utter surprise, followed by distaste, not because he had written this rather sensuous, bordering on erotic poem, and posted it on social media – but because he had slid its link to me in my inbox – thus insinuating closeness and encroaching on my personal space. A woman who doesn’t like you, does not like your encroachment into her private space, whether it be her physical space, her room, or her mental space that you’re trying to barge into. It shocks me that men find this so difficult to understand or is it their egos that prevent them from pre-empting rejection that then makes them force themselves on you.
This second time, I did not like or acknowledge his poem. Though he would know that I had read his message link in my inbox. I abhor the idea of keeping my Email, WhatsApp or Messenger ‘Read’ option off as some people, even some friends are in the habit of doing for all messages. They might think it protects their privacy, but it is disrespectful in my view. If any message you send me remains – not ‘Read’ – in every probability it has not been read yet. As Facebook messenger is a very public forum for me to make time to read all the messages people chuck your way – especially those who do not acknowledge you on your timeline, and on your posts.
After a week, this man who is used to having every command and every whim of his catered to lifelong, in this case the acknowledgement of his erotic poem by a woman whose unsuspecting personal space he has shoved it into – akin to putting his arm around her with a caress, is obviously feeling spurned by her coldness and lack of response. How dare she not accept his overtures, that too in abject poetic form!
So, he waits to put her in her place of denigration. And now she isn’t his subordinate, nor his junior officer’s wife – so how can he bring her to her knees? However, the opportunity presents itself to him, when I change my profile photo and post it on my timeline along with two quotes of master writers and end it with a few words of my own.
“There is a life and there is a death, and there are beauty and melancholy between” — Albert Camus: I posted as a Story, with my profile photo, with migratory birds in Banaras.
“So what?? He replies to this in my messenger inbox, tagging the photo and the above quote.
“The rest is on my timeline…” I crisply write back, referring to the rest.
“Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird,
That cannot fly.”
— Langston Hughes.
“Boats don’t sink because of the water around them; they sink because of the water that gets in them. So don’t let what’s happening around you get inside of you and weigh you down.” I had added in summing up my post.
He took a few minutes to revert with these comments; “More of self-imaging and showing off than any tangible substance! 😳😂”
“Utter trivia 🙄”
I had just about read his comments, when the revulsion of his sending me his erotic poems earlier gushing out of my verbal gun, I shot back, “And you really think your poems have all the substance in the world…” then add, “you asked for this! 🙄”
“Hahaha. You’re mildly amusing 😳😂😅” he writes back.
But I’m far from amused at this misogyny and chauvinism, that I obviously recognise from two decades in the corporate world with several companies, in a fiercely patriarchal Indian society. So, I now bring out my verbal machine gun to tackle this giant. After all fighting my own battles, defines feminism, for me.
“You take yourself and your poems too seriously. People are liking them only for your army clout or don’t you get that!”
Then before he has a chance to recover from the unsuspecting blow, I shoot again at closer range with a fire wrapped bullet this time, “Why don’t you copy/paste this and put it under your latest poem…see the hypocrisy!”
“Ooooooh. You’re hilarious 😂😂” is his spontaneous reply.
I’ve always imagined, possibly from films watched as a child, giants lunging and laughing when darts are thrown at them by a midget. His online laughter now, reminded me of it. This superficial mirth was actually his camouflaged attempt to absorb his shock, brace the situation, then mentally brace himself, to diffuse his opponent’s potency. Afterall, he doesn’t know this form of a bullet he’s encountering, nor ever imagined that the unintelligent woman he has perceived, can also fire with such powerful caustic venom – so different from those ones he’s encountered lifelong.
But my bullet of insult is now gut deep inside him. I can gauge its wreckage. And in spite of his attempt to cough it out with laughter, it only gets further gorged into his loins – enflaming his punctured male ego. Also, fear must creep in – what if this woman actually goes and pastes this conversation on his timeline, below any one of his erotic poems. His inspirations and his imaginations – would no longer be left to anyone’s imagination. And I had a good mind to do just this – paste this exchange as a comment below his poem, as not only had he encroached my personal space, he had made the bigger gaffe of attacking my pride of work – the writing that I made my life, over the past decade. How else was I going to uphold the confidence in myself – to march ahead as a writer with my head held high?
“Definitely brings out your pedestrian standards. Personal too 😀😂” he wrote , in punching back hard, after picking himself up from the mental wrestling ring he was viewing me in.
“Offence is the best form of defence” I countered his attack, with all my inflamed senses on high alert.
My mother passing away abruptly just nine months back, and what had led to my comments and quotes on life and death – had handed me the baton of all her moral strength to add to mine. She is surely with me in spirit.
“Goodbye 👍” he wrote, in concluding abruptly.
In walking out of the boxing ring in sportsmanlike fashion, he conceded he had struck the first, also subsequent blows. I really hope he had received the answer to his question – “So what – You’re only a woman!”
I left the court promptly, after receiving the messages:
You’ve blocked messages and calls from …’s Facebook account.
You can’t message or call them in this chat, and won’t receive their messages or calls.
Sharing the song “So What” – to go with the title of this Story: https://youtu.be/FJfFZqTlWrQ
#feminism #womensempowerment #selfempowerment #internationalwomensday #strengthofawoman #Indianrepublicday #womenpower #shortstory #poetry #poetslife #empoweredwoman #sowhat #fightback