As we sit in her beautiful home, I can’t stop myself from looking at her over and over while she makes coffee in the kitchen. Everything about her, her eyes, her walk, her smile oozes confidence, warmth and a certain sense of inner strength. She comes over, places the tray full of cookies and coffee in front of us and smiles, ‘now am ready for your bludgeoning’. I can hardly wait to get into the skin of this beautiful intelligent woman, who could kill you with one look or one word. Her tongue as sharp as a sword, as eloquent as a poet’s pen, lashes out the beauty and the pain of her life in a candid interview. Excerpts.
Who is Paromita? What is she like? What are her dreams, aspirations? What defines her?
“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.”– Simone de Beauvoir
Well I think this quote is self-explanatory. I won’t say I’m a feminist, but yes I detest the way society imposes genderspecific qualities on women. A woman is supposed to behave in a certain manner; their goal in life is to become an ideal Mother, wife and their ambitions should not clash with the interests of the men in the family etc. etc. I have no issues with being an ideal wife or mother eventually, but I hate anyone else trying to tell me when I should don the roles expected out of me, it is my heart, my emotions and my body so I should take a call when/ if I want to bestow my emotions, time, energy on these facets of a woman’s life (I’m not a EPM/BPM-Emotion Producing Machine/Baby Producing Machine). That is in a nutshell my philosophy/ guiding belief if you wish to name it so (many would be shocked by now, sounds quite radical). Now who is Paromita? I do not know if I’m the right person to do a self-analysis, in fact I would love someone else to do that for me, anyhow Rhiti I am attempting to do it for you, no idea how this will turn out.
Well Paromita is one who doesn’t like to be dictated in such absolute terms. She likes to believe that being born in a free (?) society she likes to live life on her own terms, always it hasn’t been possible but sometimes she has managed to. Paromita true to her zodiac sign (the crab) is a bundle of contradictions, if you know what I mean!! I’m confused at times with my own emotions- vivacious, chirpy, reflective, self-effacing, nervous, distant, sensitive, emotional, hard, brittle, caring, indifferent, …I fail to predict my mood swings but I prefer to hide all my traits behind a veneer of aloofness and until someone is very close to me they would rarely catch me in my vulnerable best or worst. I dread rejection/pain/harsh words from others.
At this stage of my life my childhood dreams and aspirations have been left behind eons ago due inadvertent circumstances. I had aspired to be a soldier/ dancer/ painter/ singer/a hippie/revolutionary/political leader/maverick…the list is endless. Now I aspire to complete my doctoral thesis at the earliest and help the younger lot in colleges to become rational and compassionate human beings through my teaching. I think I aspire to become a good teacher (I do not mean good as defined by dictionaries but in the truest sense).
I am at a loss as to how do I define myself. I would prefer that people remember me as someone who strived to break the walls built by men (exceptions are always there not all are lunatics) and liberated herself and others like her without alienating herself from the society (peers, family, relatives, others) as her resistance was not personal but a fight against the obsolete patriarchal norms that denies equal rights for all irrespective of gender/class/colour.
Tell us something about your childhood and growing up years.
After all those years as a woman hearing ‘not thin enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not this enough, not that enough,’ almost overnight I woke up one morning and thought, ‘I’m enough.’ Anna Quindlen
I had read these lines sometime back and it generated a sense of déjà vu. I was frustrated with well-meaning relatives telling me that I was too dark, lanky, I was not brainy, I was tomboyish, I hang around with boys of neighbourhood and go around fighting with them, I’m arrogant. My relatives had predicted that since I was disinterested in Science I had no ‘future’, only brainless nuts love poetry, novels, drama. I faced rejection from all since I was born a girl that too with a dark complexion (societal standards, not mine) and my only solace was the love I received from my parents specially the unconditional love of my mother who always found me pretty and witty.
I failed to find anything interesting in chemical formulas, mathematical theorems, mysteries of bank/money lender/mysterious Ravi’s & Shyam’s offering simple interest or compound interest or the logic behind fulcrum/ weight displacement or hullabaloo associated with pulleys, vector, electric circuits. These were not my cup of tea, I was capable of picturing/imagining a highwayman riding on deserted roads to meet his Bess, Celia and Rosalind conversing in Arden, Antony‘s oratorical powers in Caesar’s funeral but failed miserably in determining why K4Fe(CN)6 + H2SO4 + H2O = K2SO4 + FeSO4 + (NH4)2SO4 + CO. The end result of not being a Science geek was not so exemplary grades in Science in Board exams. Things changed dramatically when I joined Salt Lake School, Kolkata, I could opt for subjects I loved the best English, Bengali, Economics, Psychology, Geography, History and that’s when I could bring a smile on my parents lips by being in the top III in Humanities stream from my school in ISC examinations. The pride that rang in their voices when they received the prize on my behalf is one of my unforgettable moments.
About your college days.
College days were real fun in Nagpur while I was studying B.A in an all-girls college. I got my close pal Aanchal then. We had a girl gang of five (I, Aanchal, Khurshid, Meghna, Madhavi) who were always on their toes to participate in/organize all inter& intra collegiate functions. We were loved by our teachers who tolerated all our mischievous antics and we were the only ones who attempted to solve the internaltests which were mostly never attended by other girls. In fact all the girls of our gang had a crush (if that’s possible) on two teachers Ms. Rashmi Tikku who being a Kashmiri was fair & very pretty and Ms. Nutan Chotai who always answered all our mundane questions with a smile. We adored Ms. Shyamala Nair for her poise and patience. My post grad days were an eye-opener I learnt about life while learning to survive on my own on a budget all alone in a new city Pune due to my insistence of course to study in Pune. What I learnt in Pune helped me in becoming resilient, tolerant and worldly wise. The days I spent in a PG accommodation in Dhole Patil road with my flat mates are forever etched in my mind- latenight daring escapades to railway station to have Poha & coffee, the hilarious fights with each other about who would use the bathroom first, the late night maggis and offering shoulders to each other whenever we had ‘cases’ of heartbreaks or ‘emotional atyachar’ from worried parents over the telephone. College life was sheer fun with balance of studies. Post grad students were the undisputed bosses and bossed around juniors in Nowrosjee Wadia College. Our M.A (English) batch in Wadia was a forerunner in studies as well as participating in drama/debate competitions & bringing laurels to the college. We had a mentor-mentee relationship with our HOD Mr. Nathan Aston and other eminent academicians who we were fortunate to call our Professors. My exposure to feminist ideologies & other ‘-isms’, regional cultures, literary criticism, Post-Colonial literature, Black American concerns, Chicana literature opened new horizons for me and this fascination grows with each passing year. My interest inspired me to complete my M.Phil (English) where I undertook a comparative analysis of selected works of Toni Morrison and Mahasweta Devi. My passion to be a good manager of resources impelled me to complete another Masters in Human Resource Management and my love for teaching made my enrol for a Post graduate Certificate course in Teaching English.
First years of working
The memory of seeing my first salary in my bank account is still so vivid and intoxicating in 2003. I started working immediately after my Post grads in Pune itself in an MNC- WNS Global Services. My self-esteem grew in leaps & bounds. I was proud to buy jewellery for my mother from my first salary. My career graph has never been unidirectional and has taken various detours- After my stint in WNS; I have worked in Jet Airways, in an International School, Language & AviationTraining Academies, Management and Engineering colleges. Now after 10 years of professional experience I am still excited to explore new arenas and take up new challenges.
Any special achievements? Any memorable moments or incidents?
I already mentioned about the prize I won in XII and the joy I saw in my parents ‘eyes. It was a silent slap to those well-meaning relatives who damaged my confidence by stating that I had no future since I had taken up Humanities’ and further my complexion would take me nowhere nor would my zeal to paint and always participate in extracurricular activities help me in getting a good job.Well I scored well always after my tenth board exams, landed up with a job with a high pay package even after pursuing Humanities (and with a dark complexion) and off course married a great guy and this gives me profound joy.
Any painful happening s which made you stronger as a person?
I did have my share of first crush which ended up being an abusive relationship that shattered my faith in the innate goodness of mankind. I never felt that I would be able to overcome that first painful heartbreak or forgive that man for whom I gave up my dream of pursuing IAS (I was so close to achieving it). I hurt my family for someone who never realized the worth of all the sacrifices I underwent- career, family, dreams. Four years of life simply wasted over a relationship that was never worth all the pain & trauma. I fought over the misery that was engulfing me as I had a point to prove to myself that I should be the one who should decide the course of my life, get a grip on my turbulent emotions & sanity and not let go of opportunities just because someone was insensitive to my efforts. No person is so important to let your life go waste. I am fortunate to have a loving family especially my mother who has always been a strong-willed woman, who stood by me in all times, gave me strength to overcome the upheavals personal & professional that I underwent and now I’m blessed to have a husband who believes in me & my ability unflinchingly. I have emerged stronger and a better human being because of the lesson that life taught me at such an early stage.
I have faced quite a few abusive relatives, broken heart, broken trust, cheating. The list is endless.
What are you doing now?
I have taken a sabbatical and concentrating on being an ideal companion to my husband of six years, toying with the idea of retrieving my paintbrushes from the remotest corner of my closet, dreaming extensively, experimenting with cuisines from different parts of the globe and working on my thesis on Ashapurna Devi with an aim to complete it by December 2013.
How do you see yourself in the future?
A contented human being who chose to live life on her own terms and also pass on my learning to my little ones (as & when I get to meet them).
Message for the readers of our blogazine.
You should decide what you want in life, do not let others decide it for you. Learn to cherish what you have but do aim for whatever your heart desires as we have one life to live and that should be memorable. As Joseph Campbell said, ‘Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.’
I leave her house, mesmerised, empowered and fascinated by her take on life. We at Incredible Woman of India, salute the spirit of this truly ‘incredible’ woman.
Article by: Rhiti Bose