I felt helpless. About myself and about all the other people surrounding me. Society had overruled us. Or, let me rephrase it, we were overruled by the society. I clutched the coffee mug in my hand and looked at the bare sky, letting my tears shine in the sunlight.
I just couldn’t get through yesterday. I have always been that aspiring and confident woman. No wait, I was. I realized a lot of things yesterday. I realized that I was faking my self-esteem to my own self. I realized that this society is faking equality. I realized that we, as humans, are faking our humanity.
Yesterday was supposed to be my first day as a senior advocate. Not only that, I was about to be assigned a very high profile specialized case. I walked in with pride through the doors, expecting a bunch of warm wishes for my new start.
And as it is always said, expectations hurt. They did. But I moved on and greeted everyone at the conference table, assuming that after I win this case, maybe then I will receive the appreciation I deserve.
“ There’s only one person in this room who we all know can win this case for our firm “, the head of our firm said looking in my direction. My eyes gleamed with happiness and again I looked around for appreciation. But, it could find none.
I ignored this feeling and put my hand forward towards the binder. But with a gap of a jiffy, that binder was taken away by the person occupied in the seat next to me. I couldn’t understand anything. I looked across the room cluelessly.
I saw everyone leaving the conference room and without thinking about anything, I rushed behind Arvind, the head of our firm. “ Arvind, wasn’t I getting that case?” I almost shouted. He turned his face towards me and signalled his secretary to leave us alone in the conference room.
“ You see, Mahima”, he said, placing his files on the table, “all the partners of the firm had a meeting yesterday to discuss the right candidate for the Mandawa Rape Case and trust me, I put your name forward. But then, everyone agreed that maybe a woman would fall too emotional to this case”, he completed with a sense of apology in his tone.
He didn’t wait for me to respond. Neither did I have anything to say. I called for a sick leave and went home, fuming with anger. The entire way back, I kept thinking about what I should have said or done.
For the first time in my life, I felt like a quitter. But I wiped my tears. I didn’t want my daughter to see her so-called strong mother tearing herself apart. She looked upon me. She learnt from me. And this is certainly not what I want my daughter to ever learn in her life. I had always taught her, “Take a step back but never turn around.”
I rang the doorbell, expecting my 14 year old to ask me weird riddles before opening the door. But instead, I saw her gloomy eyes, fixed downwards. She just opened the door and ran away to her room.
No riddles. No ‘how was your day’. Nothing but mere silence and the face she makes when I deny her wants. Just when I was about to go and look what was wrong with her, my phone rang.
It was my maid. I picked it up to hear a ruffled voice, “ Ma’am, I need some urgent cash. My husband’s in the hospital.” “ No problem, I will transfer the money into your account. Just calm down and tell me what happened,”I said, imagining all the things that could have gone wrong.
Maybe he met with an accident or maybe he fell down from the stairs. Or maybe, he just fainted. But when my maid explained to me the reason behind her husband landing up in the hospital, my eyes widened and my spine shivered.
Her husband was ruthlessly beaten up for being a Dalit. A man who only wished to offer his prayers at the temple for her daughter to recover from cancer. The priests threw him out, labelling him as an ‘untouchable’ and had almost beaten him to death .
It took me a while to sink this entire situation in my mind. I quickly transferred some money into my maid’s account and moved towards my daughter’s bedroom. I could hear her sniffle as I slightly kept my hand on her shoulder.
She looked at me with her innocent eyes and broke down in my arms. “ What happened, Ria?” I made her sit in my lap and asked her. “ Shivani told me that her mother asked her to stay away from me,” she mumbled and continued sobbing.
“ Her mother said that society doesn’t accept adopted kids like me”, she said and hugged me tighter. I knew this would happen one day. Ria was aware of the fact that my blood didn’t flow through her veins and we both were happy that despite that fact, we both were always with each other. But who knew, that in a modern era, people had their mindset stuck to unexplainable theories.
“Look Ria,” I said, holding her face in my hands, “ The society will always try dimming you and pushing you behind. And as I have always said, take a step back but never turn around. What do you do next? You take a leap and shine brighter. So bright that it makes their eyes twitch.” she nodded affirmatively as I finished my speech which I realized was applicable to myself as well.
But I didn’t want to fight for my rights. I didn’t want to beg in front of somebody for something that I naturally deserved. But, here I was mourning over the day before. I moved away from the window and placed my empty mug on the kitchen counter.
I threw myself on the couch wondering what I should be doing. I turned on the news, only to see a million people shouting “Black Lives Matter” and rallying down the streets of America. There were millions of people fighting for their rights. And what was I doing? Accepting what the society has to offer me.
I realized how humans were blaming each other for being what they naturally are. You are a woman, you will be too emotional. You are a man, you shouldn’t be crying. You are a Dalit, you are untouchable. You are adopted, you won’t be accepted. You are black, you don’t deserve the same rights as ours. You are gay, you are fat, you are short, you are thin, you are this, you are that and the grind doesn’t stop! When the only way we should tell people apart should be ‘Good’ and ’Bad’.
With this thought in my mind, I rushed to the office. I knew that the only way I could bring back my opportunities was by bringing about a change. A change in the way people think, a change in the way people discriminate and most importantly, a change in the way I put myself ahead.
I wouldn’t put myself as a woman senior advocate anymore. No, I don’t want to put myself in the minority. I put myself as a person who has worked every day and night to reach where she is at the moment.
This time, when I signed the resignation letter, all eyes were on me. But their eyes popped out when I not only reopened the Mandawa Rape case, which my firm had lost, but also won it, all by myself. I had decided to open my own firm and live the life I had planned for myself.
I changed myself that day. I changed from a woman to a human.