Today, when relationships around us are in a state of constant flux, especially with women stepping out of their comfort zones to redefine gender roles and stereotypes, can there be a better quote which sums up how modern women voice their changing perspectives on relationships and their expectations from them? With the changing times, as independent, successful women have emerged at the forefront of society, they have also broken many shackles, busted many ‘myths’, while striving to see a balanced, equalitarian society where both the sexes work in sync to attain positive energy. Also, with the onset of changing values regarding gender, sexuality and the parameters of man-woman, parent-child relationship, the discourse on relationships is quite a complex one today, but not without its own dividends.
At Pinkishe, we had a chance to talk to Rhiti Chatterjee Bose, an accomplished artist, blogger, editor, writer and teacher, about her take on modern urban relationships, the role of marriage in a modern woman’s life, and about her own inspiring journey as a woman, mother, healer.
Q Hello Rhiti, it is our great pleasure to have you onboard with us at Pinkishe. At ‘Pink Tangle’, we tend to have honest discourses on the topic of women and relationships. What, according to your understanding, are your own takeaways from the man-woman relationship you have encountered in your life?
Rhiti: Thank you; it’s an honour to be able to share my thoughts with PinkIshe mag. I personally believe, for all relationships in our life, either between parent-child, or between siblings or between a couple, the intrinsic foundation is friendship and mutual respect. It’s a connection beyond our blood ties. Any man-woman relation can work if there is mutual respect and a deep friendship present.
Q It has been often said that an artist has a lonesome journey and most of his/her creations are born out of pain. You have accomplished significant milestones as an educator at Refugee Council, as an editor/author and finally an artist. Would you say your journey has been defined by pain and solitude?
Rhiti: What is a journey if it was not laced in pain of failures and defeats? Every time I have felt pain I have embraced it; without that I don’t think I would be able to appreciate success as much as I do now. Solitude, on the other hand, has been a great friend. I work wonderfully in solitude. I get distracted by the cacophony of the world, so I prefer working on my art and paintings in complete seclusion and isolation.
The difficult roads is what makes the journey worthwhile, and as cliched as it may sound, I have many more miles to go before I sleep.
Q What would you say is the role of marriage in a woman’s life? How would you define equality between both the sexes in a marital relationship? Do we see enough equal partnerships in our current times, since we talk about feminism and empowering women’s lives a lot these days?
Rhiti: You can’t really define equality, because it means different things to different people. Rather, we all should strive for equity. I believe marriage is a choice rather than being a necessity. Many women find great partners who are supportive of their works, some women don’t. There’s no comparison between those two. Human relations aren’t supposed to put into boxes or parameters. Empowerment comes from within, it’s about you. Work for your dream without expectations from others, if your partner is supportive well and good, but if he isn’t then don’t be distressed. Not everyone will understand your choices, you are unique, don’t expect anyone to comprehend your uniqueness completely.
Q Being the former founder and editor-in-chief of Incredible Women of India, you have interviewed a lot of women from all walks of our Indian society who carved their own paths, braving many taboos and societal challenges. Do you remember anyone in particular who inspired you because of her choices in relationships and life?
Rhiti: I have interviewed many women, but my own Grandmother remains at the top of the list among the women I admire. My grandfather left her and married another lady when my father was just four years old. My grandmom became a single mom in the 1950’s and raised my father all by herself. Her story is absolutely inspiring and has shaped many decisions of my own life.
Q In our films and popular culture, man-woman relationships outside the mainstream, and also gay/lesbian relationships are gradually coming out in the open in the recent years. Do you have any favorite book or film that portrays an unusual take on relationships and why did it resonate with you?
Rhiti: Alice Walker’s novel ‘The Color Purple’, which has later been adapted into a film too, is my absolute favorite. It not only showcases man woman relationship in a different light, but also touches sensitive topics of child sexual abuse, homosexuality, child-parent toxic relationships.
Q These days, there are lots of open discussions and debates centered around LGBTQ positivity in India, especially among the urban populace. Do you have any particular message for the LGBTQ community that you want to spread through your art?
Rhiti: We should be able to love and be with anyone we want, irrespective of our gender and our sexual orientation, and the LGBTQIA community has long struggled with this simple basic right. Through my art for LGBTQIA community, I simply want to show to the world that loving someone was never a crime.
Q In your blogs and interviews, you have previously mentioned about your experience being a child abuse survivor. Also, as a teacher/mentor at Refugee council, UK, you have dealt with a Liberian child scarred by the memories of his mother and sister being raped. Looking back, how do you think these experiences have shaped your persona?
Rhiti: Working for The Refugee Council in UK broadened my mindand definitely helped me to be a better person. I became aware of the horrific things people can go through in their lives. As humans we have a tendency to see and project our own problems the most. This experience helped me to become more compassionate towards others and helped me acknowledge the fact that no matter how hard my times are, there is someone who is suffering more than me, and I have the ability to help those people, in whatever little way I can.
Q We also tend to talk about physical/sexual abuse and rape a lot these days, but most often, we overlook the aspect of emotional abuse in relationships, which can also scar a person for a lifetime. Any thoughts on this?
Rhiti: Emotional abuse is one of the scariest forms of abuse which is used against women to pull them down. If you think you are in a toxic relationship and you are being gaslighted or being constantly ridiculed, first of all seek help; if it can’t be resolved, then find a way out of the situation. Long term emotional abuse will harm your self-worth and self-esteem; do not ever put up with it, stand up for yourself, because no one else will.
Q Finally, what message would you want to give to your children through your art and writing? Any message for women who have gone through trying times in their personal lives, yet whose art keeps them alive?
Rhiti: For my children I would love to leave a legacy of love and kindness behind. There’s nothing more I want than seeing them grow up into good human beings. And for the other lovely women who are combating for themselves, please remember your empire can’t be built in a day, never give up at small failures. Keep trying and keep moving forward.