I am the writer, the dancer, the poetess, the engineer, the fighter pilot. The hostess, the employer, the employee, the unpaid maid in the home.
I am the 12-year-old child-woman that goes to work in the houses of the wealthy. They have baby daughters, but to them I am just a machine to cook and wash and clean.
I am the woman in the slum, the one you see, but don’t see, every day. I am ‘these people’ to those whose accident of birth prevented them from living my life.
I am the girl that ran away from home to get married, and when things went wrong I had nowhere to turn to. Even renting a house, as a single woman, is fraught with terror, it seems.
I am a divorcee, and it is my only claim to fame, says the rich lady from Bombay. She forgets the jobs I have done, the books I have written and the friendship I have shown her. She thinks her tawdry affair is not a reflection of her married state.
I am the girl born in the slum. I am sick from dirty water all the time and I can only go to a toilet when the sun is still in the sky. I am her fearful mother who cannot let her out of sight for who knows what may happen to her.
I am the other woman, and I am forever in shame, for I sinned against all that is considered virtuous. The man escapes unscathed, and his wife blames me and not him.
I am the widow and I may not walk in sunlight for fear my unlucky shadow may fall on another soul bringing him or her misfortune.
I am the actress of stunning beauty and talent and my path to success is via the casting couch.
I am the struggling writer and I want to tell the story of India’s unsung women. “Your stories don’t have happy endings,” says the publisher. In the bitter ether of the online world, I send back a fervent message, “There are many in India who don’t get happy endings. Let’s give them one by telling their story.” Silence is my only answer.
I am the small-town rebel. I am the big-city conqueror. I am the woman that tries to find her way through the crushing onslaught of misogyny, patriarchy and injustice that block my every step wherever I go.
I am the woman on the bus and the train that your brother groped. I am the young girl your father leered at while speaking from the pulpit at church. I am the one your husband called out vile names to on his way back from offering flowers to the Goddess at the temple.
I am Nirbhaya. I am Sridevi, I am Malaika who spoke out loud against hypocrisy. I am the Rani of Jhansi. I am the women that Raja Ravi Varma painted. I am Arundhati Roy and I am the bai in your home.
I am the ten million girls that have disappeared in the last ten years.