Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Mr. Chetan Bhagat, kudos to you... Celebrating the "Working, Career-Oriented Woman"...

Today I came across a blog, sharply criticizing Mr. Chetan Bhagat's take on why men should choose career oriented woman over a home maker.

This particular article, written by Mr. Bhagat in the Times of India, had gathered a huge number of "likes" on Facebook and had many "shares" to it's credit.

This particular author went on to criticize Mr. Bhagat's take on home makers in her blog.

Mr. Chetan Bhagat's article, I am sure, most of my women readers read it and shared it likewise, was a practical take on why men would do better to marry a career oriented woman. For reasons unknown, my fellow blogger totally missed the point.

Mr. Bhagat, I am definitely sure, (and please I am not being paid by Mr. Bhagat or The Times for writing this...) targets men as well as women in his article, people who are  ( I am hoping), educated enough to read an English daily, and also independent financially, otherwise, the article would make no sense...

And therein lies the answer to why this article was extremely important to its readers.

His idea was not to crticise "housewives", who form an extremely important strata in our society, but rather the idea that a working woman could not not be a good home maker... this was the central idea of the article, and in criticism of which, my dear fellow blogger completely missed her perspective.

Whatever critics may say, the most important indicator of women's liberation is her financial independence.

Historically if we see, marriages conducted between powerful families and women of reputable dynasties were given a totally different status, as compared to those who came from poor alliances. In fact Akbar's wife Jodha Bai, or Harka Bai, his chief wife, for most of his reign, came from a very reputable dynasty and was an essential pillar of Akbar's idea of separating religion from governance.

In India, many hundreds of middle class and upper middle class families, even now have this idea, that if a career oriented woman comes into the family as the "bahu", household work would be neglected as she would be busy with her career. This happens in really educated and wealthy households too. Therefore, nowadays, there is a surprising trend. If the guy happens to earn fairly a good salary, his parents look for a home maker, a girl, with convent education, from decent families, having higher end degrees, but willing to be a home maker.

This is one of the most widely spread matrimonial demands of prospective Indian grooms and in-laws.

Most importantly, a woman is first and foremost an individual, and therefore, she has the complete right of choosing whether to be a working, career oriented woman or a home maker.

Now, there is another class of women too... those who have willingly made a choice to be a home maker. I fall in that category, and unfortunately, this blogger, whom I am criticizing  does so too... These are the women, who have higher end degrees, and they very capable of earning a livelihood, often times, a better livelihood than that of their spouses, but they have chosen to be home makers.This choice in no way demeans them or their spouses and they are, I believe, in the minority.

To be in this class, you have to belong to that affluent section of the population, where you know, that your spouse can provide for you and/or your child all the benefits and facilities, that a double income earning family can afford. Then you have the choice of not working and looking after the household. It's as simple and practical as that. Also mind you, this decision to become a home maker, has to be solely the woman's alone, not that of her husband, or her in-laws or her parents. This section of women, trust me, fall into a very "affluent" section of the population, "affluent", because, they have a choice in this regard.

After all, as Mr, Bhagat, pointed out, in an age of expenses, a double income earning family, stands way better than single income earning household. Its so true and immensely practical.

Therefore I am totally for marrying career oriented women and working women, rather than unemployed ones. When I was dating my husband, even I was an extremely busy career woman and therefore I respect them immensely.

But unfortunately, this choice is often denied to many women.

Women are either told to give up their jobs or to temper down their career ambitions because of matrimonial responsibilities.

I have a friend in Pipariya, a small town in Madhya Pradesh, who is independent, earning a healthy income and living alone in Mumbai. Unfortunately, her parents have been unable to find a guy suitable for her, because of the fact that she's earning... this still happens in India, mind you.

I also know of another woman, who lives in USA, here in Overland Park, and earns more than her husband. She's a dear friend of mine and she's the best home maker I have seen.

I do not think being a home maker is demeaning, but I do wholeheartedly support Mr. Bhagat's idea of marrying a working woman rather than an un-employed one and I also support the idea of being a career-oriented woman or a working woman rather than a mere home-maker.

If at any stage of my life, I feel, I have had enough as a home maker, I should have the choice to resume the mantle of a working woman and vice versa. This choice, is crucial in the debate of "Home Makers VS Working Wives" and would be the true indicator of women's liberty and empowerment.

And mind you, no one in the world, has a right to tell a woman to give up on her job or diminish her career ambitions, unless, he/she has provided her with the particular job.

Trust me, having been both a career woman, and an home maker now, I truly believe that a working girl, will bring a perspective to the marriage, which is far better than marrying your average "stay-at-home" girl or having a home maker as a wife.

Unfortunately prospective Indian grooms and their parents have a long way to go to understand this.

And my dear ladies... career oriented ones and home makers, please stop critising the few Indian males, like Mr. Bhagat, who have taken up cudgels of  promoting our rights, you are only harming yourself and us...

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

My life as a "wanderlust" ... The Story of Sarada

As in my previous post, I had promised, that I would write about some of the wonderful people and places that I have visited during my travels, this post is my first endevour to fulfill that promise.

I wanted this story to be the first, because it's a story of an incredible woman. This incident took place in the year 1998 in the month of April. I mention this story specifically, because there are so many women, and in so many different circumstances, and each have their own brave tales to tell... this is such a story, the story of Sarada, an ordinary woman, but incredible because of the circumstances she's in.

This story takes place in a small town in of Londa, more specifically, the Londa Railway Station... Londa is situated in the Belgaum district of Karnataka, India. It's a really beautiful town, with breathtaking views of the Sahyadris rising up. There are generally two types of people who come to the Londa station. The first are the trekkers who are interested in going up the Sahyadris, and the second group generally, change trains here for the further journey upto Goa. My family and I fell into the second group.

Back in the 1990's, Konkan railways, which connects Mumbai and Margao in Goa, did not have many trains in operation and as my father was being transferred from Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh, taking the right connecting train was even more difficult... so we undertook a long journey, from Madhya Pradesh, to Mahrashtra to Karnataka and finally to Goa. Londa fell in our Karnataka section of the trip.

When the train stopped in Londa, very few people alighted. It was afternoon and the month of April. The summer sun was already making it's presence felt and there were very few porters available.

We were approached by one, who took a hard look at the number of cases we were carrying and asked us our destination. When we told him that we were taking a train from this station itself, and we merely needed to change the platform, he pointed out that there was a bridge to be crossed and that with the amount of luggage we had, he would charge at least 70 bucks.

Now Indians, and especially Bengalis, have an inherent habit of bargaining... no matter the money was being paid by the Indian Government, my parents and I promptly indulged in a bargain. The fellow, probably was feeling too sleepy... contrary to agreeing or disagreeing, as is the norm of a successful  bargaining, he simply left.

So here was, a family of four, stranded on a platform, with the summer sun beating down upon us, and in a few minutes it looked as if the entire station has gone on a siesta, except for us. There was not a single person milling around, not even stray dogs were found, the few stalls of books and paraphernalia had already closed with "lunch time" hanging on their downed shutters. The last departing porter gave us a reassuring advice, wait till the next train arrives and someone would be there to help us... well the next train that would arrive was the one we were supposed to take, so his advice was completely wasted on us... but we chose not to point it out to him.

As we were staring up at the stairs to the bridge, gathering up our luggage and planning on a strategy as to who would carry what, we met her... she was a frail looking woman, in a red sari, no footwear and a large red "bindi" on her forehead... she came up to us, and signaled with her hands, where we were headed.

 Our first impression was that she was a beggar, and thus consequently, we chose to ignore her. As my father picked up the first suitcase and started heading, she ran to my father, and started snatching it from his hand... we jumped up, thinking she was a mad woman, and my mother and I started screaming for help... then she started pleading to us, again with the signs to stop screaming... she painfully explained that she was a porter.

When we understood, what she was trying to convey, we were extremely taken aback, a woman porter, that too one who could not speak or hear... we didn't know whether to be impressed or suspicious...

We slowly started loading up the suitcases onto her head... when the limit of two cases was reached, my mother asked my father to take the other two, since she was so frail, we didn't really trust her to carry everything.... she again signaled, she was very able to carry the extra two suitcases, and they were also promptly loaded up...with four cases piled up on her head, and two duffel bags on her right arm, she slowly started to mount the stairs. I and my brother kept matching her pace, because we were sure she would topple over. She again signaled to me regarding which platform to go to, and I signaled back. When we reached our destination, she slowly unloaded the suitcases and the bags and waited. We weren't sure what we were supposed to do, and my father took out a 50 rupee note... she again signaled that she didn't want the money now, but when she would load the luggage on the train. We were surprised and really touched.

As then happens with all Indian families, we squatted on top of our luggage and waited for our train to come. She squatted on the floor nearby.

My mother, this is one trait I share with her... whatever the circumstances, we need to talk. My mother promptly started a conversation with her. Now it was the most strangest conversation, I have ever witnessed. No a single word was spoken between the two speakers, the entire conversation was through actions, yet the witnesses present could clearly understand what was being spoken.

What transpired from the conversation was as follows.

Her name was Sarada, she pointed at a Hindi tatoo on her arm to let us know of this fact, she was married, her husband was also a porter, infact the same one who had told us that there would be someone to help us... she had three children, and she helped her husband out in the business of pottering.

She looked after the noon shift, when there wasn't many trains and passengers, while her husband took a short nap. He would be back, she said in about an hour, and she would go to pick up her kids from school. She had three children, two daughters and one son and yes they all went to school. Her husband and her children could all speak and hear, only she couldn't. Her husband, she pointed out did not drink or beat her, as is the norm in most poor Indian families. When my mother pointed out that she too could take rest, instead of laboring in the hot syn, carrying such huge luggage... she explained to her, that she really believed in earning herself, and being independent and  in fact, it was her earnings, which made it possible for her children to attend schooling. She also pointed out that because both her husband and she earned, it has been possible for them to make a "pucca" house for themselves.This, she pointed out smiling, was an achievement,  as they were the only porters here in Londa to have one. We were stunned listening to her story.

In an era, (this was 1998, remember?) where women's lib was only a lip service, here was a woman, disable so as to speak of, but far more advanced and far more capable than, many quite able ones. She was poor, she couldn't even hear or speak, and yet here she was, doing a job, that in India, is quite clearly a man's domain. We could not hide our appreciation and respect for her.

Shortly our train came, and she again loaded each and every case, with care in our designated compartment and my father was so happy that he paid a hundred bucks to Sarada. Soon as the train left the station, we could see Sarada's red sari fluttering up in the wind as she slowly mounted up the stairs.