Ranjana TN

Becoming a woman of duality

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”

– Nora Ephron

Recommended by a dear friend, I started watching Anne with an E on Netflix yesterday. It’s based on a book by L.M. Montgomery called Anne of Green Gables. I laughed and cried a lot and it resonated at a deep level. The protagonist is a young orphan girl who’s outspoken and wears her heart on her sleeve. It’s set in the early 1900s, so her personality is quite a deviation from that of other children of her age. Watching her reminded me of one of my favourite poems called For my Daughter by Sarah McMane. If you haven’t read that one, I’d strongly suggest that you do.

I’ve always found inspiration in strong-willed, independent-minded women who are unafraid to tread the path that called to them, whether or not the world approved. I think there are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, being a woman myself, I can relate to them easily and in ways I can’t with men. When I see women who are being unapologetically and joyfully themselves, I can’t let myself off the hook. There’s no excuse for me to be and do anything less than exactly what I want to since these women are shining examples of what one can do if she only puts her mind to it. Secondly, I come from a family where women have worked hard and proven themselves in a multitude of ways. I wish to emulate them.

I’ve found inspiration in women from all walks of life. From close friends who’ve made it their sole purpose to be the best mothers they can be to celebrities who’ve taken the road less traveled, there’s something I’ve learnt from each of them. There’s something about a woman expressing who she really is that inspires me beyond words. Because it reminds me that I can and should live my truth too. When I think of ‘inspiring women’, I immediately think of J.K. Rowling, Oprah Winfrey, Natalie Portman, Elizabeth Gilbert, Rukmini Devi Arundale, Cheryl Strayed, Lisa Bilyeu, my close friend Febin, my grandmother, and my mother. Of course, these are but a tiny fraction of an ocean of inspiring women out there, but what I mean to say is that I find all of these people inspiring in their own unique way. The common theme that runs amongst them is that they all chose to follow the path that was right for them. Their courage and self-expression give me hope and are a reminder of the kind of person I should be too.

When I was in Thailand last year, I met a woman from Israel. She and I were having a conversation about what it meant to be an assertive woman. I was lamenting about being rather soft-spoken myself and hence not taken seriously. She told me that being soft-spoken doesn’t mean one isn’t powerful. She said, “you can always softly, yet firmly, say no”. In that instant, I stopped seeing myself as weak for all the ‘softer’ qualities I had. Gentleness and fierceness can coexist. Softspokeness and assertiveness can coexist. Ambition and humility can coexist. I understood that it wasn’t an either-or. I could, in fact, define myself in complex ways because no quality necessitated the relinquishment of another. It was a wonderous thought.

Anne of Green Gables inspires me because of how outspoken she is and because she is unafraid to indulge in imagination. Her adopted mother, Marilla, on the other hand, inspires me because she is practical and measured in her words. My mother is the kindest person I know and takes pleasure in the smallest of things. Oprah has built an empire and touched millions upon millions of people. J.K. Rowling is literally my childhood. They all awaken different aspects of who Ranjana is. I’m not one or the other. I am them all.