As Woolf said

Virginia Woolf said that a woman must have money and a room of her own if she’s to write fiction. Here’s how I take it: For a woman to succeed — or get any work done that’s worth talking about — she needs to have a room of her own.

When I first told my parents that I wanted to find a place of my own, they refused outright even before considering my concerns. I don’t blame them; they’ve become conditioned to believing that every girl moving into the city for work or going off to college needs a roommate who can watch out for her. And I don’t deny that’s every bit as true and that their worry is as every bit as valid.

Except that I wanted a room of my own.

Having lived all my life in a shared space, both with my parents and then with my brother, I craved something that I could call mine. It didn’t happen right away, and I ended up spending my first two years away from home in a shared home and hostel.

Now, at last, I have a room of my own. And I see what Woolf intended.

Every time I walk into my room, I walk into a space that looks and feels just the way I want it to. My clothes are right where I leave them — one day on the floor, another day on the shelf. My toothbrush nuzzles between my pyjamas so that I have to fish it out every evening, a small jar of ground coffee perches on the top shelf, pleading with me in silence for a coffee date. And the book I’m reading at the moment lies on top my favourite shirt, the sleeves clouding the title.

When I walk into such a sight after a long day at work, I have only thing in mind: there’s no place else I’d rather spend the rest of my evening.

When I first moved in, I didn’t know how having a room for myself would change me. I didn’t know that I would enjoy the sunlight streaming into my room through the thin yellow blinds, I didn’t know I’d wake up every morning feeling enthusiastic to face the world, and I didn’t know that I’d come to rely so much on the non-decorative, cream-coloured walls of my room to comfort and hold me whenever, regardless of my mood.

It’s been just over a year now, and even though I’m not the best tenant to the room, the room — my room — has been the perfect host.

There’s nothing special about my room. There’s no wallpaper, no posters of Hollywood actors eyeing me, no streamers or balloons to incite the neighbour’s kids.

My room is so plain that anyone but me wouldn’t want to live here. The mattress is my furniture, the floor my dining table, the shelf my pantry, and the doorknob my clothes hanger. In short, my room has become my abode, a place where I can think outside of my head, wake up at 2.50 am to write, and let my creativity run amok without a person to judge.

I enjoy going out, but at the end of it all, all I want is to come back to my room and stare at my walls. Or read a book with a coffee by my side. Nothing makes my day more complete.

Dream on

Carrying the toys of her five-month-old, Matilda paused at the television. Her teenage son was watching the Olympics javelin tournament. As the athlete flexed her muscles, yearning gnawed at Matilda. She caressed her love handles, instead, the present for birthing a daughter. It wasn’t meant to be; she had given up field sports long ago. Her father’s modest income couldn’t pay for training or travelling. Besides, as a woman, marriage had seemed real while success a mirage.

Her baby wailed. Matilda signed, following.

Observing in silence, her husband decided on the perfect birthday gift: spikes and a lifetime of support.

Discovery

I hate mobs. They make me nervous. Even as I think about it, my heart bangs in its cage and my legs start to tremble threatening to give way at any moment. And speaking in front of a gathering is awful. Give me a mike and put me under the spotlight, and I’ll be reduced to a slump.

Or, at least, that’s what I thought it would be like.

In school and at work, I’ve had to explain something to a bunch of people. But every time that happens, I freak out so much that my speech loses all sense. And that’s why I was beyond “just nerves” when I heard I’d have to conduct a session in a workshop at my job.
To complicate things, I already knew a bit about my audience: they were all stay-at-home married women. Some had kids, some had more time. Most of them were single- or double-degree holders on a break after marriage. And all of them were at least 10 years older than I. Talk about intimidation.

I needed several deep breaths. And a few gulps — of air.

How would I explain something to them without coming off as a young and insufferable know-it-all? I had so many doubts; people hated contradictions, and a school kid telling older women what to do, isn’t most people’s idea of an ideal workshop. They would’ve expected somone much older-looking, taller, and experienced to conduct an educational workshop.

And yet, when I stood in front of the audience, the glare from the projector almost blinding me, the uncertainty disappeared from my mind. All of a sudden, I was looking at a bunch of people eager to learn; they didn’t care that my head, while I stood, was at their eye while they sat.

Clutching the mike, I, for the first time, felt confident facing a crowd. I was calm. My legs were steady, my heartbeat didn’t sound like a siren, and my pulse wasn’t racing. I began, and I felt myself smiling. I realised how easy it felt. It felt natural talking to these women who wanted to learn and to listen. And then, out of nowhere, I discovered I had matured so much from the shy and cowering schoolgirl I was until a few years ago.

I had grown up at last. And for once, all was well.

Women’s Day?

Where I live, it’s the day after Women’s Day. It’s the last day to redeem discount coupons for beauty products and the final chance to feel “special” before we can feel it again next year.

What a scam women’s day has become. Last year this time around, my Facebook feed flooded with hashtags. He for she, she for all, woman of steel, wonder woman, girl power, and all those goosebumps-inducing supposed-motivational videos, plus “25 quotes from Malala that makes every girl love herself.”

Fast forward a year, and this time, my feed says hashtag whatever. My feed is full of women holding cards that echo the same emotion: we’re tired of glorifying women for a day and trashing them through the rest of the year.

Well, I can sympathise with that.

Except, all these against-Women’s Day hoopla come from corporates, and people just retweet or repost them, making it a marketing success for the brands involved.

Whereas until a year ago, the same brands flashed stereotypical “women are the best” campaigns, and we retweeted and reposted them then too. Last year that worked. This year, brands wanted a new kind of campaign and they chose a more “be bold everyday” message.

If celebrating women on Women’s Day was the marketing ploy of yesteryear, shunning Women’s Day celebrations is the marketing ploy of this year.

And lost in all these ploys is the true essence of Women’s Day: where we dedicate a day in our calendars to thank women for being a part of our lives, wishing each other all success in years to come. It’s no different from Labour Day, Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day, or Teachers’ Day. Or even Children’s Day.

Women’s Day is yet another of those social days where we take a moment to appreciate women. Nothing’s wrong with that. What’s wrong, though, is what the biggest brands of our capitalist world have transformed this day into. Gender disparity at work and home is a common issue. Just like teachers being respected less over scientists. Just like child abuse, or less-than-minimum wages.

We seldom make a marketing blast connecting low wages with Labour Day. Or child labour with Children’s Day (thought that’s becoming a trend now). Or abortions with Mothers’ Day.

But Women’s Day has been beaten to death, and somewhere along the way, the sincere thought of appreciation is lost forever.

Job

She stared for what seemed like hours. Her teammates approached, and stood in silence, watching her battle in rumination. None dared disturb her in mid-contemplation.

They had seen her fierce side before.

And yet, they wondered why she pondered over the line running across her otherwise blank screen. They saw no issues with it; nothing offensive, aggressive, or vague — not boring either. Perhaps she saw something they didn’t?

At last, Shane faced her. “Let it go, Bess” he said with a gentle smile. “It’s just the title of a blog. And just the first draft.”

Curse of the content marketer.