The dichotomy of public and private space seemed just a jargon until I realized how far a woman remains controlled, especially in the public space. Unlike men, women are supposed to be more coy and mindful in the public space. It is really difficult to conduct a debate over a topic focusing on the division of behavioral pattern on the basis of gender that has been normalized by the society. Raising an eyebrow against such a societal pattern is like creating a storm. When I started growing up, I was exposed to classic cinema and literature unlike many girls of my age. They made me realize that women are not mere agent to pacify others’ wishes and longings. In fact, they like any man long to have her own time and fun. Unlike what many men wrongly believe, every woman has a restless soul and critical mind until unless her intellect has been purposefully subdued to such an extent that she remains ignorant and unaware about her own inner desires and feelings.
Women tend to define and limit their idea of adventure to just fit in the common framework of the society. The society loves to control their mind and body by categorically mentioning the appropriate and inappropriate indulgences for women. There are judgmental eyes roving all around to label a woman as a slut, whore, sinful, goddess, etc. by merely scrutinizing her from head to toe and not paying any damn attention to her thinking mind and perturbed heart. Many readers after reading this might say, “Well, you are not saying anything new. So, why don’t you stop blabbering and speak something new.”
There have been times when I have looked out through my window in the darkness and dreamt of walking in the empty streets of my city. I have also dreamt of sitting under a tree and watching the sky turning from crimson red to pitch black to the shades of yellow and red. I also yearned to travel alone in a train running past beautiful landscapes dotted with trees and huts, getting down any random station to sip a cup of coffee, start a conversation with a stranger, among others. However, it is difficult to be absolutely free to indulge in our dreams, especially when one is born as a woman. She needs to take steps toward her dreams by ensuring safety. If she has no money, she cannot dare to live her dreams. If she has to exercise total freedom, she must be ready to witness disruptions and hurdles that may range from molestation, assault to characterization as a whore. In sum, a woman with desires is seen as nothing more than a willful woman. This has been well presented by none other than the renowned French woman director, Agnes Varda.
Through her path-breaking film, Vagabond, Agnes succeeds in portraying the innate emotions and desires of a woman so far not presented by anyone in the celluloid world. I remember talking about this film during my college days. Even in those days, the fate of the protagonist immensely disturbed me. Raised on classic cinema and literature, it had always been difficult for me to accept the division of role among women and men on the basis of gender. Therefore, it was totally impossible for me to comprehend the extremely discriminatory behavioral patterns imposed on women in the society. So, somewhere down the line, the film Vagabond resonates my and innumerable other women’s feelings.
This poetic tale of a beautiful and thoughtful woman who one fine day decides to throw away her job of a secretary and wander around the French countryside will make every woman to contemplate about their life and yearnings. The protagonist of the film chose the toughest season of the time, i.e., winter to camp around, which is enough to draw attention of the locals and strangers. Though her decision and step may sound erratic and not worth taking risk, her journey and encounters and experiences widen her horizon as an individual by bringing her closer to the truly free life that she wanted to live. In between, some of the women who happened to meet her felt more connected to her than freely sympathetic toward her miserable condition. They feel as if she is living the dream that they too wanted to live one day. However, nothing comes for free, so even the protagonist had to witness assault, humiliation, poverty, etc. to live her dream. Though she meets a fatal end, her journey remains inspiring and thought-provoking. It’s difficult for me to pen down the exact emotions that surged within me while watching this film. I can define them to be closer to poetic, longing, dreamy, etc.
Beyond the mundane structures of the society, the protagonist, named Mona, truly lives her life by meeting and observing the world. She met people who loved her, detested her, humiliated her and used her, yet it’s Mona who stands taller than others. Some of the beautiful scenes of the film include when she passes her time by blissfully sleeping in the arms of a new lover, indulging in wine and sumptuous food, and lazing around the backyard of an empty mansion.
Sometimes she traded her body to earn her living and sometimes she just wandered around with her backpack. She learns new trades to survive when she meets a Tunisian farmer who truly cared for her. If I can put my heart into my writing, then I can say that I loved her uninhibited life devoid of any ambition and the feeling of loss or pain. She is truly a survivor and dreamer. It also seems that she is not living her dreams rather living her life by eliminating her fears. She has no fear of living on streets, no fear of any man, no fear of not leading a normal life, which makes her more fascinating and interesting than all of us.