"I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much."
Mother Teresa once said this, and it has since become a global expression of what women have been thinking about their own lives.
When I was born, more than two decades ago, my mother might have had the same opinion, and she was not very happy!
No, my being a girl was not the reason; in fact it was the least of any reasons she had in her mind besides the excruciating pain and exhaustion of delivering a child. She then had very limited capacity in her system for other emotions, and it was filled mostly with unhappiness! She was unhappy because she had to do it all over again! My elder sister and only sibling, was already in her teen years when I joined the family. Hence, my mother had to teach me everything, from the scratch! Even the thought of this made her feel exhausted, and thus, unhappy! She was asking God why she had to be trusted once again!
My mother has been a teacher her entire life. She taught in the classes, she taught in the streets, and most of all, she taught us. When you are born as a girl, you need some sustainable lessons from your mother, by default, and she, as the person responsible for your existence, has to have a full-proof lesson plan! Those are the rules, as they say!
So, what were the things that my mother had to teach me again? Are those like, how to become a woman; as Simone de Beauvoir had put it:
"One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman"?
Or was it how to groom oneself as a lady?
Unfortunately, none of those! My mother raised us like wild animals; at least that's what our aunts and other experienced mothers have assured us. According to them, she just taught us how to survive, with the necessary trainings, and then let us decide how to accommodate it all. In fact, it was my father who taught me how to make a cup of tea and stitch a piece of cloth, and such petty tasks; not my mother!
Firstly, I believe, she was tired! She was tired of managing and doing everything like Durga. Secondly, she did not want us, or me, at least, to be fed onto the notion that, I am a princess, and I will have to stay there for someone else to rescue me and conduct my life for me!
Thus, whenever I asked for a princess like treatment, mostly due to peer-pressure, she became furious than ever! According to her, if I am a princess, then I must also be a descendant to a huge responsibility to take care of the people, my own countrymen! That makes me a leader first. I have to be the most courageous and responsible person in all lands, which is just the opposite of what I had demanded for being a princess of my own little family! So, request denied!
She had a point! She always does. In fact, the princess argument was not done there. While I was drawn to the pretty, perfect life of the cartoon princesses on TV, she used to sit with me to change the channel and talk about the real women, who could have had the so-called life of a princess, but instead decided to be a trailblazer. She introduced to me the women who faced the hardest of challenges imaginable and came out of those as champions!
On her list, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who was running the office even back then, always came on top. She used to mention her name as an example, "Now, see, this is how a real life princess, one of the best of her kind, should be like!"
Of course I was too young to comprehend my mother's message, but I could sense that she was serious! Her seriousness somehow got into me, too!
It was since then, when I started learning about the journey of a real life princess, who grew up to be a strong woman, even after all the turmoil and tragedies! I remember the time when one of my friends died and I was too heartbroken to be back to school. My mother, in her usual way, told me to be strong, like Sheikh Hasina! You know, an untimely and unjust death will always remain something impossible to accept. On top of that, being back to the place where you have so many memories with your loved one, and to act normal there, is even tougher! Just imagine how she did it! How must she feel! But she still is there; for a greater cause. You can always give up, but that is not how you respect the memories of the people you have lost. When you do that, you just then dishonour them!
It was the day when I realized why my mother never treated us like a girl, why she had never shared any tips for being a better woman. She had, instead, raised us as human beings, to face all the challenges that may come in our way! She had always pointed out at the examples of powerful women, in the truest sense, who made it to the top despite everything that tried to drag them down! Thus I grew up being inspired by two indomitable mothers- one is my own; another is the one who takes care of us all, Sheikh Hasina! Thanks to these two mothers, I know how I will raise my children, when I have any. The key is to rise above all odds, no matter which gender nature has chosen for you. The key is to carry on, with determination and for a greater good. In fact, being a woman along with that is a bonus, as it allows one to be more courageous, naturally!
Maya Angelou described it perfectly,
"You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it."
After all, it is all about showing the world what you are made of, isn't it?
Mehnaz Tabassum writes fiction and teaches English at East West University