Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What is the purpose?

S is going to China for a week. It is the start of the Eid holidays here in Muscat. Everything will remain closed for the week. This is a personal trip. He is going alone. These are facts simply stated. Another detail, S is my husband.

It is independence day today. The country celebrates its 66th year of independence. We are no longer ruled by others, we are free to make our own choices and be responsible for the consequences that arise from them. But even today, within the society to which you and I belong, the minds are enslaved to years of cognitive behaviour. A fact, as the above, still does not gel with society. "Official trip?" people ask. "No, personal," says S. "With a group? College friends?", they continue. "No, alone," replies he. A crooked smile follows, looks get directed towards me, waiting for an opinion, even an explanation perhaps. I give none. "Let me know if you want massage parlour numbers." say some with a suggestive laugh. S smiles. I do too. Women ask me how I allowed this. "How could you? He should have chosen some other place if you were not interested in China? The kids have their holidays as well. What do you think is the purpose of this trip?" I have nothing to satisfy their query and anything I say will only further contaminate the narrow alleyways of their mind or so I feel. I choose to remain quiet.

His parents, who are staying with us for the time, ask me everyday if I am staying back because of them. I say no. They quiz me individually on the places that he is going to visit, if he has friends there, what is the current weather condition in China. Normal questions any parent would have and I reply to these as best as I can. Then comes a stinging shot out of the blue from my mother-in-law. "You sleep very early, I have noticed. Much before my son goes to bed. Hope you are not pushing him away. Maybe he does not get what he needs from you and so...," My reactions would have made a series of 'never-before-seen' emoticons had they been captured on lens, but unfortunately there was just the two of us in the kitchen then. How much can a mother care about her son, the extent in this case was unbelievable. I could not let this one pass, this was not an acquaintance asking me questions to feed the society gossip. This was my mother-in-law telling me in so many words that her son was going on a solo trip to China because I did not give him as much sex, as she presumed, he would like. No way could I let this one pass. "Let us be direct here, are you saying S is going to China for sex? And if, for the sake of discussion, I assume that you are correct, then what would you want me to do?" She retreats and mellows. Says in a pacifying tone, "I don't know what is the purpose of this trip?" "Ask him," I say to which she says she is more comfortable talking to me than to him and a whole lot of other crap which basically does not mean anything.

I conveyed this conversation to S. I was upset by the lack of privacy I have in my own house. I felt violated. He said, "Why doesn't she talk to me directly?" But this and many other such questions had sown the seeds of guilt. So far S had been factual about the trip. Conversations had been on a need-to-know basis. But suddenly he was making plans to take me to Jordan for the next Eid, which falls during October this year. He was mailing me ticket receipts and hotel bookings. He was planting seeds of suspicion in my head and I hated the feeling. The trip that he had looked forward to was slowly getting soiled. The idea of such a trip, the romance of it, the freedom that it embodied was getting murky in my head. I fought against it, tried not to change my perspective. It was still a trip to China that he was taking alone. It had a purpose for him, which validated the cost and that was a good enough reason for me. I fought to keep it simple. I fought with myself to accept his need to be away from us on a holiday.

And today as I wished my friends on the occasion of our Independence Day, I realised the irony. How are we free, if even today we get pressured by negativity? Why should we celebrate the country's freedom when we are not free from stereotypes? I will drop S off to the airport tonight. I hope he enjoys himself to the core. I will also hope that people realise that everything need not have a purpose that fits. The actual and most important purpose is to be free to make a choice and live with it. Let us be free!

S and I as taken in December 2011