Letter to a Nepali auntyYou were me once, too, guide us to become a better version of ourselves
It has been a while. I think the last time we met was at our cousin’s wedding. It was a good one, lasted one whole week, and I can imagine how stressed everyone was, but it went well.
It is always a headache to find five different outfits, we cannot repeat saris because God forbid, someone might notice. Also, I did not repeat jewelry because what would people think if I wore the same earrings twice in a week?
I know you judged every woman there, you noticed what she wore, how much she ate, who all she spoke to, and you may have also seen some women who were quiet the whole night, either sitting alone staring at the unknown or standing next to their husbands. Not every couple is genuinely happy. But we all gossip and tell tales.
But I also know you are strong. To be a woman and a Nepali woman, you have to be. You have the world of responsibilities on your small yet strong shoulders. You have managed households and raised many. I think I am trying to understand how you changed from how I am to what you are at present.
I think I know why you are the way you are. It is because we have both lived the same life. You were me at some point, and I hope I am like you in the future, minus some of the qualities that you developed along the way.
We both grew up with rules and expectations. We both represented the grace and the shame of our families, where one wrong decision, and we would be scarred for life. That is the life of the woman in our society. We are meant to be pure, untouched and strong enough to wait for a man who comes back home at 3AM.
In the beginning, you used to upset me. You always talked about my skin tone, my weight and my future wedding date. You made me question if I was still of a desirable age. As I grew older, I realised some things.
You had a difficult life because you had it more challenging than me. Maybe it was your in-laws, your aunties or the society that tested you every step of the way and hardened your heart with the years.
You had to survive, and you did what you had to do to protect yourself. You grew stern and distant. You hid your vulnerability to the point where you forgot you have a heart. You took away your softness to not feel hurt.
But when you say something about me, ask yourself if you would do that if I was your daughter. And if you do not have a daughter, think of me as someone you used to be. Please do not teach me also to harden my heart. Please let me live a happy life without the constraints of society. You felt the pain, and you know how much it hurts. I wish for you not to let me go through it.
Please try to live the life that makes you happy and let me live mine the same way because we only have one. What I feel now is what you felt, you were once tender and kind. It is still there inside you.
The beauty in your simplicity is forgotten but remember who you used to be. Remember the light inside you. Remember, you are the same woman who has lived the life we live now and bring to the surface the softness that you have hidden for so long, and all of us will be in a better place.
Our lives are divine. Relight the radiance in your compassion. You are a force that can end wars. You are governed by love and kindness. And I know it will be slow, but you and I are meant to get along. You are the light to lead me in the darkness because I trust you to show me the path.
Let us not hide the unspoken truth: you have been hurt, and you have all suffered, so please understand the pain. Do not hide your true self anymore. It is both our worlds together, let us make it more liveable together.
I will always carry love and respect for you in my heart because you taught me that respect is mutual irrespective of age and gender. Help me be a better person. Be the guide that I need. Look at me with the eyes that you wish your aunties looked at you with because you were me once too.
I promise to text you before tomorrow’s reception so we do not show up wearing the same shoes.
Your Younger Version
Anjana Rajbhandary lives and works in Chicago. She writes this fortnightly Nepali Times column Life Time about mental health, physical health and socio-cultural issues.