A single woman in the city
I can clearly remember the day when my mother accompanied me to search for a new abode in the capital. It had been a very tough decision of my life to live alone. There were lots of forces that had pulled me back before I finally put an end to my "disgraceful" life.
But my parents were extremely worried about my safety in this city. They suggested me to live in a hostel where 'women like me' stay safe and do their jobs. But I did not want to give up my privacy and comfort living in a tiny hostel room. I was ready to take charge of my life.
By that time, I lost my sense of belonging with my in-laws and my parents. I thought a single woman can have her own home. The idea is quite revolutionary for my conventional middle-class family.
"Singlehood" has always been associated with so-called anti-social and criminal activities in our society. Both male and female equally suffer in the city to find out a home. And for a single woman tagged as 'divorced', the city seems to be more stringent. I lost my hope. But at last, I managed a home for myself two years back with the help of my mother. She understood that breaking the stereotypes is sometimes necessary.
This is how women grow. This is how my mother grew when she had denied to marry after her matriculation and continued her study until masters.
Breaking the Taboo
A few days back, I was revising my to-do-lists over a cup of tea at the tea room of my office. I was quite silent and unmindful about the people around me. Someone broke the silence and asked me about my residence. I replied. Then he asked about the length of my service in the banking industry. At that moment, I felt uncomfortable and replied with a twist in my eyebrows. I could guess the next questions coming my way: What does your husband do? I replied in a usual tone: I am divorced. What an audacity? How can a woman be so shameless or outspoken?
At the time of my divorce, I saw every face around me turn into a question mark. In my nightmare, I sank into the ocean of disgrace. I was shattered and constantly panicked over facing such questions. I lied. I stopped talking. But nothing was enough to hide my relationship status. I felt like a fugitive who is constantly running away from the truth. Finally, I got a grip on me and faced the world.
Another important fact has just crossed my mind is about your mindset on how you react to a particular incident. I could get hurt, I could get excited or I could get furious over such questions I have been facing time to time. But I have decided to break the taboo of feeling disgraceful in being divorced.
I am Bangladesh
When I chose to study English Literature, it had been a very conscious choice. People around me convinced that I would be able to manage a job after passing from this very department. My intention was also the same. I wanted to earn a decent amount of money for myself. It was quite unimaginable that I would end up being an aspiring writer who would be writing about her journey two decades ago.
Life is unpredictable, so is mine. One fine morning, I have written something on my Facebook page on the eve of women's day. The post reasoned out why womanhood should be celebrated. And thus, I opened the door of my private self. Since then I have been posting on various issues of my life. As long as I had been modest in my language and kept myself within the boundary of social norms, I have been appreciated. But the day I overlapped those social doctrines by discussing my singlehood on social media, my surroundings seemed to be annoyed.
Sometimes I look backwards, sometimes I look into myself. My outer journey comprises a middle-class girl being well educated from a university, having a good job, managing a decent life in a city even after her divorce. But my inner growth is quite enormous in comparison to my outer one. The change that leads me towards growth had its foundation in my education.
Later, when I found myself in the middle of a chaotic life, I upheld "my life" being prioritised over social and religious norms. This individualistic approach might be the result of my endless struggle to cope up with the society which encourages women to "live the lives for others". I could not. I am happy that I could not live for others.
I have uprooted myself from a dogma in which women are allowed to have an education to the extent that it will guarantee a decent job but not the freedom of expression.
I am Bangladesh – not because I am just one of 81.1 million women living here. In general, we all are constantly trying to go beyond our boundaries. Whether it's Nusrat who became louder in her death bed against sexual harassment or the women who are suffering in Saudi Arabia to strengthen the economy of Bangladesh or my house-help who alone maintains a family of five in the village – everyone is relentlessly pushing their boundaries.
The growth of women is the growth of Bangladesh, or vice-versa. I hope that the women would be able to understand their inner-selves and shake the society until their voices get heard.
Tanni Saha completed her Masters from the Department of English, Chittagong University. Currently, she works at a private bank and writes at leisure