A friend of mine wrote a lovely article about how a woman was being pressurized to give up her job to take care of the child once her maternity leave was over. She made her husband and mother-in-law realize that the joys of parenthood do not discriminate between mother and father. The husband stepped in, and decided to be a stay at home dad while the woman resumed work after her maternity leave. In this case, the woman was earning more than her husband and it made no sense to her that she should give up her career.
I have also written about how men should participate in the household work and parenting. “Help out” would be a wrong term because it makes it sound like it is not their responsibility. Ideally, it is a shared partnership and both of them should contribute equally.
But what if the man stays at home full time while the woman works? Is it just the society that looks down upon that kind of an arrangement?
Do stay-at home dads feel under-valued in a society where “providing” has been a man’s prime responsibility?
A lot of men complain that the pressure to provide and support is solely on them. If they choose to prioritize family over career, this would also be frowned upon by their wives. There would be taunts, and comparisons with other men who are ‘doing so well’.
When we can appreciate women working full time, why can’t be appreciate men staying home full time and taking care of the home?
Feminism helps women and men because it helps break gender stereotypes. Yesterday, the last contestant on KBC was a lady who works while her husband takes care of the home, and their child. Mr. Bachhan applauded him. He said it is great that this man “allowed” his wife to achieve her dreams!
I was disappointed. I thought this whole “allowing’ business was done away with Farhan Akhtar in the movie, ‘Dil Dhadakne Do!’ Anyway, that is not the point I am trying to make in this article. I want to ask women would they prefer that their husbands become stay at home dads or household husbands? What would be their reasons?
My question is:
Would you like to have a house – husband? Which one of the following is the closest to your view?
1. Wow! I would love to have a house-husband! Where can I find such a guy!
2. I think husband and wife should both work and share household responsibilities. One person staying at home full time does not appeal to me.
3. I would not judge anyone. I respect househusbands and housewives. But personally, I would not want a house-husband for myself because I feel it would lead to ego clashes, insecurities, self-esteem issues and unnecessary pressure on me to excel in my career!
4. Men should be earning! Women already go through a lot of physical pain during pregnancy and childbirth ! It is not fair! This kind of arrangement should not be encouraged!
I know the movie has just released. So, I will not give a synopsis and ruin it.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching Simran. The script may be “flawed” according to some elite reviewers but then again it is based on a true story. Yes. Truth is stranger than fiction.
What worked for me?
- Female protagonist. 30-year-old divorced woman. She cleans hotels for a living. She is not rich and does not wear expensive dresses. Her make-up, and clothes match her character. There is no hero. There is a “love interest”, who she is not really interested in. She is quite okay rather content with her single status.
2. No unnecessary songs. And no, the heroine does not transform to look gorgeous in the songs. Her look in the songs is as real and natural as in the rest of the movie.
3. In one of the scenes, Praful (Kangana)’s grandmother speaks to her (Praful’s) love interest who admits that he has been heart-broken before. She says that it does not matter if the relationship is the first. What matters is that it should be the last. Bollywood is finally getting over the “pehla pyaar, pehla nasha, pehla khumar”, becoming more practical and mature.
4. Praful asks her arranged marriage guy – What if she has some character flaws? He responds that he is a very progressive man. He wants his wife to be loyal to him after marriage but it does not matter to him if she has had previous or current (?) boyfriends. Praful tells him that is not what she means by character flaws! “Ladko ko patana to art hai!” By character flaws she means what if she is into gambling, or stealing!
A 30 plus man telling a 30-year-old woman that he is progressive because he does not have a problem with her having prior relationships!! That too in the context of “character”! The woman correcting him and showing him his place. Thank you Bollywood!
How many of us have met such “progressive” men?
The song ‘Single Rehne De’ is already being considered an anthem for single women.
Hafte mein chaar bekaar
Aise ristey lekar aate ho
Jaise daily mall mein
Window shopping karne jaate ho
Phir laakhon mein ek aisa sample dhoondh ke laaoge
Aur bina meri marzi us’se shaadi bhi karvaoge…
Can single women relate?
- So, yesterday it was raining during my exercise time. I had just downloaded ‘Shape of you’ on my cell-phone and was excited about jogging.
I took two rounds despite the rain, convincing myself that it was just a drizzle. I got wet and had to finally accept the fact that I cannot be out anymore. I headed to the gym. I don’t like going to gym at that time because it is too crowded. But ever since KBC started, I go early so that I can be home by 9 pm to watch the show peacefully.
The gym has stopped playing music on the music system. These days they just switch on the TV and put on one of the music channels. I am wondering if I started that? Because one day when I went to gym late, a cricket match was playing on the TV. I had got bored listening to the same CD again and again. So, I requested the guard to leave the TV on and I kept changing the music channels from MTV, to 9XM, to B4u music to Bindaasplay etc. Ever since then, I have seen the TV on.
Zetc channel was on. I didn’t like the songs they were playing – “Hoke man aaj magan naache hai chanan chanan’ types. I usually don’t mind such songs but in the gym, I prefer something more fast and catchy like ‘Main tera boyfriend’ or ‘Tenu suit suit karda’. Those songs immediately raise my speed. I wondered if it is okay if I change the channel. Then I thought everybody else is too busy in their work-out. Here I am obsessing about the music. I decided against it. I miss my post 9:15 pm slot when the place is empty. It like having a private gym…
It was almost 9pm. My mother had told me that the roll-over contestant from KBC will reach up to the one crore question. I did not want to miss that episode. So, I rushed home, panting and sweating. Just when I was leaving the gym, they started playing , ‘Tenu suit suit karda!’ How very unfair!!
This gentleman who won Rs 50 lakh in yesterday’s episode was 29 years old and had multiple degrees – M.A. Hindi, M.A. English, PGDM etc. Very educated person. Some of the questions that he was asked seemed very easy to me – like the state with the maximum rainfall with options such as Meghalaya, Karnataka, Maharashtra etc.! He seemed to be guessing in a lot of questions. But anyway, none of my business!
At some point, Mr. Bachhan remarked that this gentleman had got married very early. The gentleman replied that he is very happily married and has three kids. He said proudly that when he got married, he did not take any dowry!
I do not want to write more about this gentleman, because I do not want to make this article about attacking him. I just felt sad that our society is so regressive that not taking dowry is a matter of pride, something to boast about on national television. I am generally disappointed with the “good men” in our country.
Few years back, I had met a gentleman in an arranged marriage set-up. He asked me if I drink. I said yes. He said that he does not have a problem with that. He added that he is such a “cool, liberal guy” that he would even take me out for drinks after marriage!
“Some of my friends, they drink with other guys and leave their wives home. But I will allow my wife to drink with me!” he said proudly.
I told him that he has no right to “allow” another human being to do anything! And he is not doing his future wife a favour by “not having a problem with her drinking”.
P.S. – If you think you are a “nice guy” by waiving off dowry or being okay with your wife drinking you are not a nice guy! You are still a chauvinistic, probably trying to evolve but it will still take you another 100 years to understand the meaning of “gender equality”. And no I will not admire you because compared to some bigger idiots, you are “still better”.
Finally I got a chance to watch Shubh Mangal Savdhan.
I was disappointed! If you have seen the trailer of the of movie, you know what the movie is about. When I watched the movie, I felt that it was nothing beyond its trailer. Bhumi’s last movie – Toilet Ek Prem Katha, and Ayushman’s last movie Bareily ki Barfi had raised the expectations. And ofcourse we cannot forget that their first movie together, Dum Laga ke Haisa was surprisingly refreshing.
But since this movie was an attempt on something different and bold, few parts deserve appreciation:
- Sugandha always wanted a love story but the arranged marriage proposal ruined the opportunity for her. Still, she tries to create romance before her wedding. Without giving too many spoilers, let us just say that she does not hesitate in making a move.
- Seema Bhargava has mastered the role of a worrying yet modern, middle-class mother of a grown-up daughter. I loved her role in Bareily ki Barfi also. (I enjoyed watching that movie but could not find anything in it to write about).
- There was no non-sense about the girl’s “izzat”. Her father was more than happy to call off the wedding unless the boy resolves his “gents problem”. He genuinely cared about his daughter’s happiness.
- Towards the end, Mudit gives a speech on patriarchy. “Mard woh nahi hai jisko dard nahi hota, mard woh hai jo dard nahi deta.” Patriarchy ruins men as much as it ruins women.
- In a guest appearance, Jimmy Shergil tells Mudit that if the girl he is running after refuses him, he should simply come back. He better not be the “acid attack” types. First Mr. Bachchan. Now Jimmy Sherfill. Bollywood which has loved stalking, and ‘Ladki ki naa mein haan hai’ is finally spreading the message, ‘No means no’.
In this movie, Mudit was a sweet guy. He never got abusive with Sugandha, in an attempt to prove his “masculinity”. He defined masculinity as being good to your female partner. Sugandha is supportive of him too.
In reality does this happen?
Maybe not. But this is a movie. And it is trying to give a positive message. I won’t complain.
Forcing women to marry, after completing their education, is unfair. Women must be given a fair chance to explore and decide what they desire in life.
I would say, I come from a progressive Indian family. All the girls in my family are well-educated, working, raised with much affection, freedom and in equality with boys. There has been a special emphasis on education and I can proudly declare that all my female cousins are doctors, engineers, architects, MBAs and so on.
Some time back, my sister and I were having a discussion on marriage vows.
“For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish”
We said how difficult it is to commit to another human being like this – for better or for worse? Is it even possible to love another human being so unconditionally? Our parents teach us that it is.
I do not know what makes my mother continue to love me when I get from bad to worse! What I do know is that even at the age of 29 I can throw tantrums because mothers can’t break-up with their children.
Few years back, I was crying about something to my elder sister. She tried to console me with reason. It did not work. She tried to give some positive examples. I got even more angry. No matter what she said, I continued to be hopeless. Finally, she said that I need to STOP, because it is very upsetting for her and my parents when I cry like this.
“This has happened to me! You won’t understand! Only I can understand! I am the victim here! Not you!” I snapped.
“Nothing can happen to you alone! Whatever happens to you affects the rest of us! And maybe I cannot understand. But you don’t understand either how painful it is to watch someone younger than you, who you love, suffer, and not being able to help them!”
How tough it must be for parents? I don’t know what it must be like to constantly worry about a grown-up child. To keep telling them that everything will be okay when in your heart you are too scared to imagine that it may not? To feel like it is your primal responsibility to protect them and make them happy, and yet feel powerless because the universe does not care. Or because God does not listen.
How do they deal with it? How does a mother feel when she cannot really make things right for her child? Maybe she can solve the manageable problems first. She can cook her daughter’s favourite dish. Or tidy her wardrobe. She can still do whatever she can in her human capacity to make life easier and better for her child. And the thing with mothers is that they keep doing it. For adult children. Then their children. How exhausting it must be! Both physically and emotionally!
I have blogged about this before:
Just a couple of days back, my mother had packed my tiffin box with fruits and salad. I got busy with work and brought back the food home, untouched. After dinner, my mother started eating the leftovers.
“How come you are eating the pomegranate, I thought you didn’t like it. Never seen you having it.” I asked.
“It’s not that I don’t like it, slicing the vegetables and fruits is a pain. I give it to you and your father, but don’t bother slicing for myself.” she replied.
There are small (big) things that our mothers do for us. Sometimes it may be having the leftover rice for dinner because she is too tired after making rotis for the rest of us. Or maybe buying that ridiculously expensive dress that I was drooling at the mall, and then claiming that it was on a sale.
We notice that they do all of this. We just don’t thank them enough. If we did, how many thank yous would we owe them each day? And who says I love you and thank you every day anyway?
Today is my mother’s birthday. She does not check Facebook regularly. On her last to last birthday, I had to tell her that people have wished her on her timeline. She is supposed to reply or at least ‘like’ their post. She had asked me if she has to comment on their timeline or hers. On her last birthday, she had requested me to respond to all her birthday posts because what if she makes typos! I had refused. I told her she should learn. She will comment just fine. And she did. Perfectly! She has not subscribed to my blog because she does not check her emails. I doubt if she will read this post today. But I hope she does! 🙂
Daksha boarded the train sharp at 11 am. The journey from Valsad to Mumbai may have been only five hours. But for Daksha it was not merely a journey. It was years of rebellion finally paying off.
Since Daksha had turned 16, people had urged her to join her father’s tailoring shop. Something she detested! Her dream was to write stories. And share them with the world. After completing a post graduate degree in mass communication, she had started applying for jobs in Mumbai. She attended a workshop organized by a start-up publication called ‘Athena – The Inspirational Women’ the last time she had visited Mumbai. They had told her that they needed passionate people like her. But her English was not up to mark. However, she managed to secure a onetime paid assignment to pitch a story about an inspiring woman.
People had said all sort of things:
You have never left Valsad! How will you manage to live in such a big city?
The city always floods!
How can you become a content writer when your English is not that great!
Who gets paid to write stories anyway!
But Daksha was not afraid. She had the hunger to prove herself. If only she could find a famous woman to interview…
“Myself – Daksha Shah.” She said to a middle-aged lady, the only other woman in the compartment after adjusting her luggage under the berth. “Last time I went to Mumbai, all gents only! This time good company!”
The lady shook her hand, and smiled politely. Daksha had read enough books on how to become a strong, successful woman. All the books talked about networking. Daksha took networking very seriously. Even if she was in a train with strangers.
“Aunty, I am going for job! If I get, my office would be at Nariman Point. I have found a PG in Dadar. Dadar to Churchgate I can take local train!”
“I am first girl in my family to go to Mumbai! All girls, either get married or join parents’ business. But I wanted to be independent!”
Aunty smiled as Daksha continued.
Daksha was trying to put a brave face. But deep down she was scared and unsure of herself. She had borrowed money from her parents to sustain herself without a job. She had fought with everyone. What if people made fun of her accent like those mean girls from the workshop? The ones who had no idea in which century Rani Lakshmibai lived, yet they thought it was their birth right to ridicule her English? She had nobody to share her doubts with. How could she when they all believed she was making the biggest mistake of her life? She wanted someone to tell her she would be okay. She did not want to hear that she would fail.
Daksha switched on her laptop. She typed the title of her story.
‘Top 10 Sucessful Women of 2016’, she entered the title in a new Microsoft word document. The auto check corrected the spelling to successful.
Aunty was now sleeping, leaning on the window. She momentarily opened her eyes. Daksha could not resist.
“Aunty, I am feeling little bit scared. First time leaving home. My English also not that good because I studied in Gujarati medium. But Aunty I am hard working. I know if I get good opportunity, I can do anything in life! But if I fail, people here will laugh at me. I want to be a successful, famous woman like Kiran Bedi!”
“Kiran Bedi did not dream of being famous dear! She worked hard and earned a name for herself. Don’t dream of being famous. Figure out what makes you happy. Then just do it. If you are interested in your work, you will do well. You already have a goal. Go for it! Success will come over time! There is no such thing as failure. It is sad to see young people give up. Life is so big!”
“Yes, Aunty! But I always have this craze to meet some great lady like Neerja Bhanot or Kalpana Chawla. She was greatest woman of India! Why she died so young!”
“Yes Beta, if only someone could answer that question. Why do people die before their time? People say everything happens for good. But what good justifies death of children before the eyes of their parents? Good, kind children. Who just wanted to do well in life. And they would have. Had they been…”
Aunty paused. This was the longest that she had spoken. Daksha did not know what to say next. She looked back at her article. She already had a list of women she wanted to interview – successful women from the field of finance, journalism, fashion technology etc.
“Aunty you know any strong, famous women? I want to interview!”
“I know a lot of strong women. But they may not be famous!”
“Oh like who? I mean if not CFO of company, even VP will do.”
“I am afraid I don’t know any such women! But I do know a lot of strong women!”
“But what they have done! Good enough to write story on them?”
“Maybe not an interesting story you are looking for. But everybody has a story to tell. People become strong when they face some circumstances in life they were not prepared for. Everybody has struggles. The way we deal with it matters.”
“Aunty you have met any movie star? In Mumbai, it must be common!”
“No!” Aunty replied with a laugh. Daksha was disappointed.
The rest of the journey Daksha continued to write. Mumbai station was about to reach.
People were removing their luggage and crowding around the exits. Daksha also pulled out her suit case.
“It was nice meeting you Beta. Wish you the very best in life! Thank you for your company!”
“Mention not Aunty! Daksha beamed, holding her luggage ready to move out.
“This is my card. Let me know if you ever need anything.”
Daksha did not have time to see the card now. She tucked it in her purse as she made her way out of the rush.
Few days later, Daksha got settled in her PG. She went to office of Athena to pitch a story line for a female Air Marshal she had met through her roommate who agreed to be interviewed.
Daksha was narrating the story line to the editor, when she opened her purse to remove a pen. A visiting card dropped out. It read, ‘Mothers against suicide’.
Below was the contact number of Arundhati Biswas along with a helpline number.
“Are you interviewing her too?” The editor asked with excitement.
It took Daksha some time to correlate that this card belonged to the Aunty she had met in the train.
“Is she famous? I have met her!” Daksha asked, the excitement now reflecting in her voice too.
“Well, not famous enough that everyone would know her. But famous enough to be known in circles like ours. She started a suicide helpline number after her 15-year-old committed suicide due to failing an exam. Initially, it was low key. Spread through word of mouth. But now she has a website that has grown. Lots of other bereaved mothers have joined. In extreme cases, she refers people to professional counsellors, therapists and psychiatrists. She conducts sessions for free in schools and colleges on bullying, dealing with heartbreak, grief counselling etc. Pretty inspiring lady!”
Daksha was dumbfounded. She wished she had known this while she was travelling with Aunty. She got in touch with Arundhati for an interview without wasting any further time.
Arundhati told her about her ordeal. How she lost her child because of a moment of weakness. How every day in the past ten years has been a struggle. How she wishes she could go back in time. The first thought she has every morning is to go join her daughter, wherever she is. Yet, she manages to live every day, somehow in the hope that she could help someone else not go through the same pain.
Daksha ended the story with a quote referred to by Arundhati:
“Whatever you are physically…male or female, strong or weak, ill or healthy–all those things matter less than what your heart contains. If you have the soul of a warrior, you are a warrior. All those other things, they are the glass that contains the lamp, but you are the light inside.” – Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Angel
The editor had a hard time with Daksha’s mediocre writing. But she could not help being impressed with the content. The story was published. It became viral. Daksha attended an English course, as well as spoken English classes recommended by her editor over the next eight months following which she applied for a written exam with Athena. Within a year, she was hired as a full-time content writer.
Daksha now writes her own column in which she curates stories of women who have made a difference to somebody else’s life. She does not look for famous people anymore. Ordinary women may have extraordinary strength. Her muses are now women she meets in the local train, who may be cutting vegetables oblivious to the fact that they may be heroes in their own way.
One of the stories she published was about herself. Her journey from a small town, to her struggle with the English language, and finally living the dream of being a columnist.
Arundhati was right. Every woman is strong. She has a story to tell.
She just needs the right person to listen.
This story has been written for the Warrior Women Blogathon. Women’s Web & Juggernaut Books invite you to join us on an exciting blogathon, inspired by the warrior women of history.
When a Greek pirate ship sails in to loot the wealth of the Cholas, it is brutally defeated by the navy and forced to pay a compensation. A payment that includes a twelve-year-old girl, Aremis. Check out this new historical novel Empire (http://bit.ly/DeviEmpire) with a warrior woman, Aremis at the heart of the novel.