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Far From Expectations and Binaries

"I have found parts of myself, and for finding the rest, I wish to keep exploring and evolving"

-Benna Fathima K

Author: Alfisha Sabri

August, 2021

Binaries don't and shouldn’t exist, and this realization has been one of the many that have come to define me. From a very early age, I noticed how the familial space and the system that promoted it, muted women, snatched their agency and pretended that its non-existence was the norm. I felt that the model wasn't correct, and perhaps it is this unsettlement with the norm that caused me to call myself a "feminist" in my teen years. However, my understanding of the term was what I made of it from how it came to me as a universal concept. The absence of the discourse and discussions around sex, sexuality, and other such "taboos" marked my upbringing, like many others. When I got the opportunity to come and study at Delhi University, I learned and learned some more. I learned about feminism, and I found solace in recognition of my struggle as a woman. But there were many more boxes that I would be pushed into all the time and feel suffocated. This was just the beginning.

Benna giving a testimonial speech on the experience of university students

My mother's influence on my childhood was strong, and she taught my siblings and me to be good human beings above all and care about people. Before university, I wouldn't call my going to a couple of protests "political involvement," but I did care about my and people's issues. It was only after coming to DU that I became actively involved in politics. My political involvement brought me face-to-face with Islamophobia in "liberal" spaces where I would least expect it. Moreover, coming from South India, I found it challenging to accommodate myself in the university’s culture and language. There were times I felt isolated and intimidated. DU started seeming like a broken dream. There were taboos at home, and now they were here too, only in different forms. The right-wing was one thing, but the condescending liberals had many problems whose acknowledgment was repeatedly refused. People wanted to talk about Muslim women and their oppression but turned a blind eye towards a Muslim woman narrating her lived experience. I was adamant in telling myself, and this same persuasion has brought me this far, and I believe there is a long way to go. I am a proud queer Muslim, and I find common ground in all my struggles.

I believe in intersectional feminism, and I think in its constant evolution. For my stance and identity, I have been called an "angry Muslim woman" because of my efforts to narrate an experience and locate it in a collective echo of similar struggles.

Fortunately, I was one of the Hindu College Progressive Front and Savitri Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle founders. In these, I found my support system, personally, and one that helped me voice my identity. In the middle of losing several friends and hearing multiple "I didn't know you were like this yaar," I have found parts of myself, and for finding the rest, I wish to keep exploring and evolving.

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