Listen Woman, we need to talk!


Recently Shahid Kapoor’s wife Mira Rajput created a furor on the Internet by making a funny statement that ‘innocently’ compared a baby with a puppy following which she gave her preference on being a homemaker. I did not like the comparison personally. Why Mira, isn’t a pup a baby too? In fact, children outgrow your lap but dogs don’t! I don’t have a pet but I know pet parents who shower unconditional love on their pets. Somehow, her statement just brushed many women the wrong way. I, for one, understood only one thing – Mira forgot that the position from where she is speaking held more weight than her words themselves!

Perhaps, had Mira been a mediocre home maker with no celebrity status, it would not have invoked the angst of the feminist brigade. Perhaps, if she were even a budding entrepreneur who would have casually mentioned the same statement, she would not have been taken seriously. Perhaps, if she were some IT professional who in the spur of the moment may have compared a baby to a pup, not many would have heeded it. But then, she is not the regular next door woman for the society. And the minute Mira gave that interview, she forgot that important piece of wisdom.

So, when she made that funny comparison of a baby with a pup, I was amused. But then, I was more startled when the whole twitter went berserk on her comment. Just because she spoke her mind perhaps not using the right analogy, the social media pounced on her as if it was starved off its meat that is mostly sprinkled with condiments of sham and shame! The one blunder she perhaps made is by declaring that she enjoyed being the home maker citing the baby and pup analogy. No good.

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And so, her inappropriate statement has brought the home makers and ‘working’ women at loggerheads.  Now, I don’t want to get into this useless battle. But, I fail to understand the idea behind labeling women as ‘working’. Recently, when I was flipping through channels, I came across an advertisement (guess it was some promo of a serial) that had a young woman asking a man – “Aapko kaisi ladki chaiye? House wife ya working woman?” and, the man with the mustache answers in a heavily laced kathyawadi accent – “Kya antar hai dono mein? Dono hi kaam karti hain. Bas, jagah badal jati hai!” I loved the way the man thought. But what pinched me was, that kind of demeaning question was asked by a woman. Sometimes I feel, women don’t have to seek enemies in the opposite gender. We are at times our own enemies! Now pray tell, what is so low about a home maker’s job?

I have been a working woman in the past and presently, I am a home maker absolutely by choice. Intermittently, I have freelanced and was also working from home for a while, before certain health issues made me take a pause again. So, when I came across a post on social media about how the home makers can never see working women in good light, I felt stung. If women speak against women in such a bad light, why on earth will men, or for that matter anyone respect us? Fodder for thought?

This Home maker inspires me like none!

Now, there are two inspiring women I have met in life and, I would like to share about these wonderful women on this platform. The first one is my husband’s aunt from his maternal side – Padmini Maami. She is a widow who lost her husband when her sons were aged around 11 and 6. She has been a home maker all her life and yet, she is a living example of the powerful feminine force in her strung the family together with her selfless hard work towards her in-laws, children and the many other members of the joint family she lives in. She has been instrumental in raising my husband (then just 11 years old) after my mother –in-law’s untimely demise in ‘96.

Padmini Mami is not some high flying corporate woman or, some highly intellectual professor teaching in some deemed university. She is just a regular woman in a very normal saree…who you might see, walking towards a grocery store with a sling bag. She is one of those inconspicuous and seldom appreciated home makers who slogs from dawn to dusk and till night with a never ending list of household chores.

Now we all gape in awe when we read about famous and inspiring ladies (well, there are just too many famous ones). But then, there are many unseen gems who also stand at par with the famous ones in their indigenous way. Padmini Mami, is one of them.

Getting up in the morning, preparing the first of the many rounds of coffee, making breakfast, tending to her very old in laws, cleaning and mopping the home, washing clothes, making lunch, paying bills and, going to bank, buying groceries, visiting the temple and sometimes, making rangoli there and so on, and so forth are just some of the countless duties she performs during a day.

There have also been times when she used to take care of her sister in law’s children, given that the sister in law works in a university. And, maami just does her work with no complaints whatsoever. In her daily rigmarole, she also manages a power nap of 30 to 40 odd minutes after lunch. She watches her favorite serials at times, which serves her with the small bout of unreal entertainment at the end of each day. On some nights, I have observed that there would not be much for her to eat, but she would not complain. When I asked her on one of those days, she smiled and said – “Narayani, eating is important. But what is as important as eating is keeping the body parts in motion. Our body should be strong, adaptive and flexible. And, we must be self dependent.”

Today, her sons are grown up and, are independent and well raised gentlemen. While she reminisces her early years of her blissful marriage and, the dark times that befell her after mama’s demise, she leaves a long sigh….. and pauses for a while and then, says– “My responsibilities are now over. My sons are doing well for themselves.  And once my duties are over completely, I want to do something at the temple, maybe do some cleaning and rangoli there.”

This time when I had visited her, she had the ball of a time playing with our son, Arjun. While we were leaving, she passed on a precious piece of advice to me – “Narayani, family always comes first no matter what. Our children are our responsibility till the time they learn to fly. And when they fly the nest, we must let them fly without our interference.”  Despite not being the ‘working’ woman, her views are extremely liberal unlike the many known ‘working’ women who play their ‘dominance card’ in their children’s lives in extreme ways. In a world clouded by airs of status, higher education and wealth, we miss out on the many diamonds and sapphires, like Padmini Maami. Sad, but true.

This working woman commands deepest respect in me!

Now, the other woman I want to introduce you all to is, Sharada Periamma. She is my husband’s aunt from his paternal side. She is the quintessential working woman who has slogged for more than 3 decades in a government job. When the family suffered a huge financial loss in the early years, the financial burden snowballed into this iron lady’s shoulders. And, how she steered her family through the rough patches of her life is a feat that cannot be expressed in words.

She has a son and a daughter and, both are amazing individuals and invariably, my best cousins too! With all the hardships that periamma faced in her life that even included her working in some remote corner of the state, away from family, she has emerged a clear winner in the game of life. During the times when she was posted away from home, she would visit on weekends. And on her way home in the bus or train, she would utilise the time in chopping fresh vegetables she used to buy from a nearby village. And even on weekend, instead of taking ample rest, she will prepare sambhar, rasam and various kinds of chutneys and kozhamu for the family, with the thought that the first two days of the week would be easy for her husband and children as far as ‘Ma ke haath ka khana’ is concerned.

Today she is happily retired and, post retirement she went for South East Asian trip with her sister and a friend. Her children forcefully sent her and, it was only during the trip she realized how much she needed it after countless years of struggle. Recently, when I met her, I asked if she misses her work life. And she smiles and says – “No, not really. Because many of my friends retired with me. So, we all meet up once a month, have lunch outside and sometimes, go to temples together. Life is good now. Besides, age is catching up. Maybe, I will open a crèche some day. I missed seeing the early growing years of my children, given the financial strain on the family then. So, maybe I want to spend time with kids now.” And, she adores my son, Arjun a lot. Although, I feel the stabbing absence of my mother in law, God has been kind as Sharada Periamma candidly announced during our marriage that they are my in-laws.

Besides having been an ace performer in her professional life, she is also an out of the world cook! Anything she prepares is magical! Every time, I look at her, I feel so proud to be associated with her. An excellent mother, an adoring wife, a dutiful daughter, periamma has played every role with finesse. And it is here, I would like to point out that Sharada Periamma’s is an epitome of humility and compassion despite having been professionally successful all through out. I am yet to meet a woman with a heart that is more indulgent than hers!

A woman works, be at home or in office/school!

The reason I cited these examples here is to help women understand that it is not important to ‘be a working woman’ or ‘be a home maker’. What is important is to first ‘be a good human being’. In a world where judgments are passed as frivolously like passing the parcel, we miss out on the very basics of life. And that is, to be kind to people around. How difficult is that?

Why should a home maker be looked down upon? Because her job is thankless? Or, because you find her job worthless?

Why should a working woman be scrutinized incessantly? Because, she is contributing to her family’s income by missing out on her desire to be with her family as much as the home makers do? Or because, women with financial independence intimidate the crowd?

With the two exemplary women I have mentioned in this post, I have deep respect for both home makers and women who are out working in offices and schools. Both command respect in me and, both are extraordinarily performing their roles with absolute courage and conviction.

SO LADIES, PLEASE STOP SHAMMING YOUR OWN TRIBE OVER SUCH TRIVIAL DEBATES. STOP BERATING YOUR OWN KIND! 

Remember,

If you don’t love yourself and your kind, nobody will!

If you don’t respect yourself and your kind, nobody will!

If you don’t help yourself and your kind, nobody will!

Ever since social media has engulfed the world with its charm, we have become self proclaimed judges of whatever we read and analyse about feminism. But what is disheartening about the entire feminism thing is, it is mostly women who instantly jump the gun to accuse the women with a perception different from theirs. Slamming single women, shaming women who choose an alternative lifestyle different from the one followed by majority, berating women who choose to not become parents MUST STOP! Be kind to each other and trust me, if women unite as a force and give each other the shoulder to lean on during rough weather times, we will never have the need to prove ourselves to the world that we assume is being patriarchal.

Take the first step, woman. Look around. If you can even remotely help another woman by even giving her the basic comfort of being a silent listener by making her feel un judged for her situation in life, then my friend, you have already and thankfully understood what this post is all about.

Every woman is special. See the world that way. The yellow tinge clouding your spiritual cornea will disappear.

And Mira Rajput, although your words were not wisely chosen, I am with you woman! Not your fan though. But yet, I stand by you because we both belong to the same tribe! No one can refute that, right?

unity

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A chronicle from the 1960s.


Kindness is God’s way of telling you – “Hang on there! Hold on to that flame of hope and, trust me with all your faith. You are just a wee bit away from crossing that burning bridge!”

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Circa 2002

That year although was the beginning of my dream to fly, it did have more important reasons to be remembered for. Because that year was not just about finding my wings, but it was also more about the empty nest syndrome that hit my mother for the first of all times.

empty nest syn

My parents have in a very amazing manner, balanced walking the tight rope of parenting. At any point of time, one of them would be as cool as a cucumber. However among the two, I remember my father having predominantly played the cool parent as compared to my anxious mum. But it all changed once my twelfth grade ended. Mum wanted me to go out of the state and study. Whereas, my dad who had helped me give countless entrance exams wanted me to stay within the known realms of the state. Finally, I joined a college in a place that was three hours from home and, it made all three of us happy, for different reasons though. Talking about Mum, she was prepared for the part, that I was leaving for college. However, she wasn’t prepared for the part that came later,“A home that was deafeningly silent”. In months that followed, I could sense her leaning towards depression. We couldn’t talk much during the first week as I was yet to have my first mobile. Standing in a queue to speak through the payphone was the only option and, given the fact that there were many like me, it was impossible to have a decent conversation. Yet, I managed to visit home once or twice a week. She was vocal about my absence and, I for one did not know what could ease her pain.

A few months passed. And one day, I got a call from her – “Hey! You know our neighbour’s daughter – Chutki. I am planning to teach her Maths.” Oh yes! I remembered my lovely neighbor Pinki Aunty’s beautiful daughter Aashka who is fondly called – Chutki,  who was in class 7 then. The enthusiasm in my mum’s voice was the answer to her own pain. In that moment, I felt it was God’s way of showing the way.  A couple of years later, she was teaching 5 – 6 children, a variety of subjects like Math, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and sometimes, History and Civics too. Having handled and mentored a difficult child like me, she was so much at ease handling and teaching the other kids in the neighborhood. She had found her happy place. But what made me more proud of her is the fact, she taught purely for fun and, not for money. When I asked her what made her take tuition for free, she narrated a beautiful incident from her childhood and, it has stayed with me forever.

This is as narrated to me by my mum:

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Circa 1969:

“There are times when you are lost, when you are blinded, when you are overwhelmed by the feeling of having been left in a jungle blindfolded. And then, all of a sudden a stranger takes your hand and leads you the way from darkness to light. That stranger at that time, is God to you.”

“I studied in Muncipal school till class Seven. And you know how those schools are. Not much was taught. All play and no work was the deal. And then, when I reached class VIII, my father put me in Avinash Lingam School of Coimbatore. I was enthralled and at the same time scared when I saw the sprawling campus of my school that also had colleges pertaining to various disciplines. While I was still mesmerized by the ambiance of the new school, my father led me to the principal – Hema Prabha Maam. She looked at me in the eye, wished me and then said to my father, “She has to pass an entrance test. Only then I can confirm her admission.” The entrance exam contained questions of all subjects in English and, I came from Tamil medium with very little knowledge of the language. It felt as though I had landed in a foreign country. No, I did not know English well. And, I did not attend any question in any of the subjects. However, I did write a poem that I was taught in the earlier school. Later when I was inducted, I asked my father – “How did they take me in such a school when I did not even know a single answer to a question?” And he said, “Seems you did not leave the entire paper blank. You wrote some poem in your paper. What has impressed them is the fact that there wasn’t one grammatical error in that whole poem and that, your hand writing was beautiful. Anyways, you are in a good school now. Time to shine and make us proud!”

I adored my father and I missed him a lot. Mostly because he was in a job that demanded transfers once in two years. Hence, we (my mum and my three siblings) were stationed in Coimbatore whereas, he was moving around making tough adjustments in life to provide us with a good comfortable life. And so, I was determined that no matter what, I would not fail his expectations from me.

However, the first day at Avinash Lingam had already decided to challenge my verve. I reached my class and, I saw myself surrounded by girls who were taller and far stout than me. Yes, they were clearly intimidating as their body language said it aloud – “What is a girl from a Municipal school doing in our school?” And just as I thought about the way I was to get ragged, our class teacher Rajathi Maam appeared. She was the first kind soul I met in that school. She introduced me to the class and, vice Versa. There were occasional mumbles and jumbles that were laced with giggles. That day felt like being choked! I did not understand a thing! And, I felt like a misfit! Besides, the feeling of not being accepted in a place where you have just landed as a newbie is not a good feeling. A few days passed.

Since, I had joined a month late in the school, I was advised by Rajathi Maam to take down the missed notes from someone in the class. As I went about asking, I noticed that there were cliques in the class – the toppers, the sports players, the fashionistas and, the average ones. I did not fit in any of them as, I was as blank as a clean slate. As for the notes, I did not get much help as none that I asked was ready to lend. Many wouldn’t even speak. So, just as I felt that the new school is a big mistake and that, I was letting my father down, a long hand with some notebooks came forward. I looked up and saw a girl smiling at me. She said, “Hey! Take my notes. You can return them once you have copied them down.”

Her name was DP Usha Rani, the second kind soul in that class. I remember her vividly and, I remember the name. My happiness knew no bounds as I thanked her profusely and, promised her that I would return the notes ASAP. That whole night, I sat and copied the notes down. I returned the notes next day as I had promised. Later I learned, she was one of the few secluded toppers who was unaffected by cliques. And, she was my inspiration to learn. I wanted to become like her.

It took me three months of sheer hard work and determination to come within the top fifteen ranks in the first quarterly exam. And that determination sprung from the one and only fact that, someone in that class was kind enough to help me in the first week. I could not let that kindness down! When the results came, everyone including the teacher was surprised pleasantly. As for me, I was thankful to God for helping me in that hour of need through that kind soul – DP Usha Rani. Needless to say, not only did I earn respect, but a few good friends later.

Coming to Present……

Do you know why I am narrating this incident to you? When Chutki arrived for her tuition on the first day, I saw myself in her, a girl who needed help but was not getting it. She clearly felt lost just like I had, in the year 1969. And, it was like lending a ear and hand to a version of myself. And within a year, when she eased herself in tuitions, I discovered a very intelligent girl within, who preferred to reach the depth of a concept than, simply reading it for a test. With her, I felt more connected with myself when we went through the brainstorming sessions of understanding subjects like Math and Physics. And even though she is stark opposite to you, she reminded me of your school days too! It gives a great inner peace in helping someone especially when you realize you have been through a similar phase in life.”

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As I look back, I realize how times have changed. Yes, in the schooling years, mum and I have had countless differences and arguments, given the fact that, I was a rebellious child. Today, we chat as siblings, shop together giggling over our idiosyncrasies and, watch every cookery show together. And, when she narrates about her childhood, I feel ecstatic about chronicling them. It is like taking a peek into the 1960s and, wondering how life was both easy and difficult in different ways as compared to the present. And yet, we have a lot to learn from the yester generation. And the one thing that I learned and, importantly  what propelled me to write this post was – “Kindness is rewarding. Always.”

kindness

I am a SAHM, by choice!


I have a complicated relationship with social networking. Especially now  that I am not really ‘working’ working. (Does being a home maker qualify as ‘working’ ;)). Blogs and books keep me good company most of the days (as am enjoying an uncertainly brief transit period) For me, when I am not blogging, reading is curative as it saves me from unsuccessfully dodging questions like, “Why aren’t you in a job, yet?” or “Don’t you feel bored at home?”, “You know, you should start working by now!” and all that! It is only now I realized on a full scale why, a ‘Stay At Home Mom’(SAHM) is so underrated! And not the quintessential homemaker I speak of here, but a woman who quit her career to be a SAHM by choice! Clearly, I am not adept in answering out-of-the-blue questions from acquaintances (even parents sometimes) regarding my career choices and it takes me a lot of will to refrain from reposting acerbically! But a lot of such questions got me thinking, why in the Lord’s name is a SAHM so looked down upon? Why such condescending questions/looks?
While I worked Continue reading