The modest hypocrisy
I half-distractedly turned the pages of the book I have been reading to sleep for the past one month. I lifted my eyes to see the little ganesha idol, amma had sent me, sitting corpulently on the window porch. Belonging to a class of non-religious, yet non-atheist genre, I simply adore the paunchy god, who seemed to smile at me at that moment. Beside him were the pile of ten rupee notes and one rupee coins, I had bribed him to initiate a gambit of selfish requirements a long while ago.
It reminded me of the reverend Ganesha in my drawing room back home, who I would pray and recite prayers to, only on the tonic exam mornings. The kabir das dohe comes to mind –“dukh mein sumiran, aur sukh mein kuch bhi nahin.” It left the inkling of a god-fearing mind and I soon plunged back into the book, shunning the semi-guilty feeling.
It made me wonder if a little hypocrisy is more imperative than acceptable in life. It may range from how far we express our innate religious instincts to habits we possess or clothes we wear or how far we hold our tongue.
One of my oldest experiences of setting double standards was facing orthodox relatives. At the age of ten, I would obediently listen to amma and aspire to know if pottu should be always worn in front of Uma periammai or I must unquestioningly fall at Murli mama’s feet. Having told how to behave, because of the gender I belong to, rather than for my whims as an individual, I didn’t possess the liberty to defy traditions or unexplainable practices like most of my counterparts of the opposite sex in the family could; including appa. He would never be asked why the ‘punol’ always slept on nails behind doors, but adorned his chest only when elders accompanied us to temple.
When the phase of helpless rebel had weaned off, I had mastered the art of harmless two-facedness. If a pretentious humbleness could mean peace later, it must very well be done. One such instance was the jubilant 25/25 in the unit test in mathematics stuck to the fridge, making a proud daughter to amma; little did I know that Ramu mama’s arrival was to burst my bubble “Girls are very bad in doing maths. How come you seem to have scored well?” No sooner had the uncalled for been uttered, amma pinched me to keep more words to myself. I had the plastered indignant smile accompanied with the words much unlike me –“Well the paper was very easy.” Looking back, picking a feud then, might have spelt ruin of family ties for years to come.
I am further confounded by the cloak of needed duplicity as to how far can one go with it? It is often that you are expected to wear this cloak not just with people who hardly matter outside closest family circle, but sometimes with family or to be family as well. A classic example would be that of “meet the parents” when every pretence carries with it the jeopardy of working against you in future. And ironically, necessary pretence is more than welcome to make that first impression.
Another instance of well delivered profess, is the constant anxiety to be a daughter/mother/wife every economically and emotionally independent woman in this world undergoes. The world around her refuses to comprehend her as a woman but as everything aforementioned. I am sure, I will not be believed if I were to state that she clandestinely feels like a woman above everything else, which she carefully envelops with what her nearest world expects of her. It only varies to what extent she can be unassuming to express it.
It bewilders me to put myself in a state to walk this line between ‘hypocrisy’ and ‘modest hypocrisy’. When does one turn into the other, takes a composed yet mature mindset to decipher. As, I still linger in the aura of life as ‘me’ ahead and not as being an expected ‘she’; I say the line is a cake walk. But when the mind is puzzled to transition from ‘me’ to ‘she’ I am but apprehensive of what waits ahead.