Nearly twelve years ago, on this very day, I had taken a flight to Delhi from Guwahati to appear for an entrance exam. The exam itself is not relevant anymore (I hadn’t had my heart set on it anyway) but the journey was. It was the first ever flight I had taken on my own, and while I was almost giddy with nervousness I still couldn’t believe that my parents thought I was grown up enough to travel on my own.
The first surprise was being wished a happy women’s day at the check-in counter. Me, a woman? I beamed. You have to understand I was in my late teens, still on that critical cusp between girlhood and womanhood and this seemed to seal the deal. I decided to prove myself worthy, and may or may not have been a slightly exaggerated picture of grace on that flight. I was definitely calmer after that; of that I am certain. On landing in Delhi airport, someone actually handed me a gift hamper which had a lot of pink stuff in it if I remember well, and I walked with an extra skip to my step. Here was the world acknowledging me as a woman, and I felt truly empowered.
Cut to that evening when three of my sister’s friends (all guys) graciously decided to take me out to Dilli Haat for dinner. They were all older than me by nearly five years, and I was almost like the kid sister they never had. Note the use of the word almost. As we sat cramped in the backseat of an auto rickshaw catching up on news I suddenly remembered. “None of you have wished me a happy woman’s day!” I blurted out happily. The guys started laughing. “But you are not a woman! You are a kid!” they kept saying, laughing some more. Feeling like being dropped to the ground with a thud I mumbled something about how I was wished twice that day in the airports to which they replied the people must have been blind. Or something cruel to that affect. I pursed my lips and may or may not have acted like the kid they accused me of being until we reached Dilli Haat.
On reaching the ticket counter, when the guy was handed the cash for four tickets, he returned some cash and said “It’s international women’s day. Women go free” The grin I had on my face must have nearly blinded my sister’s friends. “Ha! You hear that? I am a woman after all” I said to their faces and walked slightly ahead just to make my win pronounced. Because I didn’t require a ticket I could go in and come out any number of times unlike them (the tickets were for single entry) and if I remember well they did make me grab some stuff from outside later that they couldn’t. Or maybe it was to check for cabs on our way back. The exact details are murky.
Ten years later, I woke up on this very day to one of those guys wishing me a happy women’s day, singing paeans about how complete a woman I am. And how complete I make him. Yes. I ended up marrying one of those guys. Hence the “almost” you see.
To international women’s day. To women all over the world. To young teenagers looking at the mirror wondering if they are woman enough. And for some reason to Billy Joel’s “She’s Always a Woman To Me”. Because there comes a time in every girl’s life when she needs to hear that she is a woman.